Writing Compelling Proposals for NSF Funding in Science Teacher Education

Along with new science education priorities (NSF, 2016), a new framework for K-12 science education (NRC, 2012) and new standards for what students should know and be able to do (NGSS, 2013), there are new challenges for science teacher preparation and ongoing professional development in the United States. The desired changes in student learning outcomes will require small proof-of-concept research studies of potentially effective classroom practices and new learning environments, full-scale design and development studies of teacher professional development efforts, and large-scale professional development implementation studies to support teachers in changing classroom practices. For long-term success, these efforts must be solidly grounded in sound theoretical frameworks and based on strong evidence of effectiveness. A “more complex view of teacher learning is needed” (Wilson, 2013), along with “an understanding of how PD fits into the educational system’s larger ecology.” The National Science Foundation wants to find and fund researchers who will take up these new challenges.

1. Focus: This session will focus on funding opportunities within the National Science Foundation for research and development efforts relating to science teacher education. Though there is no one program that is dedicated specifically to teacher education, there are programs that support efforts to study or improve the professional development of science teachers, either within teacher preparation or induction programs, or among communities of practicing teachers. Practical information will be provided for writing compelling proposals for science teacher education projects that are more likely to be funded.

2. Sequence of Activities:

a. Overview of Opportunities. The workshop will begin with a presentation of relevant NSF programs that support efforts to expand our knowledge of effective professional development opportunities, or to develop resources, models, or tools related to science teacher professional development. (Approximately 10 minutes)

b. Funding Priorities. Before examining the finer details of writing proposals, we will survey the current political and social forces that provide the context for current funding priorities within NSF. (Approximately 10 minutes)

c. Knowing Your Audience: Success in obtaining grants includes both having innovative ideas and knowing how to make those ideas compelling to members of review panels. In this segment of the workshop we will outline the review process and highlight the implications of that process for writing proposals. (Approximately 10 minutes)

d. What to Say in 15 Pages. Practical guidelines for presenting a compelling case for a proposed project will be presented during this portion of the workshop, with tips on how to convince reviewers that a proposal is worthy of support. Useful NSF resources, such as the Grant Proposal Guide (NSF, 2016) and related guidelines will be described. (Approximately 30 minutes)

e. Avoiding Fatal Flaws. No proposal is perfect, and reviewers typically overlook imperfections when considering very innovative ideas. But some concerns are more crucial than others when it comes to comparing the merits of proposals. During this segment of the workshop we will discuss some of the more critical mistakes that are made in writing NSF proposals. (Approximately 15 minutes)

f. Group Discussions of Proposal Scenarios. Participants will work in small groups during this time to examine and discuss excerpts from successful NSF proposals that illustrate ideas presented during the workshop. (Approximately 30 minutes)

g. Questions and Answers. (approximately 15 minutes)

3. Learning Objectives: From this sequence of activities, we expect participants to gain increased awareness of funding opportunities at NSF, as well as gain a more concrete and fuller understanding of the attributes of proposals that make them competitive for funding.

4. Availability: The two NSF program officers will provide contact information and may be contacted at any time by phone or email.

5. Who will be interested? Any ASTE member who hopes to secure external funding from NSF for their research or development activities in science teacher education.

6. Expertise of workshop presenters: Two presenters are Program Directors at the National Science Foundation with experience in funding and monitoring projects, and both have extensive experience in science education generally. One of the two NSF presenters previously developed and managed both small and large teacher professional development programs over a 30-year period. The third presenter has extensive experience in both science teacher education and reviewing NSF proposals.
7. Budget and requirements: All materials will be provided at no cost to participants. There is no limit on the number of participants who may attend, but the presenters will plan on providing workshop materials for 50 participants. The presenters will require LCD projectors or screens to accommodate one or two computers or iPads. The preferred seating plan for the workshop would be round tables that each accommodate 5 to 8 people.