TOEFL® Young Students Series Research Program: Research Grants — 2016 Call for Proposals

Note: The deadline for the 2016 TOEFL YSS call for proposals has passed. The next call for proposals will be posted in January 2017.

Purpose

The TOEFL® Young Students Series (YSS) Research Grants are intended to support research related to the TOEFL YSS assessments (i.e., the TOEFL® Primary™ and TOEFL Junior® tests) as well as foundational research that promotes high-quality language assessment related to young language learners between ages 8 and 16. This year, priority will be given to proposals that address the topics identified in the research agenda below. Particular preference will be given to validation research on the TOEFL Primary and TOEFL Junior tests.

Please note that, for the current grant period, ETS is able to provide researchers with a TOEFL Junior Standard test form and corresponding item-level data including demographic information about test takers. However, we are not yet able to provide similar test materials and data for the TOEFL Junior Comprehensive or TOEFL Primary tests. Nevertheless, ETS welcomes grant applications from researchers who plan to recruit participants and collect data locally in countries where TOEFL Junior Comprehensive and TOEFL Primary tests are administered.

Eligibility: Researchers around the world who hold a Ph.D. (or equivalent doctoral-level research degree), have expertise in English language learning and assessment, and who are affiliated with an academic institution or not-for-profit organization.

Amount of grant: Up to US $50,000

Research Topics

  1. Construct/Content relevance
    1. Relationship between TOEFL Junior or TOEFL Primary test scores and young language-learners' English communication skills outside of testing contexts
    2. Effects of test takers' background characteristics on TOEFL Junior or TOEFL Primary test scores
    3. Relationship between young language-learners' strategies and TOEFL Junior or TOEFL Primary test scores
    4. Age appropriateness of tasks and task characteristics
    5. Effect of construct-irrelevant factors on test performance
  2. Test use and impact
    1. Impact of the TOEFL Junior or TOEFL Primary tests on learning and teaching
    2. Uses of TOEFL Junior or TOEFL Primary test scores
    3. User perceptions of the TOEFL Junior or TOEFL Primary tests
  3. Foundational research topics
    1. Theory of language development in young English as a Foreign Language (EFL) learners
    2. Domain analysis of communication skills for young EFL learners
    3. English education and assessment practices for young EFL learners
    4. Policy related to the assessment of young EFL learners
    5. Language development patterns of young EFL learners (including meta-analyses and studies that analyze longitudinal data)
    6. Innovations in learning or assessment of young EFL learners
    7. The types of assessment or other evidence teachers use to inform the teaching and learning of young EFL learners
    8. Impact of large-scale standardized language assessments on young EFL learners, teachers, parents and society
    9. Cognitive and affective factors that influence language development in young EFL learners

TOEFL Junior Standard Test Form and Dataset for Public Use

A TOEFL Junior Standard test form and corresponding item-level data including demographic information about test takers (age, gender, native language, etc.) can be made available to grant recipients. For a more detailed description of the available data, see here. TOEFL Junior Comprehensive and TOEFL Primary test data and materials are not available to researchers at this time (see FAQ #7).

Important Dates

March 31, 2016 Proposals due
May 20, 2016 Response to proposals; selected authors invited to revise and resubmit
July 8, 2016 Revised proposals due
September 9, 2016 Notifications sent to grant winners
January 1, 2017 Tentative start date for funded projects (See FAQ # 3)

Application and Proposal Process

Proposal materials must be submitted via email to TOEFLYS@ets.org by 11:59 p.m. U.S. Eastern Time on Thursday, March 31, 2016.

Submissions must include the following documents:

  • Two copies of the study proposal (one blind copy, one non-blind copy; see detailed requirements below)
  • Principal Investigator's CV

Proposal Content Requirements

The non-blind copy of your proposal must include all of the following key components:

  • A cover page, which must include:
    • the name and affiliation of the principal investigator and any co-investigators
    • the email address and phone number of the principal investigator
    • the title of the project
    • identification of the research topic(s) addressed by the proposal
    • the date of submission
  • An abstract page, which must include:
    • the title of the project
    • a statement of the problem including a brief description of the project proposed and a brief discussion of the implications or utility of the anticipated outcomes (250 words maximum)
    • identification of the research topic(s) addressed by the proposal
  • The body of the proposal should be approximately between 1200 and 1500 words and must include each of the following sections:
    • Rationale (statement of the problem or the issue and relevance to one or more of the research topics above)
    • Literature review (focused summary of related research)
    • Research questions (specific question(s) or research objectives to be addressed by the project)
    • Methodology (explanation of the proposed research methodology, including a description of the study context and participants; instruments to be used; data collection procedures; identification and coding of variables; and analyses)
    • Implications (a brief discussion of the implications or utility of anticipated or possible outcomes and relevance to practice or theory)
  • References
  • Budget (See our sample budget for needed specifications.)
  • Schedule (list of the major activities of the project and the period in which each will be conducted; please assume January 1, 2017, as the start date for the project.)

