The Compose Our World curriculum was co-designed by a group of researchers and educators as a project-based learning approach to 9th grade English Language Arts. The year-long curriculum integrates social and emotional learning and Universal Design for Learning in projects that are engaging and accessible for all learners. This full-year course is highly adaptable to student interests and community concerns and aligns with the Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts. Four core Projects that engage students in deep learning, reflection, empathy, and fun are organized around the question “How is our world composed for us, and how can we compose our world?”
Throughout each Project students develop habits and routines for authentic making, collaboration, feedback/revision, reflection, and the social and emotional learning components of caring, advocacy, perspective taking, and empathy. Over time, students develop and refine products and performances for authentic audiences, and the projects build in complexity across the year. Students participating in this course with teacher support develop as readers, writers, and composers of media in today’s world.
Learn More About PBL
For more information on project-based learning, please visit this section of our site.
Project 1: Remix Our World
Students become remix artists exploring the question: How is the world composed for us, and how do we compose our world? Students use a critical literacy perspective to examine print and multimodal text in relation to purpose, perspective, and audience. The final product is a creative individual remix.
Project 2: What Happened Here
Students become human interest storytellers, exploring the question: What happened here? Students explore how perspective and audience shape the stories we tell about ourselves and our communities. The final product is a narrated digital photo story shared through a local or online film festival.
Project 3: Unearthing Humanity
Students become museum exhibit designers, examining the question: What does it mean to be human? Students explore various aspects of humanity, gathering evidence to identify and support their claim. The final product is an interactive museum exhibit that is shared with school and community members.
Project 4: Changing the Conversation
Students become change agents, exploring the question: How can we change the conversation about issues that are important to us? Teams critique public service announcements (PSAs), conduct research, design their own PSA media campaign, and distribute their campaign to a target audience.
Since the launch of Compose Our World in 2015, the design team has engaged in ongoing research and analysis to refine curriculum materials and the professional learning model, with the goal of creating resources suitable for widespread dissemination. Researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder and Stanford University also identified, refined and validated measures of teachers' curricular enactments and students' academic and social and emotional learning outcomes.
In 2018-2019 researchers conducted a study of 44 teachers and more than 1000 students in 20 schools across two states to evaluate qualities of enactments as well as academic and social-emotional learning outcomes. Preliminary results include increased student opportunities for authentic learning and collaboration in Project Based Learning English Language Arts classes when compared to students in traditional language arts classrooms. Additional student academic outcome results are forthcoming. Many educators reported that Compose Our World reinvigorates their practice and noted that the projects developed student creativity and communication skills. Analysis also shows that teachers’ asset based views of students and expertise at fostering student collaboration are associated with high quality PBL enactment. After fully enacting Compose Our World project-based learning for one year:
Learn More about the Research
Visit the Compose Our World page on Lucas Education Research’s site to find out more about the research results.
of teachers plan to use elements of COW in their 9th Grade and in other Language Arts courses in the future.
of teachers reported that the course worked well for learners with different needs and strengths.
teachers noted that projects were more relevant to students’ lives than typical units they are used to teaching.
What Practitioners and Students are Saying about Compose Our World
Research and revision of The Compose Our World course materials is ongoing. An updated version of the course is available as a free open education resource to educators, instructors, and administrators. Sprocket is designed for teacher access, including teacher lesson planning and support materials, and is not open to students.
We encourage educators to adapt the course to best suit the needs of their classrooms and for them to share their adaptations with other members of the Sprocket community.
To inquire about Compose Our World professional learning opportunities for your school or school district, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org. Resources include in-person professional development sessions, on-site or virtual coaching, and collaborative planning support.Sign Up >