[semester equivalent = 3.33 credits]



John Creger



Social and emotional learning has gained attention in schools around the country. But while the purpose of SEL is praiseworthy, can pre-packaged programs realistically do all they promise? Do teachers and students really need more externally created curriculum and standards to measure and be measured for? Do schools really need more flashpoints in our culture wars? 

This course focuses on the first foundation stone of student development: their discovery of themselves. Rather than rely on one-size-fits-all commercial products, in this course you learn to design ongoing strands of curriculum and instructional methods to help your own students and those of your colleagues build self-knowledge alongside their academic development.

In this course you join your students as they develop the habit of reflection. Working with the Personal Creed Project, students and teachers come to understand who and what have shaped them. According to the capacities of their developmental stages, they begin discovering and committing to their values, and learning to stand for something in the world. Adapted in schools and colleges around the country, the Personal Creed experience points to new course design and instruction practices that generate enthusiasm, self-knowledge, and the desire to contribute, while deepening academic committment and skills. In this course you learn these practices. This makes for unusually rewarding teaching. 

In my classroom alone over the years, more than four thousand students have presented their personal creeds to their class communities. One wrote:

What I realized from my Creed Project was that every person on this planet has problems they face, whether it is Jeff Bezos or a homeless person on the streets. You must be able to keep an open mind and realize this without being selfish. Thus, I believe that the Creed Project is the best project I have done so far and was worth all the time and effort I put into it. It was the break from education that I desperately needed and gave me a lot of ideas about who I am and what defines me.  ~ Aaron Li, class of 2024

Enthusiasm for the Personal Creed Project among students has always been high, but this past year it peaked. A group of former students invited me to join them in forming The Personal Creed Organization. Our first venture as a team has been to create an online course version of the Creed Project on the Udemy platform. You can now use this more efficient version with your students in Assignment #7 of this course. Our second project is to create an online community to promote and support self-discovery. You'll be invited to use our community in your own self-discovery. 

A member of the first group of teachers to take this course as a team wrote on completion: 

What came from this course was a restructuring of education as a whole... I learned that self-reflection and value evaluation are key pieces in crafting well-rounded children.                                                                                     ~ Kylinn Irwin, Central Elementary, La Grande OR, Spring 2021

This course is well-suited for individual teachers and especially rewarding to take as a team of school site colleagues. I'd love to work with you and/or your team!

Course text, used on Amazon: $20-30.

NOTE (5/25/24): Since the price for my book on Amazon has recently doubled, please email me and I'll mail you a copy for the price indicated ($25): Thank you!

Find out more on John's website.

LEARNING OUTCOMES: Upon completion of this course, participants will have:

  1. Understand the developmental needs of your students, and how to nourish those needs;
  2. Engage your students with activities and projects to facilitate their developmental-stage need to build healthy senses of identity;
  3. Become familiar with research on how to cultivate an engaged mindset in learning;
  4. Use teaching and design strategies to help students gain the self-knowledge they need to navigate a healthy transition into adulthood;
  5. Learn to facilitate a community rite of passage in the classroom or online in which students reveal the influences that have shaped them, the values they have discovered, and the difference they wish to make as individuals and citizens in the world;
  6. Consider adapting the Personal Creed Project to fit your own teaching situation;
  7. Discover that teaching students to reflect on their lives is a powerful way to catalyze their engagement in writing;
  8. Begin designing a developmental arc of curriculum to balance your students’ academic progress with self-discovery.

Completion of all specified assignments is required for issuance of hours or credit. The Heritage Institute does not award partial credit.

The use of artificial intelligence is not permitted. Assignment responses found to be generated by AI will not be accepted.

Completing the basic assignments (Section A. Information Acquisition) for this course automatically earns participants their choice of CEUs (Continuing Education Units), Washington State Clock Hours, Oregon PDUs, or Pennsylvania ACT 48 Hours. The Heritage Institute offers CEUs and is an approved provider of Washington State Clock Hours, Oregon PDUs, and Pennsylvania ACT 48 Hours.



Continuing Education Quarter credits are awarded by Antioch University Seattle (AUS). AUS requires 75% or better for credit at the 400 level and 85% or better to issue credit at the 500 level. These criteria refer both to the amount and quality of work submitted.

