Seed Grants

2021 Provost's SOLER Seed Grants 

Request for Proposals


See the Projects page for information about past and present awardees.


The Science of Learning Research (SOLER) Initiative of Columbia University’s Office of the Provost is pleased to announce the 2021 Provost’s SOLER Seed Grants (PSSG) Request for Proposals (RFP). The goal of this RFP is to facilitate and support Discipline-Based Education Research (DBER) efforts at Columbia. DBER is the application of formal research methodologies to the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL). Put another way, SoTL is the intersection of disciplinary content and the advancement of teaching and learning, and DBER is a subset of SoTL that intersects with social science research (Figure 1). The PSSG opportunity provides faculty members across the University with funding and in-kind support to engage in DBER – that is, to lead formal research efforts to better understand and improve teaching and learning in Columbia courses. Such efforts fall generally into two categories:

  1. Developing and empirically testing the impact of innovative pedagogical interventions
  2. Devising and/or implementing learning analytics procedures

Strong applications will propose interventions or analytics that are grounded in established learning science, feature an experimental or correlational design, and present quantitative methods for measuring student outcomes and/or behaviors. 

PSSG awardees may publish their study results in appropriate journals and/or use them as pilot data for grant applications from external agencies (e.g., National Science Foundation, Institute for Education Science). Faculty who apply for such grants or who simply wish to extend the line of inquiry beyond the PSSG duration can apply for continuing SOLER support in the next award cycle.

Discipline-Based Education Research (DBER) lies at the intersection of the advancement of teaching and learning, disciplinary content and social science research.

Figure 1. Discipline-Based Education Research (DBER) lies at the intersection of the advancement of teaching and learning, disciplinary content and social science research. Note that SoTL (black outlined region) is the intersection of disciplinary content and the advancement of teaching and learning, and DBER (red outlined region) is a subset of SoTL that intersects with social science research. In other words, DBER is the application of formal research methodologies to SoTL. Adapted from Lukes, et al. (2015).


The PSSG supports a wide range of DBER studies that will be implemented in the undergraduate or graduate curriculum at Columbia. As noted above, proposals should center around an innovative pedagogical intervention or learning analytics procedure. Possible project focal points include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Developing and implementing a novel and potentially transformative approach to teaching an undergraduate or graduate course at Columbia
  • Situating a rigorously tested pedagogical approach that has been proven to work in one context within another
  • Fostering new interdisciplinary collaborations between faculty or students
  • Extracting novel insights from data generated by student behavior in the context of a course


  • The Principal Investigator (PI) as well as Co-PIs (see below) must be full-time Columbia faculty members.
  • Postdocs, graduate students, part-time or adjunct faculty, and staff may be included on proposals as co-investigators but may not serve as PIs or Co-PIs. 


  • Teams can apply for up to $5,000 for projects up to 12 months in duration.
  • Funding will be disbursed on a rolling basis no earlier than June 30, 2021.
  • Funding is typically used for these types of expenses:
    • Equipment
    • Shipping
    • Media development
    • Compensation for study participants (typically students)
    • Compensation for research assistants
    • Conference registration  

Submission Deadline

Applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis.

Application Process

  • Applicants are strongly encouraged to schedule an individual consultation with SOLER prior to submitting the application in order to develop the project plan and define the scope of in-kind support. Please contact [email protected] to schedule a consultation. 
  • Use this link to access a Google Form where you can download the proposal template and upload your completed application. Include a letter of support from your department or program chair in PDF format.

Support for Awardees

SOLER personnel will assist awardees through in-depth consultations. Services include:

  • Framing research objectives and matching study designs to specific aims
  • Developing or refining methods of assessment or evaluation
  • Devising methods for data analysis and visualization
  • Preparing materials for coverage under SOLER’s IRB umbrella protocol
  • Developing a plan to disseminate findings 

Awardees’ Obligations

By accepting a PSSG, awardees commit to do the following:

