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Lyle Spencer Research Awards (LSRA)

Grants to USA, Canada, and International
Researchers for Educational Research Projects

Agency Type:

Foundation / Corporation

Funding Source:

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Spencer Foundation

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Grants to USA, Canada, and International individual investigators for high-quality, innovative research to improve educational practice. Funding is intended for research projects that span the life course from early childhood to adult learning, as well as those that focus on contexts outside of school.

The Lyle Spencer Research Awards Program is intended to support intellectually ambitious research oriented to improving the practice of education, independent of any particular reform agendas or methodological strictures. It supports projects with budgets up to $1 million.

In this program, the Spencer Foundation envisions a large-minded conception of educational practice that encompasses formal and informal learning as well as the institutional, policy, and normative frameworks that influence and are influenced by learning and developmental processes. Moreover, the Foundation recognizes learning occurs across settings—from the classroom to the workplace and even onto the playing field—any of which may, in the right circumstance, provide the basis for rewarding study.

The Lyle Spencer Research Awards Program is an assertion of the Foundation's determination to search for and support challenging, original, and constructive scholarship and research. Through this endeavor, the Spencer Foundation hopes to press colleagues in the research community to raise their level of intellectual ambition: to do work that is thoughtful, critical of prevailing assumptions, self-critical about the work and its limitations, and relevant to the aim of building knowledge for improved educational practice.

The Spencer Foundation wants scholars who seek our support to have convincing, well-reasoned answers to this question: How does the work you are undertaking contribute to making the practice of education better? The Foundation values work that fosters creative and open-minded scholarship that examines deeper questions of how, when, for whom, and why. It is vital to make clear that in seeking to support work that is less tied to particular policy agendas or particular research methods, the Foundation is not aiming to pursue knowledge for its own sake or taking the view that anything goes. The Spencer Foundation believes the kind of searching inquiry that it aims to promote and support is not only quite demanding but also deeply relevant to the “lasting improvement in education” that its founder Lyle Spencer challenged his foundation to promote.

The Foundation is open to a range of proposals exploring questions, topics, problems, and opportunities that are both interesting and important. The Foundation seeks studies that look at not only what works but also how, for whom, under what conditions, why, and towards what purposes something works. Such studies might fit—but are not required to fit—within the following three areas:

Studies of instructional practice: studies that focus more or less directly on teaching and learning processes themselves, at the classroom level (or in learning settings outside of classrooms and even beyond schools).

Studies of educational infrastructure: studies that pay attention to the larger policy and institutional environments within which educational transactions take place. Key to our interest here is attention to the conceptual and empirical links between elements of the infrastructure and the actual character of educational practice.

Studies of research infrastructure: studies that help develop research tools that can support advancing the kinds of research we have identified here. This includes the development of improved measurement tools, stronger theoretical frameworks and analytical methods, and the development of new databases and the archiving of databases. While these efforts might not make educational practice better today, the Foundation regards advances on these fronts as essential to that lasting improvement in educational research, and ultimately practice, that is sought.

These areas are definitely not meant to be either exhaustive or mutually exclusive. As stated above, it is important for proposals to communicate how the specific focus of the study will contribute to educational improvement broadly conceived.

GrantWatch ID#:

GrantWatch ID#: 158435

Number of Grants:

Up to 10

Estimated Size of Grant:

Up to $1,000,000

Term of Contract:

The Foundation leaves the duration of the project up to the PI/research team to determine, with the expectation that it will be appropriate for the work being proposed. (Historically, projects have typically ranged from one year to five years.)

Additional Eligibility Criteria:

- Principal Investigators (PIs) and Co-PIs applying for a Lyle Spencer Research Award 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, non-profit research facility, or non-profit cultural 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.

- Proposals are accepted from the U.S. and internationally, however all proposals must be submitted in English and budgets must be proposed in U.S. Dollars.


- Lyle Spencer Research Award budgets are limited to $1,000,000, including indirect costs.

- Budgets may include indirect costs equaling 15% of the direct costs of the proposed project.

- 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. (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 and have different research teams.)

Given the Foundation’s focus on research, there are some types of projects that typically do not receive funding. These include:

- Requests for time to write a book in which the bulk of the research has been completed;
- Curriculum development projects in which conducting research is not the primary aim; and
- Evaluation projects in which the primary goal is to determine whether or not a given program achieved its desired outcomes, rather than to contribute to understanding broader theoretical or empirical questions, such as the mechanisms and conditions that may have enabled (or hindered) the program’s success.

Pre-proposal Conference:

The Foundation will be hosting an informational webinar on Wednesday, September 5th at 11:00am CDT.

To attend this webinar, please click here and fill out the registration form:

Pre-Application Information:

The review process for the Lyle Spencer Research Awards begins with a Letter of Intent (LOI) application, which are accepted once a year. The next deadline for LOIs is 4:00pm CDT, October 2, 2018. Applicants can expect a decision on their LOI by the end of December 2018.

A subset of LOIs will be invited to submit an essay and full proposal, which will be due in mid-February 2019. Once received, the review process for the essay and full proposal will take 8 months with final funding decisions expected by October 2019.

Note: In 2019, the timing of the application and review process will be shifted to begin in the spring. Letters of intent will be due in May 2019 rather than in October.

Additional Information:

- Program Information:
- Eligibility and Process:
- LOI Guidelines:
- FAQs:
- Supporting Materials:

Click on the link in the Supporting Documents section below to download the LOI Application Sample document.

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:
Annie Brinkman

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.