What is EL Education?

  • EL Education (formerly known as Expeditionary Learning) is a school reform model that emphasizes high achievement through active learning, character growth, and teamwork. EL Education grew out of a partnership between Harvard Graduate School of Education and Outward Bound, USA. By marrying the philosophies of character-building deeply embedded in Outward Bound lessons and an active approach to learning, the EL Education model was born. EL Education emphasizes five Core Practices and ten Design Principles that support teaching and learning in its schools.

    EL Education's Five Core Practices

    Curriculum: Our approach to learning makes standards come alive for students by connecting learning to real-world issues and needs. Learning Expeditions are challenging, interdisciplinary, real-world projects and in-depth studies that act as the primary curriculum units in EL Education schools. Learning Expeditions support critical literacy and address key academic standards of content and skills while promoting character development and fostering a service ethic.
    Instruction: In EL Education schools, teachers use strategies and techniques to lift up big ideas and 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. Learning targets guide student learning fostering ownership and responsibility for learning. Capturing student thinking and learning through inquiry, problem-solving and critical thinking sets high expectations for student engagement.
    Student-Engaged Assessment: EL Education believes that assessment practices should motivate students to become leaders of their own learning. Students track their progress toward standards-based learning, set goals, and reflect on growth and challenges. Students and teachers regularly reflect on and analyze a variety of data to inform instruction and identify areas for growth. Students own their learning and, as a result, present it and talk about it in different settings such as student-led conferences and celebrations of learning in their classrooms. 
    Culture and Character: The whole school is involved in establishing a culture of respect, responsibility, courage, and kindness. Teachers, staff, administrators, and students are intentional in their commitment to fostering citizenship and working to become ethical people who contribute to a better world. Setting expectations and celebrating achievements bookend the deep, rigorous and meaningful work teachers and students engage in throughout each day and the year.
    Leadership: Schools are guided by a cohesive school vision focused on student engagement and achievement. Leadership is fostered at all levels and with all stakeholders to promote continuous improvement.
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    Through these Core Practices, EL Education creates classrooms where…

    Learning is challenging.

    Students are supported to do far more than they think they can. Teachers expect excellence and teach in ways that enable students to learn deeply, surpass standards, and produce high-quality work. Students and teachers model academic courage.

    Learning is active.

    Students are scientists, urban planners, historians, artists, and activists, exploring ideas and engaging in authentic work that allows them to contribute to their communities and promote equity and social justice.

    Learning is meaningful.

    Students build deep understanding of concepts and can apply their skills and knowledge to new contexts and real-world issues. They are learning with a purpose- getting smart to do good- and see that their education is in service of building a better world.

    Learning is collaborative.

    School leaders, teachers, students, and families work together to create a culture of respect, responsibility, and joy in learning. The school community is a place where all students and adults feel that they belong, support each other to succeed, and are inspired to be their best selves.

    Learning is public.

    Students produce high-quality work for presentation to audiences within and beyond the school. They reflect on what and how they learn with peers, teachers, and community members. Hallways and classrooms are filled with evidence of learning and beautiful student work.

    To learn more, please visit the EL Education website.
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