  1. Completion of Information Acquisition assignments 30%
  2. Completion of Learning Application assignments 40%
  3. Completion of Integration Paper assignment 30%


CREDIT/NO CREDIT (No Letter Grades or Numeric Equivalents on Transcripts)
Antioch University Seattle (AUS) Continuing Education Quarter credit is offered on a Credit/No Credit basis; neither letter grades nor numeric equivalents are on a transcript. 400 level credit is equal to a "C" or better, 500 level credit is equal to a "B" or better. This information is on the back of the transcript.

AUS Continuing Education quarter credits may or may not be accepted into degree programs. Prior to registering, determine with your district personnel, department head, or state education office the acceptability of these credits for your purpose.



NOTE (5/25/24): Since the price for my book on Amazon has recently doubled, please email me and I'll mail you a copy for the price indicated ($25): Thank you!

The opportunity to write this book followed after NCTE's James Moffett Memorial Award for Teacher Research came to me in recognition of the Personal Creed Project. In preparing this course, I'm pleasantly surprised to realize that while I would definitely want to update my 2004 use of language in a second edition, the book's content is still largely relevant today. Recent students seem to agree. I hope you will find it useful.

  • The Personal Creed Project and a New Vision of Learning: Teaching the Universe of Meaning In and Beyond the Classroom
    ISBN# 0325006660
    by Creger, John

    Buy from Amazon
  • The Personal Creed Project and a New Vision of Learning
    ISBN# {equired_text:isbn}
    by John Creger
    My book on the Personal Creed Project, reporting on my classroom research.
    View Online


NOTE (5/25/24): Since the price for my book on Amazon has recently doubled, please email me and I'll mail you a copy for the price indicated ($25): Thank you!



Assignments done in a course forum will show responses from all educators who have or are taking the course independently. Feel free to read and respond to others' comments. 
Group participants can only view and respond to their group members in the Forum. 

Assignment #1: Getting Acquainted

1.  Read the Introduction, xv-xx, in course text.
2.  Watch Yong Zhao’s 2017 video: "How Do We Enhance Our Education?" 

3. In 500+ words:
~ Describe your teaching situation, your reasons for choosing this course, and what you hope to take away;

~ Respond to my book introduction. What points do you find particularly relevant or intriguing?

 ~ Explain what you find valuable in Yong Zhao’s talk. How relevant in your mind are his criticisms and recommendations? Which of his points do you think connect to points in my introduction? How so?

~ What questions do the reading and talk leave unanswered in your mind?

4. Introduce yourself to the class with a 90 second video on FlipGrid.

Assignment #2: Self-Discovery—the Missing Piece

Perhaps the greatest gift and challenge of life is to discover who we are, and learn to live in that ever-changing reality. And yet self-discovery is not an intentional goal of the education mission in most schools. 

1.  Read The Problem with School, from Duron Aldredge, former student

2.  Read Chapter 1, “The Central and Indispensable Lack,” 1-9 in text

3.  In 500+ words:
~ Explain the metaphor Duron used to describe what his education was like. What’s the outcome of this kind of education? In what ways does it impact you and your students?
~ Describe ways in which you have tried to humanize the learning experience and help students to understand more about who they are?

"The best Jeopardy player is a computer. The best chess player is a computer. How do we compete with smart machines? By becoming more fully human."    - Yong Zhao, 2017

Assignment #3: Self Exploration and Trust

A language arts curriculum offers lots of opportunities to have students understand themselves, their cultural origins, influences, beliefs and values. When shared, such experiences can also help build trust in the classroom.

1.  Review the following activities I use with my students early in the year:
~ Cultural Chemistry: Teacher Overview Student Instructions
 Kindling with Rumi: “The Guest House
Rumi Roulette
~ Supplemental: Peruse The World Wisdom Project   [you’ll meet this project again in Assignment #9]

2.  Complete the Cultural Chemistry activity yourself, including your written responses to the three questions.

3.  Share your Cultural Chemistry visual on FlipGrid.

4.  In 250+ words:
~ Explain what readings and/or activities you have introduced to your students that offer a platform for self-discovery. Include the prompts you have included for student reflection.
~ How do you, or how might you, use your readings/activities to actively build trust in your classroom?
~ Which of the activities above might you also try? What might it help your students accomplish?

Assignment #4: What is Depth in Learning?