  • Agree to work with a facilitator from SOLER who will serve as a consultant, provide feedback, and monitor progress according to the project timeline provided in the proposal
  • Collaborate on SOLER-led effort to obtain IRB approval for proposed research prior to collecting data
  • Participate in the programming offered by SOLER related to the PSSG, including:
    • Attending a virtual PSSG workshop/planning session for all awardees in summer 2021 (time and date TBA)
    • One or more of the following:
      • Presenting project outcome at the next PSSG information session for prospective applicants (spring 2022)
      • Leading a journal club session for fellow PSSG-awardees on a topic related to the research project
      • Participating in the SOLER spotlight video series
  • Submit a final project report within 12 months of receiving funds
  • Acknowledge receipt of SOLER support in any presentation or publication of work resulting from this support

Review Criteria

Funding decisions will result from peer review of proposals in response to this call. Reviews for submitted proposals will be based on:

  • The potential impact of the project on student experience
  • The soundness, creativity, and uniqueness of the proposed scholarship and its potential contribution to the advancement of the field of research-driven SoTL (i.e., DBER).
  • The appropriateness of the budget and project scope, including faculty time commitment
  • The sustainability and long-term impact of the project, including the scholars’ potential to serve as resources for others in the DBER community 

Review Process

  • A panel consisting of SOLER Faculty Committee members and SOLER staff will review proposals.
  • Applications will be notified of award decisions on a rolling basis no earlier than April 30, 2021.

Proposal Features 

Use this link to access a Google Form where you can download the proposal template and upload your completed application. Include a letter of support in PDF format. The proposal form consists of the following sections:

Section 1: Project Summary

  • Project title
  • Designate one investigator as the Principal Investigator (PI). Include the PI's full name, title, department, and email address.
  • List all other personnel (e.g., collaborators, graduate students, postdocs) as co-investigators. Use an asterisk to indicate any co-investigator designated as a co-PI (for example, if the application involves a collaboration between two faculty members). 
  • Abstract: Describe the project in non-technical language; articulate the project objective; specify what makes the project innovative; describe your assessment or evaluation plan to ascertain student impact or other insights. 

Section 2: Project Description

  • Project Scope
    • Framing
      • State your overarching objective(s).
      • Identify specific aims and explain how they align with the overarching objective(s).
      • Describe the overall methodology that will be used in this study, covering such factors as retrospective vs. prospective data collection, interventional vs. non-interventional, randomized vs. non-randomized, observational, experimental, etc.
    • Participants
      • Identify your target participants (e.g., students).
      • Specify how participants will be identified and contacted.
      • Estimate how many participants will be impacted during the grant period.
      • Briefly describe how the innovation will continue to benefit student cohorts beyond the PSSG duration (e.g., through curricular changes).
  • Rationale and Literature Review
    • Describe how the project aligns with national and/or Columbia strategic initiatives.
    • Highlight key findings of relevant educational research. Include citations as appropriate.
    • Describe any prior work your team has done in this space.
  • Assessment and Evaluation Plan for Specific Aims
    • Describe novel or to-be-adapted measurement tools (e.g., surveys).
    • Outline key comparisons and briefly describe data analysis procedures.   
  • Role of Key Personnel
    • Specify the expectations and obligations of all project personnel.
    • Outline expected needs for in-kind support from SOLER facilitators. 

Section 3: Project Timeline

Use a graphical timeline to depict the schedule for your project. The timeline should include start and finish dates for your project as well as the dates or periods during which various project tasks will occur. Indicate how you will monitor the effectiveness of the project as it evolves. All elements of the project should be completed within 12 months of receiving funds.

Section 4: Budget Overview and Justification

Provide a detailed budget and justification for funds. Funding can be used for expenses such as equipment, shipping, media development, compensation for study participants (typically students), compensation for research assistants, and conference registration. Please mention all other sources of funding, if any. The total budget requested should not exceed the maximum award amount of $5,000. 

Section 5: Letter of Support (1-page maximum)

A short letter of support from the PI’s Department Chair must be uploaded as a separate PDF along with your application.

Reference: Lukes, L. A., LaDue, N. D., Cheek, K. A., Ryker, K., & St. John, K. (2015). Creating a community of practice around geoscience education research: NAGT-GER. Journal of Geoscience Education, 63(1), 1-6.