George Lucas Educational Foundation
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Lucas Education Research: Current Projects

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We identify strategic collaborations with university-based researchers, educational research firms and like-minded non-profits to establish strong partnerships with districts, schools and teachers.

High School

Knowledge in Action Project

The purpose of the Knowledge in Action Project is to investigate the project-based learning approach as applied to rigorous high school courses to promote depth of learning while continuing to cover essential content. The goal of these courses is to help students learn advanced content while engaging them deeply to see connections to their lives.  The first two Knowledge in Action courses, AP U.S. Government and Politics and AP Environmental Science, were developed under the direction of Drs. John Bransford, Susan Nolen and Walter Parker at the University of Washington.  These two courses are now under evaluation as part of a large-scale rigorous research trial, see below.  Most recently, the design and study of the third Knowledge in Action course, AP Physics I, was led by Dr. Nancy Vye to further investigate how a networked improvement community of teachers can refine implementation of project-based Physics curriculum.

Efficacy Study of the Knowledge in Action Advanced Placement U.S. Government and Environmental Science Projects

This evaluation, led by Anna R. Saavedra at the University of Southern California’s Center for Social and Economic Research (CESAR), examines the efficacy of the Knowledge in Action curricula and instructional practices for two AP courses. The study employs a randomized control trial approach to estimate the causal impact of the Knowledge in Action courses on student outcomes.

“Composing Our World”: Supporting Literacy and Social and Emotional Learning through Project-Based Learning

Recognizing a need to engage students in deep learning, reflection, empathy, and fun, this study will develop and study a project-based learning ecosystem to support 9th grade English Language Arts. The study is led by Joseph Polman, Alison Boardman, and Bridget Dalton at the University of Colorado at Boulder and Antero Garcia at Stanford University.

Middle School

Learning Through Performance Project

In an effort to accelerate and deepen student learning of Common Core State Standards in mathematics and Next Generation Science Standards, the Stanford Center for Assessment, Learning, and Equity (SCALE) is developing 6th grade project-based curricula with performance-based assessments. This study is led by Drs. Linda Darling Hammond, Kenji Hakuta and Raymond Pecheone.

Core Practices for Project-based Teaching

With an eye toward the critical role that instructional quality and teacher development play in fostering significant and meaningful student learning, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education are establishing core teaching practices to support project-based learning by analyzing the instruction of expert project-based teachers.  This study is led by Drs. Pamela Grossman, Barbara Kurshan, Janine Remillard and Christopher Pupik Dean.   

Project America

Design-based research informs ongoing development of this middle school social studies course, which also supports literacy development as reflected in the Common Core English Language Arts standards.  This partnership reflects a collaboration between Educurious with Jane Chadsey and Michael Golden, and RMC Research with Margaret Beam, Karen Drill and Chandra Lewis.


Elementary School

Multiple Literacies in PBL Project

This project will develop PBL courses for Grades 3 and 4 that require sensemaking through the application of science ideas and practices, language literacy, mathematical thinking and technology tools. Led by Dr. Joseph Krajcik from Michigan State University, Dr. Annemarie Palincsar from the University of Michigan, and Emily Miller from the University of Wisconsin, this team will design, develop and test this approach to interdisciplinary project-based learning curricula.

Project-Approach to Literacy and Civic Engagement (PLACE) Project

PLACE is a 2nd grade project-based learning program that integrates social studies and content literacy. Led by Principal Investigators Dr. Nell Duke from the University of Michigan and Dr. Anne-Lise Halvorsen from Michigan State University, this partnership allowed for the scale-up of a rigorous research to examine whether the project-based pedagogy helps teachers significantly narrow the achievement gap between students in low-income schools and schools whose students come from households with higher income levels.

Investigating the Role of Curriculum Materials and Connected Support in Learning Project-Based Instruction

Analyzing the complex interplay between teachers and educative project-based curriculum materials, Principal Investigator Dr. Deborah Ball, from the University of Michigan, and Susanna Farmer, a doctoral student at the University of Michigan, conducted a study in conjunction with Project PLACE. The focus of this work was to learn more about how teachers adapt and translate project-based curriculum materials to support the unique needs of their students, and how to support teachers in doing this work.