Image Courtesy of Edutopia

What Guides Our Work

Our work is guided by the idea that sustaining transformative change through rigorous project-based learning can only happen via teachers and students. Our design-based research approach centers on teachers’ needs and their involvement as essential partners in a variety of classroom and community settings.


We believe authentic, challenging, active and relevant learning experiences optimize opportunities for all students to productively participate and lead in an increasingly diverse and dynamic society.

Photo: Brightworks

Where We Play

We partner with educators and researchers in K–12 schools to design and evaluate the effectiveness of inclusive and collaborative learning environments that inspire student engagement and deep, meaningful learning.

Image Courtesy of Edutopia

How We Succeed

We support researcher-practitioner partnerships through continuous improvement methods that build capacity while demonstrating effectiveness through rigorous research.

Image Courtesy of Edutopia


We bring expertise in learning, teaching, and research to develop (1) evidence-based examples of innovative programs and practices, (2) core practices to support the enactment of these innovations, and (3) research methods designed to continuously improve programs.

Photo: Penn GSE

Our Strategic Approach

Our Foundation is dedicated to transforming K-12 education so that all students can acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to thrive in their studies, careers, and adult lives. Founded by innovative and award-winning filmmaker George Lucas in 1991, we take a strategic approach to improving K-12 education through two distinct areas of focus: Edutopia and Lucas Education Research.

LER History

George Lucas and Steve Arnold in conversation.

Founded in 2013, Lucas Education Research is a division of the George Lucas Educational Foundation (GLEF) that focuses on the design and evaluation of innovative practices in K–12 schools. The early research trials leading up to the formal organization of the division were initiated by George Lucas and GLEF co-founder Stephen Arnold to investigate the effectiveness of some of the core strategies advocated by Edutopia. The first area of focus was project-based learning. Early prototypes were developed as part of a collaboration with the Life Center at the University of Washington, then headed by Dr. John Bransford. The fundamental promise of this collaboration was to incorporate more current theory and science related to how people learn with the long-standing principles of project-based learning. As a result, key design principles of rigorous project-based learning were established to include, among others: projects as the spine of the course, thoughtful attention to spiraling or looping of key content across projects, creating the “need to know,” and careful attention to instructional practices that maximize student engagement. They called this approach to project-based learning “Knowledge in Action,” and applied it to Advanced Placement (AP) courses because AP represented a challenging academic context in which to evaluate the theory that a rigorous approach to PBL could be more effective for more students.

Given the success with Knowledge in Action, Mr. Arnold and Mr. Lucas decided to move forward with the establishment of a new division at the Foundation that would focus squarely on the expansion of educational research initiatives. The first executive director of the newly formed division, Kristin De Vivo, sought to replicate the early research with Knowledge in Action, this time in large urban school districts across the country. In addition, Ms. De Vivo and her team collaborated with other top-tier universities to build out the research portfolio across grade levels and subject areas. The ultimate goal: to establish an evidence base for rigorous project-based learning.

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