The Expeditionary Learning system is based on ten design principles. Those principles grew in large part out of the experience of Outward Bound. The design principles are abstract and aspirational. Nonetheless, they are worth reading, because so much of the Expeditionary Learning system is derived from them. The preface to the design principles sums up the Expeditionary Learning approach to learning:
Learning is an expedition into the unknown. Expeditions draw together personal experience and intellectual growth to promote self-discovery and the construction of knowledge. We believe that adults should guide students along this journey with care, compassion, and respect for their diverse learning styles, backgrounds, and needs. Addressing individual differences profoundly increases the potential for learning and creativity of each student.
Given fundamental levels of health, safety and encouragement, all people can and want to learn. We believe Expeditionary Learning harnesses the natural passion to learn and is a powerful method for developing the curiosity, skills, knowledge and courage needed to imagine a better world and work toward realizing it.
The design principles inform all aspects of the Expeditionary Learning system — from how furniture is arranged in the classrooms to how an Expeditionary Learning school is evaluated. The principles have been fleshed out and "brought down to earth" in a set of specific educational guidelines labelled "Core Practices." The Core Practices provide direction on how a school becomes an Expeditionary Learning School. They also give a better description of what is actually going on in an Expeditionary Learning classroom.