We can start supporting our students’ exploration of who they are by deepening our own understandings of learning. Two poems from Rumi help with this. We can also become more attuned to our students’ developmental journeys. Developmentalists Ba and Josette Luvmour introduce us to what our students need from us to help them thrive in their current stage of growth.

1.  Read Two Poems from Rumi on Education

2.  Study Developmental Stages of Childhood from Ba and Josette Luvmour:
~ Central Tenets of Natural Learning Relationships. Click for the pdf, bottom of page. First, get an overview of all four stages of childhood. Then focus particularly on your students’ stage. (Note: To denote the developmental needs of a given stage, the Luvmours use the term “organizing principles.”)
~ See Developmental Needs and Nourishments Chart for clarity.

3.  Post 1-2 minute response on FlipGrid: What do these two of Rumi’s poems suggest about what teaching more deeply can look like? For our profession in general? For yourself in particular?

4.  Write 250-word response: What are the primary and secondary developmental needs of the students you are currently teaching? How can those needs be nourished, according to NLR? How is your class and your teaching currently nourishing those needs? How else might you nourish them?

Assignment #5: Meet the Personal Creed Project

To wisely use their increasing autonomy, teens need to develop healthy identities to carry them into adulthood as they navigate the organizing principles or essential needs of each stage of development. Younger children need to learn to trust peers and adults through caring relationships they can perceive are based on fairness and justice. The Personal Creed experience helps us meet these developmental needs, challenging young people to reflect on what and who have shaped them, choose values they wish to stand for, and plan to live by them. Gaining self-knowledge also helps them engage more deeply in learning. 

1.  View three recent student Personal Creed presentation videos, on Zoom, from Erin, Nicholas and Donnyeah (@15 min ea.-- can skip coaching/comment sessions after presentations for now.)

2.  View Personal Creed Project Overview (with sample student reflection)

3.  Read Camille Farrington on cultivating an Engaged Mindset:    
Research on Mindset for Deeper Engagement (especially pp 4-9)
~ Summary: Four Key Beliefs for an Engaged Mindset

4.  Complete Three Noticing Journals or PDF Version on Erin's, Nicholas' and Donnyeah's presentations.

5.  Write 250+ words:
~ What initial questions do you have about the Personal Creed Project?
~ Which of Farrington’s Four Key Beliefs do you notice students demonstrating in these presentations?

6.  My Initial Impressions 3-4  minutes on FlipGrid:

What most stands out to you, specifically and generally, about the student presentations? Which of Farrington's key beliefs of an engaged mindset do you see operating in these students? What question(s) does your initial exposure to the Creed Project leave you with? What aspects of your teaching or activities in your class do you think have engaged your students in this way? Among your students, which of the four beliefs do you think is strongest? Which belief would you like to see more evidence of? What challenges are involved in making this happen (i.e. distance learning, student access)?

Assignment #6: Effects of Self-Discovery on Students’ Learning and Lives

The Personal Creed Project is a way to help us discover ourselves as a normal part of our school experience. As it nourishes students’ developmental needs, the project also engages them more deeply in learning. How can finding ourselves help us come to terms with our backgrounds, our present lives, our plans for our futures, or our fears in the midst of global crises?

1. Read: Ch. 2,3,4, course text (29 pages, 2004)

2. View: Promotional Video (with former students on benefits of project, 2 min, 2018) Scroll to video at bottom of page.

3. Read: Emails from former students (2012 – 2020).

4. 250+ words: Which of the self-discoveries in the chapters, video, or emails above do you find most compelling? What is it about you that makes you feel particularly moved? Please explain. 

5. 1-2 minute Flipgrid post: Describe an experience, whether in school or out, in which you learned more about yourself than you ever expected to learn. What did the experience teach you? What specifically made the learning happen? Why did/does it matter?

Assignment #7: Why Else Self-Discovery Belongs in School

We’ve seen that learning more deeply about ourselves in school can help us meet the needs of the developmental stage we’re in. We’ve also seen that self-discovery can make students feel they belong, that they can succeed or gain competence, or that the class matters—all of which can deepen engagement in learning. Here we consider what other factors help students care more deeply about learning. While we're at it, you'll also kick off your own experience with the Creed Project, using either the written instructions my students used or the workbook that comes with the new online course version of the project for the general public.

