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College of Education COVID-19 Seed Funding, Spring 2021

Bureau of Educational Research

Last update: March 19, 2021

Last Seed Funding FAQ update: March 19, 2021


Due Date:

  • Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Application submission Interface

Context and Rationale:

We have started 2021 with dual ongoing pandemics. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic continues to challenge our society, especially the prospects of those who are most vulnerable, while evidence of intense social divisions and signs of inequity continue to grow. In Spring 2020, violent incidents of systemic racism captured the nation’s attention, opening new conversations and motivating public consciousness around promoting a more just and equitable world. We continue to witness remarkably fast responses and changes at multiple levels of the Birth-20 pathway as well as in workplace education. Institutions continue to respond and adapt in ways that seemed unlikely, if not even possible, before the crises. 

Meanwhile, questions, challenges, and opportunities are beginning to emerge about how communities, education, and work will further evolve. Looking ahead, we hope that healthcare interventions, including vaccines, will lift pandemic risks, but realize that solutions are not simple. Education researchers now identify disruptions to schools and other learning settings and are further called to reframe notions about learning loss and related harms experienced amidst pandemic disruptions.

To address these issues, the very shape of research practice and methodology will continue to evolve, prioritizing the search for novel approaches and practices to study and respond to these societal needs. Change is no longer optional, and new constraints face us all.

We are challenged to define and navigate these research paradigm shifts, which may involve the following and more:

  • The conditions our own students must navigate are complex, whether on campus or studying remotely.
  • Social justice and equity concerns spill beyond known academic boundaries of scholarly work; we seek new approaches to weave anti-racism into our research practice, and to integrate these approaches across research domains.
  • Students across age bands, communities, and economic brackets have been impacted socio-emotionally and academically. Urgent calls for research to address this are now emerging.
  • Although traditional face-to-face research methods are disrupted, new methods to continue data collection and enable sound research are beginning to emerge as we move our work forward. The array of new data sources offers opportunities for secondary analysis and other approaches.
  • Digitization continues at a rapid pace, while work, schooling, medical care, and community activities evolve at a pace that would otherwise have taken years.

Funding Opportunity:

The Bureau of Educational Research and the College Research Committee, honoring faculty research and scholarship in these areas, invite College of Education researchers to apply for this third call for COVID-19 Seed Grants.


This opportunity is supported, in part, by an endowment from Charles Dunn Hardie to support faculty scholarship.


Funding should address one or more of the following: 


Priority Area 1: Supplemental funding for prior COVID-19 Seed Grants: This category is for recipients of funding from the Spring 2020 or Fall 2020 COVID-19 calls for proposals. You should consider this option if:

  • You discovered a gap or additional need to complete the project to a higher level of quality that will improve your chances of securing future funding.
  • Additional funding will improve your ability to improve or extend the work in a critical way. For example, additional data or even a second study may be helpful or early work may have revealed some additional tasks or resources that you did not anticipate.


Priority Area 2:  Transition-focused, preparing for post-pandemic research. Proposals in this category will support COE researchers in preparing for anticipated changes in policies regarding in-person research for Late Summer or Fall 2021. Proposals are free to explore any research topics of interest but must include elements related to transitioning research back to in-person or hybrid models. 


Priority Area 3: Theoretical or methodological innovations. For researchers who have collected novel forms of data during the pandemic, have access to other data sets that have become available either from the government or other research labs, or who are re-analyzing existing data from a novel perspective, proposals in this category can again address any viable research topic, but should emphasize the unique opportunities to creatively and innovatively transform a trajectory of research. Proposals should articulate the ways in which the project will improve chances of securing future funding. 

Eligibility and Funding: 

The purpose of these funds is to promote new research efforts and to enhance the research culture in the College.


    Applicants can request funds of up to $10,000. The expected project duration is six months; where a longer project period is necessary, this should be clearly explained in the proposal. The PI should be faculty in the College of Education, and we encourage applications from both junior and senior faculty.


    The inclusion of graduate and undergraduate students as Co-PIs or project members in seed-funded projects is encouraged, emphasizing opportunities to support graduate students at risk for ongoing support.


    Funds may be used to support undergraduate and graduate student hourly wages and other research expenses, including materials and supplies, participant incentives, data access expenses, programming costs, virtual meeting expenses, costs for collaborating organizations (e.g., K-12 school districts, early childhood, and other community organizations) to supply data.  Fringe benefits will be assessed on all student hourly salaries budgeted. Indirect costs (F&A) will not be assessed.


    Proposal Submission:

     A single submission deadline of Wednesday, April 14, 2021 has been established for the Spring 2021 Seed Funding competition. Funding decisions are expected within about one month.


    Short proposals should include:

    1. Title, team member names, titles, affiliations, and contact information.
    2. 250 word abstract.
    3. 1-3-page project description outlining the proposed project (motivation, research plan, and future potential work).
    4. Excel Budget, with budget narrative, that breaks down a proposed use of funds, with dollar amounts for each item. (Please contact Kim Darnell ( no later than Thursday, April 8 for assistance in developing this budget.)
    5. Indication that future external funding will be pursued, including (if known) identification of intended funder(s) and program(s), and due dates. 

    Proposals will be submitted to BER's application interface.


    Proposals for supplemental funds will be reviewed in the context of the original proposal. Authors should provide the materials above, however for the project description (item #3, 1-3 pages), authors should instead submit:

    • At least 1-page summary of accomplishments, lessons learned, and changes since the award was made.
    • Proposed new tasks/activities along with a revised timeline.
    • Justification for the additional work that is being proposed (why it is important, how will it improve the chances of future funding, etc.)


    Your original proposal will be provided to reviewers as a reference, thus it is not necessary to duplicate any content (beyond explaining what will change moving forward).

    Review Criteria

    Proposals will be reviewed by the College Research Committee along the following criteria:

    • Intellectual merit: To what extent does the proposed work advance knowledge?
    • Innovation potential:
      • Priority 1 (supplemental): Does the proposal improve or extend the original work in a critical way?
      • Priority 2 (transition): Does the proposal offer novel and creative approaches to support transitioning research back to in-person or hybrid style models of education and propose meaningful ways to address these?
      • Priority 3 (theoretical/methodological advances): Does the proposal clearly articulate the theoretical and/or methodological innovation?
    • Research quality: Is the proposed plan feasible in the given time frame? Is it clearly described and logically organized?
    • Impact: Does the proposal address the needs of stakeholders in education? (students, the COE, the State of Illinois, and society): Is the work consistent with the mission of the College of Education?
    • Quality of resources: Are sufficient resources available to conduct the proposed work? If the proposed work will involve human subjects, are intended tools consistent with the latest campus technology guidance? (See Seed Funding FAQ for details and latest guidance updates.)


    Awarded applicants will be expected to present a report on their findings in a College venue within 12 months of the award date. One or more ready-to-submit external funding submissions will be expected to further the work of the project. 

    For additional information: