The Skills High School 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 the Quest Forward ecosystem and the learning experiences we offer. This development takes a precedence over memorizing facts and information. 

The skills that are addressed through Quest Forward Learning are grouped into three categories: 

  • Learning Skills: Academic skills often focused on in school, but also important throughout life
  • Work Skills: Skills associated with how one works
  • Essential Habits: Self skills associated with how a student thinks, feels, and 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, to be a good friend and colleague, and to contribute to one’s community.

A student draws a diagram with a dry-erase marker on a glass tabletop, while two other students closely view her work.

An icon representing Quest Forward learning skills, a cluster of blue diamond shapes.  Learning Skills

12 Learning Skills are woven throughout the Quest Forward curriculum in five categories:

Learn How to Investigate
Take in facts and ideas.

A table featuring the Quest Forward Learning Skills in the "Learn to Investigate" group — Establish Meaning, Ask Questions, and Investigate — with brief descriptions of each.

Learn How to Analyze
Create new ideas and solutions.

A table featuring the Learning Skills in the group "Learn how to analyze" — Interpret, Identify Patterns, and Be Creative — with brief descriptions for each.

Learn How to Reason
Think critically and make arguments.

A table featuring the Quest Forward Learning Skills in the group "Learn how to reason" — Assess Arguments and Take a Position — with brief descriptions for each.

Learn How to Communicate
Communicate ideas to others.

A table featuring the Quest Forward Learning Skills in the group "learn how to communicate" — Collaborate, Compose, and Share — with brief descriptions for each.

Learn Who You Are
Be aware, accountable, and self-directed.

A single-row table featuring the Quest Forward Learning Skill in the group "learn who you are" — Reflect — with a brief description of this skill.

Through the completion of their courses, students develop learning skills that increase their academic abilities and aptitudes. For instance, one journey called Genes and Gene Editing focuses on the skills of Ask Questions, Assess Arguments, and Take a Position. Throughout the journey students practice these skills through various activities, such as extracting DNA, asking questions about the use of at home DNA testing kits, and taking a position on the human gene editing debate.

By mastering these, students can apply what they learn to act effectively in the context of real world problems.

A Quest Forward Academy Omaha student takes notes while studying the screen of a laptop.

The Quest Forward Work Skills icon, three triangles in shades of green, interlocking with one another.  Work Skills

We have selected 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 counselors provide feedback and encourage development to ensure students graduate high school with the skills necessary to live, work, and manage daily life. These include:

A table featuring the six Quest Forward Work Skills — Focus, Work Efficiently, Plan and Achieve Goals, Manage Time and Resources, Organize, and Document & Take Notes — with brief descriptions of each.

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 artifacts they also receive feedback on their effort and support from others, which helps students to develop the Work Efficiently skill. Developing these executive functions while in high school gives students a powerful headstart for their professional lives after graduation.

A student smiles as he prepares a presentation at Quest Forward Academy Santa Rosa

The icon representing Quest Forward's Essential Habits, three hexagons meeting each other, in shades of orange.  Essential Habits

We have also identified six Essential Habits, or self skills, that focus on an individual’s thoughts, beliefs, attitudes, emotions, and interactions with others. The Essential Habits are:

A table featuring the 6 Essential Habits of Quest Forward Learning — Express Curiosity, Manage Yourself, Learn from Setbacks, Communicate and Collaborate, Solve Problems, and Live an Integrated Life — with brief descriptions of each.

This school year, students will practice these habits through supported goal setting, participation in community events, academic projects, and focused support from school counselors and social workers. For example, school social workers are hosting a workshop on how to manage anxiety (Manage Yourself). Through practicing these habits early and often throughout high 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, always practicing them, and always trying to improve. This holds not just for high 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.