1. Skim Ch. 5, in text;

2. Read Ch. 6-7 in text; 

3. Peruse: Updated Model of Deepened Learning

4. Write 250+ words: What in these chapters and updated model makes most sense to you, or not? How might you summarize the essence of this material’s message? Beyond meeting developmental needs and the inherent engagement of the project, what does the Model of Deepened Learning suggest may also explain students’ longterm, widespread enthusiasm for the Personal Creed experience?

5. Launch Your Own Personal Creed: In the next assignment (#8), you'll explore the full instructions my students receive for the project. On the inside front cover of those instructions, you'll see that the full version culminates in a presentation which asks a student to share four elements: 
a) the main forces and people that have shaped you to this point (past);
b) the values these influences lead you to embrace for now (present);
c) the qualities you want to develop in yourself to prepare you to live by these values, and
d) the difference you want to make in others' lives (future). 

In this assignment, you begin an abbreviated version of this process for yourself. This version's instructions enable you to complete a) and b) above in as little as 30 minutes. As a last step in these instructions, you share your findings with your classmates and me on FlipGrid: this Personal Creed "half presentation" will be a warmup for your full presentation, which you'll make as part of Assignment #9.

NEW 2024 OPTIONS FOR UPCOMING ASSIGNMENT #8: Here is the free online version of the Personal Creed Project I mentioned in the course welcome. This version of the project comes with a workbook in the form of a Google doc. The next assignment refers you to the full written instructions we used in the classroom until this year (2024). Now that we have the digital workbook and the online course, you have additional options:

  • In Assignment #8, if you prefer, you can use the google doc instead of the written instructions. This enables you or your students to write your reflections in the same doc with the instructions instead of on paper or a separate doc. See p7 in the workbook for a look at the writing space. You can edit the document for your students if you like.
  • You also have the option of utilizing the online version of the project if you'd like a more complete experience for yourself or your students. (Again, it's free.)

You may want to peruse these resources before beginning Assignment #8.



In this section, you will apply your learning to your professional situation. This course assumes that most participants are classroom teachers who have access to students. If you do not have a classroom available to you, please contact the instructor for course modifications. Assignments done in a course forum will show responses from all educators who have or are taking the course independently. ​Feel free to read and respond to others' comments. Group participants can only view and respond to their group members in the Forum. 


Assignment #8: Introduce and Run the Personal Creed Project

In this assignment you become familiar with the steps in the full version of the Personal Creed Project, using either the written student instructions or the new workbook or online course. You make a plan to design and implement the steps you deem appropriate for your current (or future) teaching situation. Note: you'll notice that the text breaks the project into five steps, while the written student instructions divide it in seven. In the new digital version, it's back to five sections. So not to worry if some step numbers in different versions don't correspond.

1. Skim student instructions. Or skim online workbook.

2. Overview and Planning: 
~ Skim text, Ch. 9.

3. Guiding Students to Identify and Reflect on Their Influences: 
Read text, Ch. 10-11;  
Read student instructions, pgs 1-15. Or online workbookpgs 1-22.

4.  Coaching Your Students in Finding Their Values:
Read text, Ch 12;  
Read student instructions, pgs 16-21. Or online workbook, pgs 23-33.
Read Sample Creed Statements; skim Current Creed Reflections Scoring Guide.

5.  Preparing Your Students for Presentations: 
Skim current Presentation Guidelines and Presentation Scoring Guide;  Or online workbook, pgs 34-44.
~ Read Ch. 13;
~ Live Coaching: View the coaching segments at ends of the three presentation videos--Erin, Nicholas, and Donnyeah--in Assignment #5.

 6. Creating Your Plan. Write 500+ words:
~ How will you run the project? Full project? Step I only (minimum req--see current instructions, pgs 1-9)? 
~ When will you begin the weekly reflections? Second quarter? Third quarter?
~ When will you schedule the presentations? Third quarter? Fourth quarter? 
~ How will you introduce the project?
~ How will you read the reflections? In batches? One shot?
~ If you are taking this course while school is in session, implement at least the Step I reflections with your students. Highly recommended: also present your own creed to your classes. (Instructions next assignment.)

