Who Are We?

We are a group of researchers, teachers, and technology experts who are collaborating to co-design a project-based learning approach to 9th grade English Language Arts that integrates social and emotional learning and universal design for learning. The research and development involves a collaborative team from University of Colorado Boulder, Colorado State University, Clearview (CO) Library District, CAST, Inc., and educators from a range of Colorado school districts.

What is the Compose Our World Project?

The Common Core State Standards set a high bar for literacy learning for all students. Yet standards alone are unlikely to be sufficient to support learning and develop the social and emotional awareness and skills students need to succeed as readers, writers, and composers of media in today’s world. Moreover, amid the turmoil of reform, many classrooms have lost the aspects of learning that stir up students’ passion, enthusiasm, and drive, especially in schools serving students from marginalized communities. Recognizing a need to engage students in deep learning, reflection, empathy, and fun, we are developing and will study a project-based learning (PBL) ecosystem to support ninth-grade English language arts (ELA).

This ecosystem will include a full-year curriculum that is highly adaptable to student interests and community concerns and that provides supports for teacher adaptation. Specifically, this work will revitalize ELA in ninth grade by engaging in the following actions:

  • Creating an overarching project focused on the unifying theme of composing our world, the idea that reading, writing, and multimodal composing are central to making our world and our way in it.
  • Fully integrating literacy and social and emotional learning goals — centered on collaborative activities and shared habits of composing, iterating, and revising text together — with Universal Design for Learning (UDL) support.
  • Creating embedded supports for teachers and a model Design Institute for extending the professional-learning community of teachers engaged with PBL in ELA.

The “Compose Our World” team will empirically study the impact of the initiative on teachers’ instruction as well as on students’ academic and social and emotional learning and engagement, and will gather evidence of feasibility and usability needed for scale-up.

Compose our World will take place over 3.5 years, 2015-2018. The project will use an approach that allows us to quickly design, study, and refine the materials and processes in both the teacher and student experiences in years one and two of the project and then to study impacts on students and teachers using a treatment-comparison-group design in year three.

Who is funding the project?

We are funded by Lucas Education Research, a sister organization to Edutopia at the George Lucas Education Foundation. Our project is part of an initiative to develop and evaluate rigorous project-based learning. You can learn more about LER here. Visit Edutopia here.

How can other teachers become involved?

Our goal is to make the Compose Our World curriculum resources available online as soon as possible, so that other teachers may take them up, adapt them, and hopefully, share their stories in an online Compose Our World community. We want to “crowd-source” innovation in project-based learning ELA. Together, we can transform ELA and benefit from participating in a PBL-ELA community.

If you’re a Colorado teacher and would like to potentially participate in our project, please contact us.

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  1. […] principles featured in the book. Further, this work in the book has shaped how I have been studying project-based learning, tabletop gaming, connected learning, teacher professional development, “analog” and […]

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