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June 17, 2021 from 3:00 pm to 5:00 pm

Understanding Learning Differences in Context: An Interdisciplinary Seed Grant Design Challenge

Pre-Submission Meeting / Kickoff Event



Stanford's Transforming Learning Accelerator, a long-range university project, creates effective learning solutions using the latest advancements in technology, data, learning and neuro sciences. We collaborate across disciplines and with partners to bring scalable and equitable solutions to all learners. The Graduate School of Education's Initiative on Learning Differences and the Future of Special Education is one of five initial focus areas within the Transforming Learning Accelerator. The goal of the Learning Differences Initiatives is to advance knowledge about the complex array of factors underlying learning differences and design learning that affords learner, educator, and system transformation.

We invite Stanford researchers across all disciplines to submit interdisciplinary research proposals on learning differences and/or the future of special education for projects funded up to $80,000 for a one year project. This challenge is open to interdisciplinary research projects that employ quantitative, qualitative, and/or mixed research methods. To be selected for funding, proposals must field an interdisciplinary team of researchers. Applicants are asked to attend a pre-submission meeting on June 17, 2021 to facilitate interdisciplinary networking as well as advance the need and approach to a pressing issue in the learning differences arena. The agenda will include questions about this Request for Proposal (RFP), at which time applications will open. The deadline for applications is July 16, 2021. We will host a pre-submission meeting with optional office hours on June 17, 2021 from 3:00 - 5:00pm PT.


  • 3:00 – 3:30pm: Keynote speaker with panel Q&A
  • 3:30 – 3:45pm: Proposal overview, Video demonstration of sample projects
  • 3:45 – 4:00pm: Live Q&A, wrap-up
  • 4:00 – 5:00pm: Optional office hours with Learning Differences faculty and staff

Prior to the event, participants will submit a one-page description and/or a one minute video about their research and collaboration interests. These will be posted prior to the pre-submission meeting. Participants will also complete a pre-event survey indicating their areas of interest. Submitted videos and surveys will be used to prepare networking materials. RSVP for the pre-submission meeting here.


A request for proposals will be shared at the pre-submission meeting. We encourage interdisciplinary research submissions that will advance asset-based approaches to pressing challenges facing individuals with learning differences. Successful applications will catalyze creative and transformative research to improve learning outcomes for students with learning differences. Research efforts should be geared towards individuals aged 5 through 21. With a preference for early career investigators, this funding is open to all Stanford faculty and post-docs who include research collaborators from one or more disciplines, to foster the development of interdisciplinary networks. Proposals should focus on one or more of the following:

  1. The design of learning environments, learning tools, and/or learning practices that address equity issues (e.g., challenges related to access or opportunities) involving learners with learning differences. This may include but is not limited to challenges that require the integration of anthropological, architectural, archaeological, biological, cultural, environmental, legal, sociological, and technological perspectives on learning.
  2. Understanding of learning differences across sensory, physical, cognitive, and/or social/emotional dimensions of human capacity within specific contexts.
  3. Assessments of human and/or institutional capacities, particularly in the contexts of education, medicine, policy, and psychology and interdisciplinary responses (e.g. re-framings, interventions) to advance inclusive education agendas.

Proposals will be evaluated by a panel of interdisciplinary faculty from the GSE’s Initiative on Learning Differences and the Future of Special Education. In addition to the pre-submission meeting, we will host optional office hours as follows:

  • Session #1: Monday, June 21 from 12-2pm PT
  • Session #2: Wednesday, July 14 from 1-3pm PT


Proposals Due: July 16, 2021

Awards Announced:  Week of August 9

Funds Distributed:  September 1, 2021

Project End:  September 30, 2022

  1. At least two members of the submitting team in attendance at the pre-submission meeting,
  2. Submitting team is interdisciplinary.
  3. Study participants must include students and/or families of students with learning differences.

This challenge is open to all Stanford faculty and postdoctoral students. In addition to the proposed scope of work, awardees should plan to complete the following as part of the terms of the research award:

  • Participate in seed grant recipient meetings:
    • Seed Grant Kick-off Meeting
    • Grantee meetings for collaborative idea sharing and problem solving: 2 during the fall, 1 in the winter quarter, and 1 in the spring quarter.
    • Final Project Report Meeting (faculty grants) – Oct, 2022, Date TBD
  • Provide the following written progress and finance reports:
    • Interim progress and financial report(s): February 1, 2021
    • Final progress and financial report: October 29, 2022
  • Share details of the project in the following formats: 
    • A web-friendly summary of the work
    • A talk with Q&A session at a seminar or other session
    • A one- to two-minute video summarizing key questions, approaches, methods, and findings
    • Instructional materials made public through the TLA website and/or other outlets (barring privacy issues that would make this prohibitive) 


Applications will be evaluated by a panel of Stanford faculty, external practitioners, and Transforming Learning Accelerator research staff. The panel will be looking for projects that advance the goals of the project and that engage diverse perspectives to create precise, novel and creative learning solutions. These should be learner-centered, incorporate the science and design of learning, and have pathways to impact. 


To register for the Pre-Submission Meeting, please RSVP here.


Brooke Donald, Director of Communications, Stanford Graduate School of Education: 650-721-402,


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