Assignment #9: How to Weave an Arc of Self-Discovery Through Your Course

We’ve explored three ways we can provide opportunities for our students to gain self-knowledge in our classes: 1) we can foster four key beliefs to help them engage more fully in learning; 2) we can nourish their developmental-stage needs; and 3) we can guide them to discover what they value and why.

In this assignment we consider how we can embed these approaches in an overall course we design purposefully to take students on a progressive journey of finding themselves. And finally, in this assignment you make a plan to deliver a full presentation of your Personal Creed, choosing your own medium and audience.

 1.  Consider -- How I Design My Courses:
Designing with Questions, Readings, Projects These elements have taken many years to come together, let alone for me to notice them working in concert. In this class we are not focussing on using questions and literature in designing courses. Mainly, I want this chart to show you how the Creed Project fits into the overall design of the sophomore courses I teach. It culminates the "developmental leg" or arc, of the course, as you'll see in the next visual.
Two-Legged Design This visual comes with explanations to introduce you to this course design approach. Study them carefully.
Resource:  World Wisdom Project    

2.  Consider -- How You Can Design an Arc of Self-Discovery:
A Design Process to Explore Consider these suggestions in connection with the explanations on the Two-Legged Design visual.

3.  Read: Innovating for Self-Knowledge: How Distance Learning Helps My Students Find Themselves” John Creger (California English, Fall 2020)

4.  Design an Arc of Self-Discovery. After reading the Two-Legged Design and A Design Process to Explore above, read Guiding Principles of the Two-Legged Approach and the "Innovating for Self-Knowledge" article. Now, referring to both the Design Process and the Two-Legged visual, create a rough sketch of a developmental leg for a course you teach, or will teach. You can draw in any online or offline format you prefer. Begin by identifying your students' developmental needs and nourishments on the Developmental Needs and Nourishments chart above. You may also wish to visually represent the academic leg of your course. Feel free to be pretty general with the academic leg, as I am in the Two-Legged visual. The main purpose here is to rough out a developmental leg. This is innovation. No need to aim for perfection at this stage.

5.  Post a 2-3 minute FlipGrip video to share your Arc of Self-Discovery with your classmates and me.

6. Prepare your full Creed Presentation:
Review Presentation Guidelines and Presentation Scoring Guide from Assignment #8. Also review Zoom slide presentations from Erin, Nicholas, and Donnyeah (2020).
~ Also view these student-made video presentations: Tyler Mar’s video (2006), Morgan’s video (2011),
Patrick’s Video (2013). I think you'll find them entertaining and ingtriguing.
~ Create your presentation in any format you choose. Practice with friends or family on Zoom. Be sure to keep between and five and ten minutes.
~ Contact friends, family, and/or members of this class you'd like to invite to attend your presentation on Zoom. Or, you can simply present for me. Find two dates that will work for you and your audience. 
~ Email me to schedule your presentation.

Assignment #10: (500 Level ONLY) Researching Other Approaches to Help Students Find Themselves

Research two or three other approaches to helping students build self-knowledge. Two suggestions:

~ Freedom Writers In 1994, first year English teacher Erin Gruwell started her career at racially divided Woodrow Wilson High School in Long Beach CA in the aftermath of the Rodney King riots. Most of her students had lost multiple family or friends to gang violence. Ms. Gruwell developed an approach that turned her violence-plagued students into a family, beginning with the Diary of Anne Frank and the holocaust to show her students they weren't the only young people ever to have been persecuted. Erin Gruwell's class published their own diary, The Freedom Writers Diary, which served as the basis for the 2007 feature film with Hillary Swank and a 2019 PBS documentary. The Freedom Writers foundation offers teacher training and teaching materials. 

Jefferson County (CO) Open School A competency-based approach to education. Graduation expectations are competencies students need to achieve in order toi grafduate. Begin your research with the school mission statement, tab curriculum, and open graduation expectations.

Report: Write 750+ words reflecting on what you have turned up in your research. Questions to reflect on:

~ What is the approach? What steps are involved?
~ With whom has it been practiced? Where? How long?
~ What have been its effects on students? What do students/former students say?
~ Short term benefits?
~ Long term benefits?
~ What does/do this/these approach(es) have in common with the ideas, practices, and results you have explored in this class? How does/do this/these approach(es) differ from the approach we have used here?


