The hallway in an Expeditionary Learning school in Springfield, Mass. (Photo: Emily Hanford)

A vision for a new kind of public school in America

In 1987 an educator frustrated with American school reform challenged Outward Bound to get more involved in the debate about the direction of public education. He thought American schools could learn from Outward Bound's focus on experiential learning and on teaching skills like resilience and collaboration.
Students from the Metropolitan Expeditionary Learning School, a public school in Queens, on a four-day trip to the woods. (Photo: Stephen Smith)

Into the woods: Two principals explain what students learn by getting out of the classroom

One of the features of education at many Expeditionary Learning schools is an Outward Bound trip. See photos of one of these trips and read an interview with two principals about why they send their students outside and how it relates to what they’re trying to do in the classroom.
Kurt Hahn at Gordonstoun House in 1938. Hahn was headmaster of two private boarding schools in Europe and founder of Outward Bound.   (Photo: Gordonstoun)

Kurt Hahn and the roots of Expeditionary Learning

Early in his life, Kurt Hahn had a vision of the kind of school he wanted to create, and it was nothing like the school he went to. It would be a school designed to help kids discover their interests and passions, not just prepare them for tests. And it would be a school devoted to character development.
Students on a "learning expedition" at the Renaissance School in Springfield, Massachusetts. (Photo: Emily Hanford)

Inside Expeditionary Learning at the Springfield Renaissance School

There's a lot of talk these days about the importance of traits like grit, curiosity, and self-discipline -- so-called "non-cognitive skills." How can schools teach those skills? Correspondent Emily Hanford explores the approach to character development at one school in Massachusetts.
Students, faculty and guests gather at the University of Michigan School of Education for "Grand Rounds," where they present and discuss issues in their teaching practice much the same way doctors present and discuss issues in their medical practice. (Photo: Suzanne Pekow)

Rethinking teacher preparation

In the United States, teaching isn't treated as a profession that requires extensive training like law or medicine. Teaching is seen as something you can figure out on your own, if you have a natural gift for it. But looking for gifted people won't work to fill the nation's classrooms with teachers who know what they're doing.
A class of sixth-graders at the Murch Elementary School in Washington, D.C., 1943. (Photo: Library of Congress)

An American way of teaching

In 1993, a group of researchers set out to do something that had never been done before. They would hire a videographer to travel across the United States and record a random sample of eighth-grade math classes. What they found revealed a lot about American teaching.

Thinking about math from someone else’s perspective

"What you do when you’re teaching is you think about other people’s thinking. You don’t think about your own thinking; you think what other people think. That’s really hard." -Deborah Ball
Japanese teachers doing lesson study at Oshihara Elementary School in Japan, June 2012. (Photo: Tom McDougal)

A different approach to teacher learning: Lesson study

In the United States, we tend to think that improving education is about improving teachers - recruiting better ones, firing bad ones. But the Japanese think about improving teaching. It's a very different idea.
Producer Emily Hanford recording in a preschool classroom in Palatka, Florida  Photo by Stephen Smith

From the Archives: Early Lessons

Head Start got its start 50 years ago. Our documentary, "Early Lessons," by Emily Hanford, profiles the program that inspired the creation of Head Start.
An elementary school in Japan. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

What can Japan teach us about teaching?

Coming up this fall we'll be releasing a documentary about teacher preparation - how people learn to become teachers and how they get better once they're in the classroom. This week: how do Japanese teachers learn to improve on the job?