The blind copy of your proposal should be the same as the non-blind copy, except it must not include:

  • the cover page
  • the author(s)' identifying information (including names and affiliations) anywhere in the abstract page, body, references, budget and schedule

Proposal Format Requirements

Please follow the following format:

  • Microsoft® Word 2003 or later version (.doc or .docx)
  • Times New Roman font size 12
  • 8.5" x 11" (U.S. "Letter") page size
  • One-inch (1.0") margins on all sides
  • Double (2.0) spaced
  • For page numbering, paragraph indentation, references, graphs and tables, please follow APA style (American Psychological Association, Sixth Edition)

Proposal Evaluation Process

Each proposal will be evaluated according to the following criteria:

  • relevance to the research topics identified above
  • the soundness of the methodology
  • feasibility of the proposed research
  • potential contribution to theory, research or practice
  • the qualifications of the principal investigator

Applicants invited to revise and resubmit proposals will receive constructive comments. An invitation to the next step does not guarantee that applicants will receive a grant.

Reporting Requirements and Payment Schedule

All grant winners will be required to submit a mid-grant progress report roughly six months after the commencement of their funded study. The exact due date for the progress report depends upon the individual project schedule. Please indicate the date by which you intend to submit your mid-grant progress report in your project schedule.

Grant funds are generally disbursed in three payments, aligned to study milestones. A typical grant might receive a first disbursement near the beginning of the project to help defray expenses incurred during data collection, second disbursement after the mid-grant progress report is approved and a final disbursement after the project's final report has passed review. The timing and amount of grant disbursements is flexible, depending on the project's needs. Please estimate the specific amounts you will need, for specific purposes, at specific dates in your budget and project schedule. For each payment that is disbursed, ETS must receive an invoice that itemizes the relevant project deliverables for which grant funds are requested.

Dissemination Plan

Authors are expected to submit a publishable draft report as the final deliverable of the grant. Typically, the research can be published either as an ETS Research Report or as an article in a scholarly journal. When a final grant report successfully passes technical review, this does not guarantee publication as an ETS Research Report. For authors interested in publication as an ETS Research Report, there is a separate review process. Please specify which publication venue you plan to pursue, and be aware that the manuscript will have to pass a separate ETS technical review before being submitted for publication, whether as an ETS research report or an article in a scholarly journal.

Grant recipients are required to appropriately acknowledge the support of the TOEFL program when disseminating the results of the funded work. The following standard disclaimer should be included in any publications including conference presentations:

This research was funded by Educational Testing Service (ETS) under a Committee of Examiners and TOEFL research grant. ETS does not discount or endorse the methodology, results, implications or opinions presented by the researcher(s).

Contact

If you have additional questions about the application process or the grant in general, please contact us at TOEFLYS@ets.org.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. I am a foreign national working in the United States. Can I apply for the grant?

Yes, but to make sure you will be able to perform the work associated with the project, you must first discuss potential involvement with your university or institution.

2. I am working outside of the United States. Can I apply for the grant?

Yes, but to make sure you will be able to perform the work associated with the project, you must first discuss potential involvement with your university or institution.

3. When can work on the project begin?

Please consider January 1, 2017, as the tentative start date for the project. The actual start date will vary depending on the duration of the contract process involving your university or organization and ETS. Contract negotiation and study planning may take several months depending on the regulations of your university or institution.

4. How long can the project last?

The expected duration for each project is 12 months. However, in special cases, projects may continue beyond 12 months. Decisions will be made on a case-by-case basis, and projects cannot exceed 24 months. If you intend for your study to last more than 12 months, please include an explanation in your proposal’s schedule section.

5. If the project continues beyond the initially agreed-upon end date, will additional funding be available to researchers?

No additional funding will be made available.

6. My project involves payments to participants. Should I include these in my budget?

Yes, please include details about the payments you plan to make to potential participants in your proposal budget.

7. Why is ETS unable to provide test forms and data for the TOEFL Primary and TOEFL Junior Comprehensive tests?

Because these tests are relatively new, no test forms have yet been retired from operational use. Therefore, we are not yet able to make them available for research purposes.

8. Who will own the data and draft manuscript resulting from the project?

ETS will own the data and the copyrights of the manuscripts that are developed as a result of funded research projects. If a manuscript is accepted for publication by a recognized research journal, then the researcher will own the copyright. ETS will own the copyright of any manuscript that is not accepted for publication. ETS encourages researchers to use the data and results for scientific publications; however, manuscripts will be subject to prior review and possible redaction by ETS.

9. Will I be allowed to present the research at conferences?

Yes, we encourage our grantees to present their work at professional conferences. Grantees are required to submit an abstract and presentation slides to ETS for review two weeks prior to the date on which it is to be submitted or presented. In addition, grantees are required to include the standard disclaimer statement in their presentations (see Dissemination Plan above)

10. How should I itemize the expenses that are listed in my budget?

For guidance on budgeting, please see the sample budget.

11. Can I request funds for computer software in the project budget?

Under normal circumstances, we do not provide funds for software purchases, as most universities or institutions already provide all necessary software.