New Guidelines for NSF Grant Submissions

On January 14th, 2013, new guidelines went into effect for NSF (National Science Foundation) grants submissions. The new Proposal and Award Policies and Procedures Guide contains several changes. For the full guidelines follow this link: Guide.  Educators and non-profits should review these changes carefully before submitting their NSF proposals.

One of the notable changes is in the merit review principles. The revised guide now includes three principles (previously two). The first principle addresses the NSF’s emphasis on high quality projects that have the ability to advance knowledge; the second principle is an emphasis on projects contributing to achieving societal goals. The third principle includes the following language: “Meaningful assessment and evaluation of NSF funded projects should be based on appropriate metrics…” (Chapter III, pg 1).

This is an important addition to the merit review principles, underscoring what we as evaluators focus on, namely that evaluation constitutes an essential component of research. This additional principle clearly demonstrates NSF’s commitment to research and proposals that address the potential outcomes and successes of the research.

For more information see the NSF published Dear Colleague Letter (October, 2012) that outlines all of the significant changes. Also, RIT Researcher News has published a summary that is another great resource for understanding all of the changes.

What’s Hot – Changes in Classroom Technology and its Assessment and Evaluation

With all the talk about how to increase learning in the classroom these days, it is easy to forget that any new approaches also need to be assessed for their effectiveness. For example, in both K12 and higher education, there are many discussions about new ways to impart information to students and therefore to increase learning. Let’s take the example of tablets. They are a hot item right now, both among consumers and education professionals. Not only are tablets seen as fun to use but they are currently outselling other computers. In some cases, tablets are becoming people’s primary computers. It is also very clear that young people can quickly be engaged with tablets, and they can be a very useful learning tool in the classroom.

However, it is important to consider how to evaluate whether or not a new technology is actually increasing learning outcomes. If educators are interested in incorporating these new technologies into the classroom, then it is equally important to start thinking about the evaluation process. For example, educators should carefully plan how they will implement the new technology, and plan on assessing learning before and after the introduction of the new technology. Some thought should also be given to how to measure an increase in learning. What is expected as the outcome of the implementation of new technology? What will be measured to actually know that students have increased learning?

We have seen quite a few grant proposals lately that deal with such new technology, but have found them to be lacking in evaluation. Perhaps the evaluation process is still unfamiliar to many. We as researchers and evaluators need to spend more time discussing the importance of evaluation in grant proposals, as well as the implementation of evaluations. We need to emphasize the importance of evaluating educational technology so we have the evidence to show what works and what does not.