What is a learning expedition?
   A quest for understanding

Learning expeditions are lived quests for knowledge.

Ronan students in Christa
Umphrey’s English class take notes
at the National Bison Range.

A learning expedition is an in-depth exploration of a topic. Expedition team members all research the same broad questions so they are all on the same quest, but their individual research questions may vary so they are individually accountable.

The goal is to find out what is in the library and then to go beyond that, gathering and constructing new knowledge. Expedition members begin in the library, and then they move out to bring new knowledge back to the community, based on interviews, observations, or experiments. To succeed, expedition members need to study and understand factual information, and they also need to learn and apply broad concepts and ideas.

A good learning expedition has several important characteristics:

  • It has a mission: to bring back new knowledge (starting with a question and a survey of existing knowledge).
  • It requires teamwork. It is both the mission and the group who undertake that mission (teams feature both cooperation and individual accountability).
  • It becomes a story (expedition members are protagonists in their own quest: facing problems, overcoming obstacles, experiencing good fortune, and reaching new insights).
  • It ends in a gift (research is often service, scholarship can be a gift to the community).

Expeditions are readily organized around the ALERT processes, but this acronym is not meant as a linear guide so much as a reminder of the processes involved in getting from one level of understanding to the next.

The written documents (essays, scripts, transcripts) that are created should be added to a public archives. Work that is archived should meet publication standards. Publication is the final step in the writing process, and the standard for publication is perfection (we don’t always meet the standard, but we don’t lower the standard because of that).

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