What Is a Quest?

At the heart of Quest Forward Learning are deep convictions that the ultimate end goal of an education is for students to develop the mindsets, essential habits (read more about the essential habits here), and skills they need to succeed in school, work, and life, and that the best way to achieve this end goal is through quests. But what are quests?

When we first set out to devise an approach to learning that was student-centric, with an emphasis on relevance and engagement, we looked broadly across the research literature and current educational practices. We found that, while many good ideas were in play, nothing quite captured what we were after. We knew that we wanted students to be active and engaged, that we wanted the learning to be personalized and relevant in their lived context, and that the learning needed to support growth of skills and habits. We also knew teachers had a critical role as mentors who could help guide the students in their work. Finally, we knew that there was an important role for technology to play, both as a tool for the exploration, collaboration, creation, and feedback that is essential to learning, and as a way to provide students with individual freedom and choice. The solution we devised was “quests.”

Before saying what quests are, let us start by making clear a few things that quests are not:  quests are neither programs nor games; Quest Forward Learning is not online learning; and Quest Forward Learning is not computer-based instruction. (Learn more about our take on technology here)

 Quests are Experiences.

The way a student learns from quests is through the experience of the quest, not from just reading about the quest. Students begin a quest in one state of knowledge and intellectual development, and through the process of engaging in its associated activities and completing the quest–i.e. through the experience defined by the quest–student progress in their skills, habits, and general knowledge. The design of quests stress this acquisition of skills through experiences (Learn more about our skills-forward curriculum here).

This helps to illustrate another important fact about quests. While quests have a goal in mind and contain associated academic content, it is not the goal or content that defines the quest so much as it is the student’s experience in the pursuit of the goal. This is not to say that every student who embarks upon a quest will learn the same thing or have the same experience. Quests are designed to meet students where they are and allow students to progress toward their ultimate goals.. A well-designed quest will provide a basis for growth both from the novice and from the expert. This is possible only because the learning comes from the doing.

It is also important to understand that a quest itself does not “cause” the learning; rather the growth students experience from the quest is a result of the work the students do in completing it. This is why it makes no sense in the context of quest-based courses for a student to try to complete as many quests as possible, or to do as little work as possible—the learning comes from the work, not from checking off the box that the quest is now complete.  

Next – How Quests are Assembled into Courses and What Quest-based Courses Look Like