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Small Research Grants

Grants to USA, Canada, and International Researchers
for Research Projects to Improve Education

Agency Type:

Foundation / Corporation

Funding Source:

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The Spencer Foundation

Deadline Date:

02/01/19 4:00 PM CST


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Grants of up to $50,000 to USA, Canada, and International researchers who are affiliated with a college, university, school district, nonprofit research facility, or nonprofit cultural institution for small research projects to improve education. Applicants must have earned a doctorate degree in an academic discipline or professional field, or have appropriate experience in an education research-related profession.

Proposals are encouraged from scholars across a variety of disciplines in an effort to fund field-initiated education research.

Please Note: This program supports research in settings other than K-12 and higher education institutions. The Foundation funds research projects that span the life course (i.e., from early childhood to adult learning) as well as those that focus on contexts outside of school.

Historically, the Foundation has funded proposals that have spanned a range of topics and disciplines, including education, psychology, sociology, economics, history, and anthropology, and they employ a wide range of research methods. The following examples of recently funded small grants illustrate the diversity of what the Foundation supports:

- An experimental study of how college students use visual representations in solving math problems.
- A study exploring the process of racial and rural identity formation among African American high-school students who attend de facto segregated schools in the rural South.
- A mixed-methods study focusing on the different types of knowledge novice and experienced teachers draw on in teaching for reading comprehension.

The majority of small grant proposals that are funded by the Foundation are “field-initiated” in the sense that they are not submitted in response to a Request for Proposal (RFP). In the past, the Foundation has requested that proposals within the Small Grants program be submitted within one of the areas of inquiry listed below. The Foundation does not use this information in the review process, but captures it in the application to better understand the variety of research that is proposed. The areas are broadly organized as follows:

- Field-Initiated: Proposals in this area are those that fall under the Spencer Foundation's general mission of funding research on education, but don't appear to fit in one of the areas mentioned below. Although the areas below are broad, there are many projects that don't have a strong focus in any of them; those should be tagged with Field-Initiated as the research area in the online application.

- The Relation between Education and Social Opportunity: This area would include projects that seek to shed light on the role education can play in reducing economic and social inequalities -- as well as, sometimes, reinforcing them -- and to find ways to more fully realize education's potential to promote more equal opportunity. Proposals where the primary aim is to examine the ways in which differences in social and educational experiences (such as quality and character of schooling or the number of years in school) translate into differences including employment, earnings, and civic and academic outcomes would be included in this area.

- Teaching, Learning, and Instructional Resources: Studies in this area would be those that will lead to better understanding and improvements in the intellectual, material, and organizational resources that contribute to successful teaching and learning. They may investigate questions that are grounded directly in teaching practice, as well as research about important aspects of child and adult learning processes and contexts that hold promise for guiding informed policymaking.

- The New Civics: This area represents the broader Foundation belief that cultivating knowledge and new ideas about civic education will ultimately improve students’ lives and enrich society. The designation “new” refers to an expanded understanding of civic education and its relationship to civic action. Thus, proposals with this focus would deepen the Foundation's understanding of influences on civic action, attend to social inequalities in civic education, and have the potential to shape future research and practice in these fields.

- Organizational Learning in Schools, School Systems, and Higher Education Systems: Research in this area would contribute to strengthening the capacity of schools and education systems to operate as learning organizations. Because the capacity and motivation for organizational learning depend as well on the larger institutional structures within which schools and systems operate, research on, among other things, the roles of school boards, governments and unions; the role of markets and competition in the funding of schools; and the perceptions, concerns, and opportunities for voice among parents and the broader public would fall under this area.

- Purposes and Values of Education: Proposals in this area would be interested in advancing analytical, historical, and empirical work that probes effectively and creatively into deeply challenging and permanently important issues which can contribute toward social decision-making that moves education along constructive paths.

GrantWatch ID#:

GrantWatch ID#: 172494

Estimated Size of Grant:

Small Research Grant budgets are limited to $50,000.

Additional Eligibility Criteria:


- Principal Investigators (PIs) and Co-PIs applying for a research grant must have an earned doctorate in an academic discipline or professional field, or appropriate experience in an education research-related profession.
- The PI must be affiliated with a college, university, school district, nonprofit research facility, or nonprofit cultural institution that is willing to serve as the fiscal agent if the grant is awarded. The Spencer Foundation does not award grants directly to individuals.
- Proposals are accepted from the USA and internationally; however, all proposals must be submitted in English and budgets must be proposed in USA Dollars.


- Small Research Grant budgets may not include indirect cost charges.
- PIs and Co-PIs may only hold one active research grant from the Spencer Foundation at a time. Simultaneous submissions to the Foundation from PIs and Co-PIs are discouraged due to this policy.

Pre-proposal Conference:

The Foundation hosted an informational webinar in September 2017 ahead of the November deadline, which gave an overview of the program and proposal submission process. You can access the slides from the webinar and a recording of the webinar itself below, but please note that the dates mentioned are no longer applicable.

Click here for the Webinar Recording 2017:

Pre-Application Information:


The next deadline for Small Research Grants is at 4:00 pm CST, February 1, 2019. The following deadlines will be announced in early 2019.

Grant Guidelines:


Application Guidelines:


Contact Information:

Before starting your grant application, please review the funding source's website listed below for updates/changes/addendums/conferences/LOIs.

Click here to apply online:

Program Contact:
Jasmine Janicki

URL for Full Text (RFP):

Geographic Focus:

USA: Alabama;   Alaska;   Arizona;   Arkansas;   California;   Colorado;   Connecticut;   Delaware;   Florida;   Georgia;   Hawaii;   Idaho;   Illinois;   Indiana;   Iowa;   Kansas;   Kentucky;   Louisiana;   Maine;   Maryland;   Massachusetts;   Michigan;   Minnesota;   Mississippi;   Missouri;   Montana;   Nebraska;   Nevada;   New Hampshire;   New Jersey;   New Mexico;   New York City;   New York;   North Carolina;   North Dakota;   Ohio;   Oklahoma;   Oregon;   Pennsylvania;   Rhode Island;   South Carolina;   South Dakota;   Tennessee;   Texas;   Utah;   Vermont;   Virginia;   Washington, DC;   Washington;   West Virginia;   Wisconsin;   Wyoming

USA Territories: American Samoa (USA)   Guam (USA)   Puerto Rico (USA)   Virgin Islands (USA)   Northern Mariana Islands (USA)

USA Compact Free Associations: The Federated States of Micronesia (USA)   Marshall Islands (USA)   Republic of Palau (USA)

Canada: Alberta   British Columbia   Manitoba   New Brunswick   Newfoundland and Labrador   Northwest Territories   Nova Scotia   Nunavut   Ontario   Prince Edward Island   Quebec   Saskatchewan   Yukon


International country outside of the USA, Israel and Canada.