The Skills Students Need
At Opportunity Education and in Quest Forward Schools, skills are critical for student success. We take a “skills-forward” approach. Skills practice, application, reflection and opportunities for growth drive the design of Quest Forward Learning. This development takes precedence over memorising facts and information.
The skills that are addressed through Quest Forward Learning are grouped into three categories:
- Learning Skills: These are academic skills that are often focused on in school but are also crucial throughout life
- Work Skills: These are skills associated with how one works
- Essential Habits: Self skills associated with how a student thinks, feels, behaves and how they interact with others
Each set is valuable for success in school, career and life. Together, they address the whole student — not just academic requirements, but the skills needed to take care of oneself, be a good friend and colleague and contribute to one’s community.
12 Learning Skills are woven throughout Quest Forward Learning in five categories:
|Take in facts and ideas.|
|1||Establish Meaning||Use prior knowledge and new tools to understand what is happening or being said.|
|2||Ask Questions||Compose questions based on observations, readings or problems.|
|3||Investigate||Use multiple methods to inquire, gather information and establish context.|
|Create new ideas and solutions.|
|4||Interpret||Use sources, data or computations to extract meaning.|
|5||Identify Patterns||Find similarities and draw connections among events, ideas, and representations.|
|6||Be Creative||Create solutions, new ideas and new methods.|
|Think critically and make arguments.|
|7||Assess Arguments||Evaluate arguments, points of view and positions with attention to evidence and reasoning.|
|8||Take a Position||Develop your position. Support it with appropriate evidence and reasons and defend it from the criticism of others.|
|Communicate ideas to others.|
|9||Collaborate||Participate in group work and give and receive peer feedback.|
|10||Compose||Design and produce works that connect ideas and demonstrate knowledge. Revise work to make it better.|
|11||Share||Connect with the audience and communicate work clearly.|
|Learn Who You Are|
|Be aware, accountable and self-directed.|
|12||Reflect||Recognise strengths and shortcomings. Review and revise assignments.|
Through the completion of their courses, students develop learning skills that increase their academic abilities and talents. For instance, the Form III quest, Expressing Opinion/Ideas Through Debate, focuses on research, analysis, speaking and listening skills.
Throughout the quest, students practise these skills through various activities. Practising these skills, they will research information from various sources to get more insight into a debate titled “Digital revolution has spoiled the world.”
They will likewise analyse their findings to support their ideas to take the position and stand for what they believe to be accurate per motion given. In the same regard, they listen to ideas from others and, at a later time, respond to the posed questions as the motion requires.
By mastering these skills, students can apply what they learn to act effectively in the context of real-world problems.
Students practice six Work Skills, or executive functions, that focus on how a person works and accomplishes goals effectively. Students develop these through supported goal-setting, planning and reflection. Mentors and counsellors provide feedback and encourage development to ensure students graduate secondary school with the skills necessary to live, work and manage daily life. These include:
|1||Focus||Focus on relevant information and tasks without getting distracted, remove distractions when possible, shift tasks effectively and take mental and physical breaks when needed and appropriate.|
|2||Work Efficiently||Put effort into your work, work hard to achieve goals and identify when it is time to move on even if artefacts and other work products do not feel perfect.|
|3||Plan and Achieve Goals||Plan for a week and a day and to complete an extended project or activity, identifying actions, sub-steps and sequences of events. Work towards and achieve goals, reflecting and evaluating progress along the way.|
|4||Manage Time and Resources||Identify realistic deadlines, prioritise tasks and manage time effectively to meet deadlines. Leverage resources available to you when appropriate, such as support from peers or mentors.|
|5||Organise||Keep belongings and personal and shared spaces clean and keep track of tasks and deadlines using a calendar, planner and other tools.|
|6||Document and Take Notes||Effectively take notes to keep track of ideas and information and use tools to organise and remember ideas (e.g., annotations or mind-mapping).|
For example, students practice Plan and Achieve Goals daily, using processes and templates we developed. Students set weekly academic goals as well as personal ones and reflect daily. Mentors support them at each step to ensure students modify or achieve each goal. When students complete artefacts, they also receive feedback on their effort and how much support they received from others, which helps students develop the Work Efficiently skill. Developing these executive functions while in secondary school gives students a powerful headstart for their professional lives after graduation.
Students also practice six Essential Habits, or self skills, that focus on an individual’s thoughts, beliefs, attitudes, emotions and interactions with others. The Essential Habits are:
|1||Wonder||Express wonder about how and why things work the way they do, and understand that the world is full of complex, interesting yet unsolved problems.|
|2||Try New Things||Regularly and voluntarily step out of your comfort zone and explore.|
|1||Become Self-Aware||Commit to identifying your emotions, and recognise negative self-talk and thinking patterns.|
|2||Manage Your Emotions||Practice expressing emotions in contextually appropriate and healthy ways, and make efforts to revise thinking and negative self-talk.|
|3||Monitor and Control Your Actions||Inhibit negative reactions (e.g., yelling to get a mentor’s attention) and initiate responses appropriate to the context and situation (e.g., raising a hand or walking over to the mentor.).|
|Learn from Setbacks|
|1||Develop a Growth Mindset||Express eagerness to challenge yourself, learn and improve, and believe that hard work is key to success.|
|2||Adapt||Express flexibility, try a different approach when something is not going the way you want or expect it to, determine when and how to adapt and adapt (or move on when appropriate).|
|3||Keep Trying||Work through challenges without getting defensive or losing hope, and only move on when there is an excellent reason to do so.|
|Communicate and Collaborate|
|1||Listen||Listen actively and consider the perspectives and ideas of others with an open mind.|
|2||Contribute||Share ideas, do your fair share of work when working with groups and lead when appropriate.|
|1||Seek Help||Identify when you are stuck or need help and ask for help.|
|2||Help Others||Demonstrate awareness of others’ emotions and needs, respond with understanding and offer to help when you can and should help.|
|Live an Integrated Life|
|1||Learn to Be Yourself||Express yourself in every aspect of your life (Do not segment your life or pretend to be a certain way.).|
|2||Express Integrity||Make respectful and ethical decisions, and admit and own actions and decisions.|
This school year, students will practise these habits through supported goal setting, community events, academic projects and focused support from career mentors and respective school mentor teachers. Opportunity Education mentor teachers, collaborating with school management, host regional workshops for teachers in Quest Forward schools focused on how to help students express curiosity and manage themselves. Through practising these habits early and often throughout secondary school, students are better equipped to confidently handle any challenges that life as a young adult could bring them.
A Lifelong Process
Students at Quest Forward Schools have a unique opportunity to practice skills and develop habits that will benefit them their entire lives. They are integrated into everything they do. The most important thing is to remember that we are always learning them, practising them and trying to improve. This holds not just for secondary school or college, but for all of life. We may never perfect any of our skills, but with regular, reflective practice, all of us can consistently improve.