D-Prep is excited to share that we will be using EL Education’s “expeditionary learning” school design model as our inspiration for our middle school program.

EL education has been a leader in improving and re-imagining schools in the United States for the past 30 years.

They are the leader in using an experiential learning model to improve student outcomes and address the needs of students in our rapidly changing world.

One of the critical things that EL education does is expand our understanding of what student achievement looks like in schools. Academic achievement is clearly one of the primary jobs of any school.

However, schools often do not do enough to understand and support the broader context and skill set necessary to achieve the kind of academic achievement that results in deeper learning and prepares students to thrive in our 21st-century world.

In an expeditionary learning school, student achievement is understood to include three interconnected dimensions: mastery of skills and content, character development, and high-quality work.

This view of student achievement understands that academic excellence is best

achieved when the character traits of the individual, which support academic achievement, are also developed.

Furthermore, these character traits are most strongly developed when students are given meaningful tasks and challenged to do high-quality work.

Thus, each dimension of student achievement supports and pushes the other.

The curriculum and structures of the school should intentionally and strategically support achievement in all three dimensions.

Expeditionary learning schools raise the standard of rigor, as they expect more of the schools and students, and as they acknowledge they must work to support the development and growth of all three dimensions equally.

If expeditionary learning schools seek to accomplish more with students at a deeper level, what techniques and practices do they use to accomplish this?

One of the foundational elements that EL has designed is the unit of curriculum known as the “Learning Expedition”.

A learning expedition is a 6-10 week interdisciplinary unit that is typically team-taught by several different teachers driven by student engagement in a “compelling topic” that will capture the students’ interest and demand higher-order thinking skills to

explore. Students are challenged to achieve growth in all three dimensions in a way that matches how successful adults and professionals use their skills and knowledge, character, and high-quality work outside of the school.

Students address and research real world problems and challenges. They conduct primary research beyond textbooks and the classroom.

They work with experts and professionals to learn the skills necessary to complete their learning expedition, cultivating the same professional skill sets, such as being scientists, reporters, journalists, engineers, etc., in themselves.

Learning Expeditions look for opportunities for students to be active citizens and have their work be of service to their communities.

A Learning Expedition typically concludes with a real-world authentic product that addresses the need or challenge of the unit of curriculum.

These products are then “published” or shared with an audience beyond simply the school so that they can have a real impact and students experience their work having both relevance and meaning beyond the walls of their classroom.

Dimensions of a Student Work
Dimensions of a Student Work

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