Expeditionary Learning is a model for comprehensive school reform for elementary, middle, and high schools that emphasizes high achievement through active learning, character growth, and teamwork. Expeditionary Learning emphasizes five core practices within its schools:
- Learning Expeditions: These challenging, interdisciplinary, real-world projects and in-depth studies act as the primary curriculum units in Expeditionary Learning schools. Learning Expeditions support critical literacy and address central academic standards of content, while promoting character development and fostering a service ethic.
- Active Pedagogy: In Expeditionary Learning schools, teachers use active pedagogy to help students become active and collaborative learners: to make connections, to find patterns, to see events from different perspectives, to experiment, to go beyond the information given, and to develop empathy and compassion for events, people, and subjects.
- School Culture and Character: Expeditionary Learning builds shared beliefs, traditions, and rituals in order to create a school culture which is characterized by a climate of physical and emotional safety, a sense of adventure, an ethic of service and responsibility, and a commitment to high quality work.
- Leadership and School Improvement: Leaders in Expeditionary Learning schools create a professional community that focuses on curriculum and instruction as the primary vehicles for improving student achievement and school culture.
- School Structures: Expeditionary Learning schools use longer and more flexible schedule blocks, common planning time, heterogeneous groupings, and/or looping to ensure student success.
Expeditionary Learning achieves success in these Core Practice areas by providing schools with an extensive professional development program. Over a multi-year period, school faculties and administrators are offered a coherent, demanding, and highly regarded program of professional development to implement the model and to realize significant improvement in student learning and character development.
| See City View's 2nd grade class on an expedition to Opal Creek in this edition of Oregon Field Guide
The 2009-2010 6th grade crew created a video with the help of NW Film Center about the importance of Values
How many schools are using Expeditionary Learning?
Begun in 1993, Expeditionary Learning is now being implemented in 163 urban, rural, and suburban schools in 30 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. It has been demonstrated to be effective at the elementary, middle, and high school levels. Expeditionary Learning recently received a $12.5 million grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to open 20 new small high schools around the country over the next five years.
What are the Results?
ANSER Elementary Public Charter School in Boise, Idaho: On the most recent statewide tests, 100 percent of 4th-grade students were rated “proficient” or higher in reading and language arts, and 95 percent “proficient” in math, exceeding comparable state and district scores by 15-20 percent.
Buncombe Community School in Swannanoa, North Carolina: Working with some of the county’s hardest-to reach students, in 1995, Buncombe did not send any students to higher education. After implementing Expeditionary Learning, 62 percent of the Class of 2002 were college bound.
Codman Academy, Boston, MA: With a student body consisting of 97 percent students of color, 82 percent on free and reduced lunch, and 18 percent special education, in 2003, all of Codman’s sophomores passed the state English Language Arts assessment on their first attempt, compared with 89% of all sophomores statewide.
What do Educators say about Expeditionary Learning?
“In the years that I’ve been teaching, this is, to me, the single best model of learning for kids and the most satisfying model for teachers, because the kids are working on real projects, their work is held of great value, and you are stretching them academically.”
--Jennifer Wood, Elementary School Teacher
“There is a sense of moral purpose to the design that is beyond academic success. There is a sense of citizenship, something closer to a world view, a shared sense of our place in the world and the responsibilities that come with that. That is really powerful, and it’s something that is largely absent today.”
--Tom Vander Ark, Executive Director, Education, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation