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Expeditionary Learning Schools: Theory of Action and Literature Review of Motivation, Character, and Engagement.

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Background: Expeditionary Learning Schools opens and transforms K-12 schools. Through engaging, long-term interdisciplinary projects designed to achieve academic standards and an emphasis on a healthy school culture, Expeditionary Learning aims to develop students who are not only high-achieving but also highly motivated to do challenging activities and deeply engaged in work that matters. Equally important are character expectations such as cooperation and good citizenship. Recognizing that the student outcomes they are trying to achieve go beyond state test scores, Expeditionary Learning worked with McREL to propose an updated model of student outcomes. It focuses on three primary areas: motivation, character, and engagement. Purpose: The purpose of this report is to present a theory of action regarding how non-academic student outcomes, such as motivation and character (prosocial orientation), foster engagement in learning, leading to student academic success, and to support that theory of action with a narrative literature synthesis. Research Design: Narrative Synthesis. Data Collection and Analysis: The researchers began the literature review with seminal works in each topic area, when appropriate, then supplemented those with articles from the research literature found by searching relevant databases. The databases searched and keywords used are described in each individual section. In general, the literature review focused on studies using K-12 students. The authors focused on defining the constructs and their components as precisely as possible, including their relationships to other constructs. Then they addressed, to the extent feasible given the extant literature, links among the constructs and the classroom environment, student age, and engagement/achievement. Findings: The constructs highlighted in this theory of action are intended to capture the goals beyond academic achievement that Expeditionary Learning has for students. In an Expeditionary Learning school, students are expected to exhibit prosocial character traits that foster a healthy learning environment for everyone. The learning expeditions are intended, in part, to involve them intensely in an intrinsically motivating and mastery-oriented experience that will support their self-efficacy. Together, the emphasis on character and motivation creates an atmosphere that encourages engagement through effort, persistence, civic engagement, and identification with school. Engagement then leads to student academic success. Conclusion: The reviewed literature pertaining to the Expeditionary Learning theory of action model clearly highlights the importance of attending to the "whole" child. Children do not develop in particular domains independently; rather, development in the social/emotional/motivational domains and development in the academic domains are inextricably connected. Efforts to improve development in one domain will be more successful if attention is given to development in others. Through the various feedback loops represented in the model, the intense focus of Expeditionary Learning schools on multiple aspects of development will likely have strong and lasting impacts on the future academic and life success of the students. Citation: Beesley, A. D., Clark, T. F., Barker, J., Germeroth, R. C., & Apthorp, H. S. (2010). Expeditionary Learning Schools: Theory of action and literature review of motivation, character, and engagement. Denver, CO: Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning. (Contains 1 table, 1 figure, and 4 footnotes.)
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Author:Beesley, Andrea; Clark, Tedra; Barker, Jane; Germeroth, Carrie; Apthorp, Helen
Publication:ERIC: Reports
Date:Oct 22, 2010
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