Approach to Teaching –
What is EL Education?
EL Education (EL) is an approach that promotes
rigorous and engaging curriculum, inquiry-based teaching
and a school culture that teaches compassion and good
the heart of EL Education Schools are learning
which are interdisciplinary units aligned with state and
standards. The EL approach is experiential and
students in original research, including field studies and
create high-quality products for audiences beyond the
Principles of the approach: EL Education is
ten "Design Principles" that reflect the educational
values and beliefs
of Outward Bound, the parent organization. These
reflect the design's connection to related thinking about
learning, and the culture of schools.
- Self-discovery: Students are
experience perseverance, and discover they can do more
than they think
- The having of wonderful ideas:
are immersed in something important to think about, time
and time to make sense of what is observed.
- Responsibility for learning: Students
learn individually and collectively.
- Empathy and caring: Students
caring adults, and older students mentor younger ones.
- Success and failure: Students build
capacity and confidence to meet increasingly difficult
learn from their difficulties.
- Collaboration and competition:
compete against their own personal best to achieve
- Diversity and inclusion: Students
to value their own and others' histories and talents.
- The natural world: Students learn
nature and learn to become stewards of the earth.
- Solitude and reflection: Students
their own thoughts, make their own connections, and
create their own
- Service and compassion: Students are
strengthened by service to others.
Examples of practices you would observe in schools
implementing Expeditionary Learning include:
- Compelling topics and guiding questions within an
- Incorporating field work, local expertise, and service
- Producing and presenting high quality projects
- Using reading and writing across the curriculum
- Intentional teaching of inquiry (high level thinking
skills) within math, social studies, and science
- Learning in and through the arts
- Using effective assessment practices to design daily
- Fostering individual character
- High expectations of all students
- Promoting adventure and fitness
- Using multiple sources of data to improve student
- Engaging families in the life of the school
- Sharing leadership and working within teams to improve
For more information about EL practices, please visit the
EL Education website.
What is the curriculum of EL Education?
EL is driven by the above principles and benchmark
It is an approach supported by high quality professional
not a curriculum. The curriculum is the state standards,
learning targets for each grade level, and the educational
selected by the school district. One way of thinking about
this is that
EL provides the structures and practices, and the state
curriculum provide the content.
What does "inquiry-based instruction" mean?
Learning expeditions, investigative units of study
developed from state
standards and district targets in social studies and
the context for explicit teaching in the thinking skills
Students learn how to be good observers, ask relevant
critically, record and organize information, select
create drafts, and develop high quality products. Teachers
units and lessons that use knowledge at all levels of
of thinking – remembering, understanding, applying,
evaluating, and creating. (To see a visual model of
click on Bloom's Revised Taxonomy under "Educational
Will the approach be different from children's
EL is a systematic collection of the best of practices in
teaching and learning and the development of classroom and
culture. These practices exist in strong classrooms and
schools in many
places. EL provides the structure and professional
create high quality instruction across each classroom of
What advantages does EL Education bring
- EL provides a framework for developing traditions and
school culture that fosters a sense of belonging and
development of character.
- EL provides the approach to implement the most
instructional practices school wide, within the context
Standards and Beaverton School District Learning
- There is intentional teaching of high level thinking
through engaging and challenging work for all students.
There are also
structures for planning support for students lagging
What is the research support?
The individual practices that comprise EL Education have strong theoretical and research support. Some
as Writers Workshop using the 6 + 1 Trait Model (Northwest
Laboratory) and assessment for learning (Richard Stiggins)
developed and researched in the Portland area and are
practice in Beaverton.
As an approach to creating high-quality schools,
EL Education has been proven effective by third-party research
the Rand Corporation, the Academy for Educational
American Institutes for Research and the National Staff
Council. For more information about the evidence for
success of EL
schools, go to: http://elschools.org/our-results
How was EL Education selected for
EL Education has already been implemented at
Sciences School, a Beaverton option school for students in
This context provided an opportunity for local
interviews with the principal and teachers.
In addition, from September to December 2008, founding Principal
Ames researched EL Education by:
- Meeting with EL experts
- Attending two EL institutes for teachers, one in
and another on teaching writing, to assess the scope and
- Talking with teachers at these institutes about their
experiences with EL
- Attending a site visit involving observations and
with teachers and leaders in two EL Education schools in
Rochester, New York
Before making the final selection, a rubric was developed
evaluate the quality of EL in several dimensions.
- Match to Beaverton School District goals
- Match to research-documented essential practices in
instruction, assessment, developing character and school
- Demonstration of success in other locations
- Accessibility of professional development
- Quality of professional development
- Appropriateness for K-8 school
- Initial affordability
- Sustainability (can EL practices be sustained with
EL Education demonstrated a high score in each
these dimensions. For more information, consult the
EL Education website: www.elschools.org