Collaborative Research for Educational Change

Spencer Foundation

Relevent Country: United States of America

The Spencer Foundation is calling applications through its Research-Practice Partnership (RPP) Grants Program to support education research projects that engage in collaborative and participatory partnerships.

They view partnerships as an important approach to knowledge generation and the improvement of education, broadly construed. Over the long term, they anticipate that research conducted by RPPs will result in new insights into the processes, practices, and policies that improve education for learners, educators, families, communities, and institutions where learning and teaching happen (e.g., schools, universities, community centers, parks, museums, other workplaces).

This grant program is specifically intended to build the capacity of partnerships to make educational change. Effective governance is a key aspect of successful partnerships, and as such, all proposals should specify their governance structures and how the work is jointly developed, as well as how power is shared, across all partners. As noted, while this grant program is open to all partnership configurations across a range of learning contexts, in addition to PreK-12 school systems, they especially encourage applications from partnerships that include scholars and institutions of higher education, rural geographic locations, and in locations outside of the United States, as well as partnerships that deeply engage community-based organizations and families.

Educational Equity

Importantly, they expect that partnerships will foreground issues connected to inequality in education and articulate how their project aims to disrupt the reproduction and deepening of inequities. They welcome projects that seek to disrupt inequities across a range of dimensions including (but not exclusive to) race, ethnicity, language, class, gender, sexual orientation, nationality, geography, political affiliations, religion, and (dis)ability.

Funding Information

  • Grant Amount: Research-Practice Partnership budget totals are limited to $400,000 including up to 15% indirect cost charges.
  • Project Duration: The proposed duration of the grant may not be longer than 3 years.

Activities that May Be Funded

Research is fundamental to every research-practice partnership, and they expect research activities to be the central element of every proposal. In addition to detailing a plan for research, applicants should also prioritize plans for communicating and disseminating key findings and other important partnership activities that have the potential to foster positive educational changes.

The following categories of activities are meant to be illustrative, but not exclusive, of activities in addition to the research that could be funded under this program:

  • Research Activities: Each proposal should describe new research that would be launched or existing research activities that would be expanded with the grant. Examples might include randomized trials of new curricula, participatory studies with learner and family coresearchers; design-based research focused on teacher classroom practice; policy advocacy or implementation; needs mapping with community partners; or deep descriptive work focused on a range of learner outcomes. They encourage a wide range of research methods and approaches.
  • Research Infrastructure: Funds may be used for building and sustaining infrastructure needs for the research activities of the partnership. These infrastructure needs may apply to the full range of methodological approaches. Examples may include the development of surveys, assessment tools, and other instruments; the development of co-designed protocols; and the upkeep of data archives and matching systems.
  • Outreach, Communications, and Relationship Building: Activities that strengthen the working relationship between partners and other stakeholders are also a possible component of the projects. Successful research practice partnerships devote a great deal of time and attention to building and maintaining trust across stakeholder groups and within their partnership.
  • Capacity Development: Many research-practice partnerships seek to assist the practice partner in developing capacity to use research evidence and data in their daily decision-making. Funds could be used to learn how to better engage others in research, conduct better practice or policy-driven research, or to be better equipped to communicate complex research findings to practitioners, families, communities, or policy makers that were not primary partners.

Eligibility Criteria

  • Proposals to the Research-Practice Partnership program must be for research and other activities aimed to support collaborative partnerships between academic researcher(s) and a broad array of practitioner(s) of education.
  • Principal Investigators (PIs) and Co-PIs applying for a Research-Practice Partnership Grant are expected to have an earned doctorate in an academic discipline or professional field, or demonstrated professional experience appropriate for this program. Note: If the PI or Co-PI from the practice/policy side of the partnership does not have an earned doctorate, they are expected to have appropriate professional experience to serve in this role in the partnership. While graduate students may be part of the team, they may not be named the PI or Co-PI on the proposal.
  • The PI must be affiliated with a non-profit organization or public/governmental institution that is willing to serve as the administering organization if the grant is awarded. The Spencer Foundation does not award grants directly to individuals. Examples include non-profit or public colleges, universities, school districts, and research facilities, as well as other non-profit organizations with a 501(c)(3) determination from the IRS (or equivalent non-profit status if the organization is outside of the United States).
  • The PI associated with the administering organization for this grant could be either the practitioner/policymaker or researcher of the partnership. At least one Co-PI should be from the other member organization(s).
  • Proposals are accepted from the U.S. and internationally. All proposals must be submitted in English and budgets must be proposed in U.S. Dollars.

Ineligibility Criteria

  • PIs and Co-PIs may only hold one active research grant from the Spencer Foundation at a time. (This restriction does not apply to the administering organization; organizations may submit as many proposals as they like as long as they are for different projects with different project teams.)
  • PIs and Co-PIs may not submit more than one research proposal to the Spencer Foundation at a time. This restriction applies to the Small Grants Program, Large Grants Program, Racial Equity Research Grants Program, and this Research-Practice Partnership Grants Program. If the PI or any of the Co-PIs currently have a research proposal under consideration in any of these programs, they are required to wait until a final decision has been made on the pending proposal before they can submit a new proposal.