Expeditionary Learning

What is Expeditionary Learning?

When students and teachers are engaged in work that is challenging, adventurous and meaningful, learning and achievement flourish. EL’s mission is to create classrooms where teachers can fulfill their highest aspirations, and students achieve more than they think possible, becoming active contributors to building a better world.

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Three Dimensions of Student Achievement

When students enter adult life, they will be celebrated not for their performance on basic skills tests, but rather for the quality of their work and their character. Expeditionary Learning builds students’ capacity for three dimensions of high achievement:

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 novel, 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.

Work to become effective learners: develop the mindsets and skills for success in college, career, and life.

Work to become ethical people: treat others well and stand up for what is right.

Contribute to a better world: put their learning to use to improve communities (e.g., citizenship, service.)

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.

The EL Model: Powerful Partnerships, Remarkable Results

Districts, schools, and teachers that have implemented all or part of this comprehensive model have shown impressive growth and remarkable results across all key dimensions of student achievement.

Real-World Curriculum

EL’s approach to curriculum makes standards come alive for students by connecting learning to real-world issues and needs. Academically rigorous, project-based learning expeditions, case studies, projects, fieldwork, and service learning inspire students to think and work as professionals, contributing high-quality work to authentic audiences beyond the classroom. EL schools ensure that all students have access to a rigorous college preparatory curriculum, and regularly analyze that curriculum to align with those standards.

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Invigorating Instruction

EL classrooms are alive with discovery, inquiry, critical thinking, problem solving, and collaboration. Teachers talk less. Students talk (and think) more. Lessons have explicit purpose, guided by learning targets for which students take ownership and responsibility. Student engagement strategies and activities serve to differentiate instruction and maintain high expectations to bring out the best in all students, cultivating a culture of high achievement.

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Assessing Student Learning

Our leaders, teachers, and students embrace the concept of student-engaged assessment in education. Why? Because it builds student ownership of learning, drives achievement, and focuses students on reaching standards-based learning targets. Students continually conduct learning assessments and improve the quality of their work through models, reflection, critique, rubrics, and expert assistance. And staff members conduct ongoing data inquiry and analysis, examining factors including student work and results of formal educational assessments. Using this approach, we promote educational equity across all schools.

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Respectful Culture

Our schools build cultures of respect, responsibility, courage, and kindness, where students and adults are committed to quality work and citizenship. School structures and traditions—such as crew, community meetings, exhibitions of student work, and service learning—ensure that every student is known and cared for, student leadership is nurtured, and contributions to the school and world are celebrated. Students and staff are supported to do better work and be better people than they thought possible.

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Our school leaders build a cohesive school vision focused on student achievement and continuous improvement. And they align all school activities with that vision. Leaders use data wisely, boldly shape school structures to best meet student needs, celebrate joy in learning, and build a school-wide culture of trust and collaboration. Leadership in our schools goes beyond a single person or team; it’s a role and expectation for all.

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