Design and Implement: Adapt one or more of the other approaches you’ve researched in one or more of your classes. Create a plan and explain how it fits into the year-long design of your course. Run your adaptation this year or next. 


Assignment #11: (Required for 400 and 500 level)

(Please do not write this paper until you've completed all of your other assignments)

Write a 400-500 word Integration Paper answering these 5 questions:

  1. What did you learn vs. what you expected to learn from this course?
  2. What aspects of the course were most helpful and why?
  3. What further knowledge and skills in this general area do you feel you need?
  4. How, when and where will you use what you have learned?
  5. How and with what other school or community members might you share what you learned?


Instructors will comment on each assignment. If you do not hear from the instructor within a few days of posting your assignment, please get in touch with them immediately.


English teacher John Creger learned from sophomores at American High School in Fremont CA from 1988 through 2023. In his publications and presentations since 1998, John communicates to educators what his sophomores’ continuing response to his Personal Creed Project teaches him about a deeper kind of literacy. He published his first book, The Personal Creed Project and a New Vision of Learning, in 2004, along with articles in professional journals in 2002, 2012, 2015, 2018, and 2020. He launched this first Heritage course for teachers in 2020, following up the next year with his second, Connecting with Hard to Reach and Marginalized Students. In 2023, he and a team of former students formed The Personal Creed Organization to promote and support self-discovery, launching an online course for the general public on the Udemy platform: A Journey of Reflection into Your Values and Your Life: Discover Yourself with the Personal Creed Project. He earned a B.A. from the University of California at Berkeley, and an M.A. from San Francisco State University, both in English. In recognition of the Personal Creed Project, the National Council of Teachers of English and the National Writing Project presented John the James Moffett Memorial Award for Teacher Research.



Luvmour, Ba. Optimal Parenting: Using Natural Learning Rhythms to Nurture the Whole Child. Sentient   Publications, 2006. Paperback, 432 pages. ASIN: B00NVW09RS. A groundbreaking book of wisdom for parents and teachers on how to understand and supply young people the specific kind of love and support they need in each developmental stage of childhood. A revelatory read.  

Luvmour, Josette and Ba Luvmour. Brain Development and the Natural Learning Relationships of Children. Luvmour Consulting, 2018. Paperback, 101 pages. ISBN-10: 1980322813. A savvy nexus of developmental psychology and brain research, concise and excellent for teachers who want to understand developmental stages, and teach with them in mind. Inspirational work from two leading developmentalists. 

Moffett, James. The Universal Schoolhouse: Spiritual Awakening through Education. Jossey-Bass, 1994. Hardcover, ISBN-13 978-1555426071. An innovative blueprint for 21st century learning, written by the father of student-centered Language Arts education, one of the great thought leaders in education in the latter half of the 20th century. Visionary.

Ravitch, Diane. Reign of Error: the Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America's Public Schools. Alfred A. Knopf, 2013. ISBN-13: 978-0345806352. Paperback, 416 pages. One of my favorite professors, director of the San Jose Area Writing Project, called this the single best book ever written on education. Diane Ravitch is nothing short of the Joan of Arc of American education, exposing point by point in this book as only she can, the corruption of the “reform” movement in education. 

Robinson, Ken, and Lou Aronica. Creative Schools. Penguin, 2016. ISBN-13: 978-0143108061. Paperback, 320 pages. Another of the leaders in the revolution for fuller humanity in education, Robinson is brilliant in exposing the harm standardized testing and accountability have wrought on all of us, particularly on our creative lives, and what we can do about it. 

Rumi, Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad, et al. trans. Coleman Barks. A Year with Rumi: Daily Readings. HarperCollins, 2006. ISBN-13: 978-0060845971. Hardcover, 432 pages. I use this as a sourcebook for the collection of poems by Rumi I have collected, and use in my classroom. Coleman Barks’ popularized versions of Rumi’s poems have made them so accessible that on 9/11/2001, the day the World Trade Center was attacked, Rumi, born in what is now Afghanistan, was the most popular poet in the U.SL

Zhao, Yong. What Works May Hurt: Side Effects in Education. Teachers College Press, 2018. ISBN-13: 978-0807759059. Paperback, 176 pages. One of the most engaging thinkers in education today, Yong Zhao started as a peasant in China. In this book, he trains his global expertise in education measurement on the target of testing and accountability. An entertaining ride for a teacher.