The Spencer Foundation has announced the recipients of its most ambitious grantmaking program, the Lyle Spencer Research Awards, which provides up to $1 million for large-scale research projects.
"Lyle Spencer charged the foundation with supporting research that would build knowledge for 'lasting improvement in education,'" Spencer President Na'ilah Nasir noted. "We believe these diverse projects, representing an exciting range of topics and methodology, have the potential to reframe important issues in education, from how youth protect themselves from harmful online messages to how we conceptualize the purpose of education in a democratic society."
In total, the foundation will award more than $4.8 million to the five winning projects, which explore the following critical questions:
Can a research team identify common markers of academically productive classroom discussion that cut across content areas and grade levels? What are the classroom conditions that support these high-quality classroom discussions?
M. Suzanne Donovan and Catherine E. Snow (Strategic Education Research Partnership Institute) investigate these questions as they seek to bridge the “enormous gap” between the average classroom discussion and the type of high-quality discussion that would promote students’ critical thinking, communication and argumentation skills.
What can we learn from the implementation of Culturally Sustaining Pedagogy—practices designed to foster cultural pluralism—across four different educational contexts in the U.S., Spain, and South Africa? What are its strengths and limitations and what factors make it more or less likely to succeed?
H. Samy Alim (University of California, Los Angeles) and Django Paris (University of Washington) explore these questions as they seek to identify the strengths and weaknesses of an approach that seeks to sustain communities of color as part of an educational justice movement that sees cultural practices as strengths to be fostered rather than as deficits to be erased through schooling.
What are the benefits and limitations of different approaches to dual credit coursework—college courses offered to high school students through secondary-postsecondary partnerships? How do different approaches influence students’ college preparation, transition, and persistence?
Julia C. Duncheon (University of Washington), Barbara F. Tobolowsky (University of Texas at Arlington), Taryn Allen (Texas Christian University), and David S. Knight (University of Washington) explore these questions at a time when dual credit coursework has been expanding rapidly to support the nation's college completion goals. The study is designed to help states and districts develop and improve dual credit programs to maximize student success and diminish equity gaps.
Can youth adequately critique the negative race-related messages they receive online? What factors might allow them to better evaluate and counter these messages? Could these skills potentially buffer them against negative mental health, behavioral, and academic outcomes?
Brendesha Tynes, Safiya U. Noble, Alison Trope, and Devin English (University of Southern California) investigate these questions at a time when African American adolescents are increasingly exposed to negative racial messages online and states and districts are working to develop media literacy policies to help them navigate this often-hostile terrain. A goal of this study is to help inform the design of curricula that would meet all students’ needs.
How large are disparities in investments in youth from different backgrounds (i.e., race, income, gender, immigration status), not only in education but also in other sectors that contribute to skill and human development (e.g., health)? Where would additional investments be best situated in order to offset inequalities?
David Blazar, Michel Boudreaux, Claudia Galindo, Steven Klees, Jennifer King Rice, and Marvin A. Titus (University of Maryland at College Park) investigate these questions as they attempt to quantify investments made in youth from birth to age 21 across multiple sectors--including education, health, family, and community--and how these investments differ based on race, ethnicity, gender, language and immigration status. The study also will synthesize the existing evidence on the effect of human capital interventions in order to help determine where best to target resources in order to close opportunity gaps for young people.