Lyle Spencer Research Awards: Advancing Understanding of Education Practice and Its Improvement

In the spring of 2014 the Spencer Foundation introduced an ambitious new grant program, The Lyle Spencer Research Awards: Advancing Understanding of Education Practice and Its Improvement. This program is the successor to our long-standing field-initiated major grant program.

With this program, we aim to reinforce our commitment to intellectually ambitious research, oriented ultimately to improving the practice of education, and independent of any particular reform agendas or methodological strictures. This is not at base a change of direction for a foundation that has always aimed to foster creative and open-minded scholarship; it is however an emphatic assertion of our determination to search for and support the most challenging, original, and constructive scholarship and research we can find. We intend through this endeavor to press our colleagues in the research community to raise their level of intellectual ambition, to encourage work that is more thoughtful, more critical of prevailing assumptions, more self-critical about their own work and its limitations, and more relevant to the aim of building knowledge for improved educational practice.

Annually, through a highly competitive award process, we will provide research grants of up to $1,000,000 each to a small number of outstanding proposals. The deadline for Letters of Intent for this program is 4:00pm CDT on July 9, 2015 and guidelines for submission can be found at the link provided below. This program is a reaffirmation of Spencer’s well-established tradition of supporting intellectually rigorous education research, but even more it is an effort to create much-needed space for creative and ambitious research projects that promise to advance our understanding of educational practice and its improvement.

More information about the Lyle Spencer Research Awards is available here:


Supporting Materials

Connecting to Practice Video at AERA 2014

Deborah Loewenberg Ball and Michael McPherson: Connecting to Practice Video of a talk at AERA 2014: click here.

What Makes Education Research “Educational”?

by Deborah Loewenberg Ball and Francesca M. Forzani
Education research is plagued by skeptics who doubt its quality and relevance. Inhabitants of schools of education have been among the sharpest critics, and internal battles rage over method and rigor. Yet often lacking is research that explains causes or examines the interplay at the heart of educational practice and policy. This article argues for a conception of research in education that deliberately presses into what is called here the instructional dynamic. Using a sample of studies that exemplify this quintessentially educational perspective, the authors unpack key features of research that probes inside education. They discuss how such research complements in essential ways the other kinds of scholarship that examine and inform education. Click here.