Educational tactic, teaching movement, or a bit of both? STEM Jobs introduces readers to expeditionary learning.

A joint collaboration between the Harvard Graduate School of Education and Outward Bound, expeditionary learning was introduced as Expeditionary Learning Education in 1991 as a method to revitalize the educational system by promoting goodwill and independent thinking in students. The goal of the initiative is to prepare students for the real world by educating minds and elevating quality of character.

According to EL Education, 10 major tenets exist for a solid foundation and proper implementation:

The Primacy of Self Discovery

Encouraging the development of self through “…perseverance, fitness, craftsmanship, self-discipline, and significant achievement.” Teachers guide students to excel beyond personal expectations.

The Having of Wonderful Ideas

Teachers assign tasks that afford to students time to reflect, analyze, and reach educated conclusions.

Expeditionary learningThe Responsibility for Learning

While expeditionary learning promotes self-reliance and responsibility for a student’s ownership over his or her education, collaboration with others remains important. Students own the role they assume within a group.

Empathy and Caring

Every member of a school, from teachers to students, is connected and contributes to the education of each child. Though students work in small groups when collaborating, they share with teachers a responsibility for encouraging younger children and contributing to a safe learning environment.

Success and Failure

Similar to the theory of growth mindset, expeditionary learning helps students strive for success, but values failure as a learning tool. By allowing children to work outside their comfort zone, teachers will help build confidence and educate students regarding how to persevere when confronted with obstacles.

Collaboration and Competition

There exists a fine line between constructive and unhealthy competition. Within expeditionary learning, students forge friendships and engage in team-building exercises to compete against “…their own personal best and with rigorous standards of excellence.”

Diversity and Inclusion

Through becoming familiar with foreign lifestyles and concepts different from those in which students have grown, children will gain a greater global education, and build tolerance and acceptance of others. By valuing cultures that are different from their own, students discover enrichment through and value in the unfamiliar.

Expeditionary learningThe Natural World

Students learn about the reciprocal relationship between humans and nature. If people protect the planet and appreciate their connection with it, expeditionary learning teaches how the Earth will give back and remain intact for future generations.

Solitude and Reflection

Placing value on time spent alone and forging relationships independently, away from the classroom, allows students and teachers to establish independence. Devoting time to independent thought and contemplation leads everyone to add value to classroom discussion through unique experiences.

Service and Compassion

Teachers and students engage in service to learn responsibility toward helping others. Through selfless giving, children will not only help others, but recognize the value in learning from those to whom they give.

EL Education hosts virtual and on-site events throughout the year, including regional Leadership Cohorts, where educators meet to discuss the foundations and direction of expeditionary learning.

Interested in learning about more student-centered teaching approaches? Download our free guide to project-based learning.

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