Investigating Student Learning (ISL)

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Deadline for Submission: 4 p.m. on Tuesday, January 20, 2015

ISL Application Cover Sheet in MS Word Format

Link to ISL Grant winners and their publications/presentations


CRLT's support had an impact on every student that walks in through our doors in the fall -- and it also got me a couple of publications!
-Former Investigating Student Learning Grantee, Jeff Ringenberg (Engineering)

For the 2015-2016 academic year, CRLT will award monies from the Investigating Student Learning (ISL) Grant to faculty who wish to investigate aspects of student learning in their courses or programs. 

Grant awards of $3,000 are available to individual faculty members. Grant awards of $4,000 are available to faculty member-graduate student/postdoc teams.

This grant will be of particular interest to those who wish to:

  • evaluate the impact of innovative teaching strategies in a course and publish the findings
  • develop small-scale learning analytics projects, or use academic data to understand and improve student learning
  • better understand how students learn key concepts in order to inform assessment efforts

Please note:  Proposals for the same project may not be submitted to both the Investigating Student Learning competition and the Faculty Development Competition in the same academic year.  Please contact if you have questions about the appropriateness of your project for any of CRLT’s grants competitions.

All Investigating Student Learning Grants are peer-reviewed by UM faculty.

CRLT staff will be available to consult with ISL Grant applicants as they develop their proposals, and with grantees as they carry out their projects and prepare results for dissemination. Expectations of grant winners include:

  • Attendance at a one-day initial ISL grantees’ meeting at U-M to be held on May 11, 2015;
  • A follow-up consultation mid-project (December 2015 or January 2016) with a CRLT consultant; and
  • A poster presentation at a Spring 2016 CRLT event and completion of a brief web form about key project outcomes by August 1, 2016.

The ISL Grant’s main objectives are to understand if/how pedagogical strategies are working (e.g., strategies that may have been developed by another grant), or to provide a research foundation to develop new innovations. Link to examples of past ISL grantees' research questions and key findings.


The competition is open, on the Ann Arbor campus of the University, to all tenured and tenure-track faculty; clinical instructional faculty; and Lecturers who have continuing appointments and course development responsibilities (i.e., an assignment from the dean, chair, or designee to develop a new course or significantly revise an existing course). Grants may be made to individual faculty members, or to teams of faculty members and up to two graduate students/postdocs who wish to undertake a joint project.

To ensure that a variety of applicants have the opportunity to implement innovative teaching and learning activities, recipients of ISL grants during an academic calendar year (Sept-August) will not be eligible to receive funding for an ISL grant during the next academic calendar year, but they are welcome to apply again in the following year.


The review of proposals will be carried out by members of the CRLT staff, with final funding decisions made by previous ISL grant recipients.  Applications will be evaluated on the following criteria:

  • Clear definition of the question to be investigated,
  • Use of appropriate methods that align with the research question(s) being asked,
  • Feasibility of the project,
  • Potential impact of project,
  • Plans for dissemination,
  • Specification for how participation in the ISL Grant and with the ISL group will further the project, and
  • Specification of graduate student/postdoc collaboration (if applicable).

Awards will be announced in mid-March 2015. ISL grant funded projects will not need to undergo IRB review, if applicants abide by University of Michigan IRB guidelines established for CRLT classroom research projects. FOR QUESTIONS ON THESE GUIDELINES, PLEASE CONTACT MARY WRIGHT (

Submission Procedures

All applications are handled electronically and must be submitted by 4:00 p.m. on Tuesday, January 20, 2015.

  1. Prepare a 3-5-page proposal in accordance with the proposal content guidelines below.
  2. Download and complete this cover sheet. Please save your proposal and the cover sheet as one .pdf file.
  3. Click the Submit Application button at the top of this page.
  4. Fill out the web form. Please note the following:
    • Funding requested: Please type "$3,000" if you are applying as an individual faculty member or a faculty team. Please type "$4,000" if you are applying as a faculty member-graduate student/postdoc team.
    • Start and end dates: Please use May 2015 as your start date and May 2016 as your end date.
    • Principal investigators: A faculty member must be listed as the first (lead) PI.
    • An abstract of no more than 250 words is requested.
    • No budget is required for ISL applications.
  5. Upload the coversheet, in .pdf file format.
  6. Click on the Submit Application button at the bottom of the page.

You will receive confirmation from CRLT that your application has been received and is complete.

Proposal Content

An applicant should prepare a brief three-to-five page proposal, along with the cover page.  The proposal must include information on the following aspects of the project:

  1. Title of the project.

  2. Research question(s) to be investigated. State the specific question(s) you hope to investigate in your project and provide a clear explanation of the significance of the question for postsecondary teaching and learning -- in your discipline and for U-M instructors generally. If prior literature about teaching in your field speaks to the importance of your investigation, please include this information in your application.
    Link to pedagogical journals in the disciplines.

  3. Methodology. Please tell us about how you plan to answer your research questions (e.g., What evidence of student learning will you collect? How will you analyze these data?). We seek applicants who have experience with the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL), as well as those who are new to the enterprise, so preliminary ideas are welcome. If your ideas are preliminary, please also indicate how CRLT staff can help you develop your project’s research plan during the May 11, 2015, initial ISL grantees’ meeting.

To describe how you will approach the question, you may wish to include information on the following: What types of activities will you undertake? What evidence of student learning will you collect? How will you analyze these data? We are open to methods and evidence relevant to your discipline, such as (but not limited to) quantitative analysis of student assignments (tests, papers, other assignments); qualitative analysis of informal classroom assessment methods (minute papers, journal entries, response papers); systematic personal reflection; or studies involving interviews, surveys, or focus groups. Please note that use of student ratings data alone will not be considered sufficient.

  1. Implications & Dissemination. Describe how your findings will inform future iterations of your course/curriculum, and discuss the broader implications of your results (for your department, your discipline, or university teaching and learning more broadly). Beyond participation in the CRLT poster presentation, please explain how you plan to share the results of your work with colleagues at U-M and beyond. This sharing might include plans for publication, conferences, or work within your department.

  2. Timeline. Indicate the projected timeline for the various phases of your project.

  3. CRLT support. Please tell us how you anticipate that participating in CRLT's ISL Grant will further your project. For example, what support/feedback do you hope to receive from CRLT or the ISL community of grantees?

  4. If a graduate student or postdoc will be on the application please indicate the role that s/he or they will play in the project. NOTE: CRLT grant monies cannot be used for Graduate Student Instructor (GSI) salaries or the tuition portion of a Graduate Student Research Assistant (GSRA) appointment.

  5. Please affirm that you, and the members of your project team, will be able to meet the commitments of the ISL Grant:

  • Attendance of all grantees (faculty and graduate students/postdocs) at a one-day initial ISL grantees’ meeting (to be held on May 11, 2015);
  • A follow-up meeting mid-project (December 2015 or January 2016) with a CRLT consultant; and
  • A poster display at Spring 2016 CRLT event, such as Enriching Scholarship.

Please note that a budget is not a required component of the proposal.


Proposals must be submitted by 4 p.m. on Tuesday, January 20, 2015.

Questions and Consultations

Please contact Mary Wright (; 734-936-1135) at CRLT for more information about the application guidelines or assistance with proposals.