Expeditionary Learning overview
When children have completed their school career and entered adult life, they’ll be judged not by performance on basic skills tests – but rather, by the quality of their work and the quality of their character. This premise serves as the foundation for our overarching vision of increasing pupil engagement and elevating and expanding pupil achievement. To realize that vision, Expeditionary Learning focuses on pupil excellence in three core areas:
|Core Area||What this means for pupils||What this means for teachers|
|Mastery of knowledge and skills||Demonstrate proficiency and deeper understanding: show mastery in a body of knowledge and skills within each discipline.|
Apply their learning: transfer knowledge and skills to new, meaningful tasks.
Think critically: analyze, evaluate, and synthesize complex ideas and consider multiple perspectives.
Communicate clearly: write, speak, and present ideas effectively in a variety of media within and across disciplines.
|Ensure that curriculum, instruction, and assessments are rigorous, meaningful, and aligned with curriculum outcomes and expected standards.
Use assessment practices that position pupils as leaders of their own learning.
Use meaningful data for both teachers and pupils to track progress toward learning goals.
Engage all pupils in daily lessons that require critical thinking about complex, worthy ideas, texts, and problems.
|Character||Work to become effective learners: develop the mindsets and skills for success in school, further education, career, and life (eg, initiative, responsibility, perseverance, collaboration).|
Work to become ethical people: treat others well and stand up for what is right (e.g., empathy, integrity, respect, compassion).
Contribute to a better world: put their learning to use to improve communities (e.g., citizenship, service).
|Elevate pupil voice and leadership in classrooms and across the school.
Make habits of scholarship visible across the school and in daily instruction.
Model a school-wide culture of respect and compassion.
Prioritize social and emotional learning, along with academic learning, across the school.
|High quality pupil work||Create complex work: demonstrate higher-order thinking, multiple perspectives and transfer of understanding.|
Demonstrate craftsmanship: create work that is accurate and beautiful in conception and execution.
Create authentic work: demonstrate original thinking and voice, connect to real-world issues and formats, and when possible, create work that is meaningful to the community beyond the school.
|Design tasks that ask pupils to apply, analyze, evaluate and create as part of their work.
Use models of excellence, critique, and multiple drafts to support all pupils to produce work of exceptional quality.
Connect pupils to the world beyond school through meaningful fieldwork, expert collaborators, research, and service learning.
Background and principles of Expeditionary Learning
In 1991, EL Education was born from a partnership between Harvard Graduate School of Education and Outward Bound, USA. This joined the character-infused philosophy of Outward Bound founder Kurt Hahn, which focuses on teamwork, courage, and compassion with an active approach to learning crafted by leading Harvard scholars and created 10 founding principles for the EL Education model.
- The Primacy of Self-Discovery
Learning happens best with emotion, challenge, and the requisite support. People discover their abilities, values, passions, and responsibilities in situations that offer adventure and the unexpected. In EL Education schools, pupils undertake tasks that require perseverance, fitness, craftsmanship, imagination, self-discipline, and significant achievement. A teacher’s primary task is to help pupils overcome their fears and discover they can do more than they think they can.
- The having of wonderful ideas
Teaching in EL Education schools fosters curiosity about the world by creating learning situations that provide something important to think about, time to experiment, and time to make sense of what is observed.
- The responsibility for learning
Learning is both a personal process of discovery and a social activity. Everyone learns both individually and as part of a group. Every aspect of an EL Education school encourages both children and adults to become increasingly responsible for directing their own personal and collective learning.
- Empathy and caring
Learning is fostered best in communities where pupils’ and teachers’ ideas are respected and where there is mutual trust. Learning groups are small in EL Education schools, with a caring adult looking after the progress and acting as an advocate for each child. Older pupils mentor younger ones, and pupils feel physically and emotionally safe.
- Success and failure
All pupils need to be successful if they are to build the confidence and capacity to take risks and meet increasingly difficult challenges. But it is also important for pupils to learn from their failures, to persevere when things are hard, and to learn to turn disappointments into opportunities.
- Collaboration and competition
Individual development and group development are integrated so that the value of friendship, trust, and group action is clear. Pupils are encouraged to compete, not against each other, but with their own personal best and with rigorous standards of excellence.
- Diversity and inclusion
Both diversity and inclusion increase the richness of ideas, creative power, problem-solving ability, and respect for others. In EL Education schools, pupils investigate and value their different histories and talents as well as those of other communities and cultures.
- The natural world
A direct and respectful relationship with the natural world refreshes the human spirit and teaches the important ideas of recurring cycles and cause and effect. Pupils learn to become stewards of the earth and of future generations.
- Solitude and reflection
Pupils and teachers need time alone to explore their own thoughts, make their own connections, and create their own ideas. They also need to exchange their reflections with other pupils and with adults.
- Service and compassion
We are crew, not passengers. Pupils and teachers are strengthened by acts of consequential service to others, and one of an EL Education school’s primary functions is to prepare pupils with the attitudes and skills to learn from and be of service.
Video overviews and philosophy
Inspiring Excellence – an overview
Linking Expeditionary Learning with Growth Mindset – Austin’s Butterfly
Click to view our Two Year planning cycle for Expeditions