Request For Proposals: Start Small! Mini-grants

The Office of the Provost invites faculty to apply for funding to support experimentation with a new pedagogical strategy or tool without attempting a full course redesign. These grants are designed to promote innovative thinking about and approaches to teaching, learning, and student engagement that involve scalable high-impact practices and thoughtful assessment of student learning.

Faculty who have ideas for course innovation are encouraged to use this Start Small! mini-grant grant to pilot tools and/or pedagogical strategies that could be expanded into a full Hybrid Learning Course Redesign project. Successful recipients of the Start Small! mini-grants will be given special consideration for future Provost’s RFP for Hybrid Learning Course Redesign and Delivery funding opportunities.

Recipients will be expected to spend awarded funds as proposed and to collaborate with Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) staff. With CTL support, they will identify effective, evidence-based strategies for incorporating the new tool or strategy, assessing its viability, and measuring the impacts on student learning. These funds may be used to fund professional development and/or to purchase equipment or materials that enhance teaching effectiveness and student engagement and that would not otherwise be provided by the faculty member’s home department.

Awardees will receive in-kind support from the CTL and will also be funded up to $2,000.

Examples of potential grant-funded expenses for the Start Small! mini-grant include:

  • Devices and software to support active learning practices (e.g., screencasting, audience response systems, adaptive learning software, etc.);
  • Software and devices for laboratory and maker projects;
  • Training and supplies for innovative pedagogical methods such as game-based learning, team-based learning, case-based teaching, and peer-led learning;
  • Resources for teaching development or to support faculty development related to a discipline-specific or other instructional innovation, such as books, webinar or conference attendance; and
  • Hardware or software to support innovations aimed at making learning materials more accessible and inclusive (e.g., speech recognition / captioning software).

All funds must be spent in the academic year of the award.

Faculty who are interested in applying for support to redesign an entire course using digital tools or “hybrid” approaches are encouraged to apply for 2018 Provost’s RFP for Hybrid Learning Course Redesign And Delivery.



  • Full-time and part-time faculty
  • Individual faculty, groups of faculty from the same department, and interdisciplinary teams are welcome to apply; however, teams receive one award.
  • Courses to be offered during either fall 2018, spring 2019 or summer 2019.
  • A prior meeting and consultation with the CTL is strongly recommended to help develop a project plan (see below). Please contact to schedule a meeting.


Proposal Requirements

Selection Criteria

The most competitive proposals will be those that articulate a “small” pedagogical innovation and clear rationale for teaching and learning; demonstrate a clear learning need for the proposed grant-funded activities / items (i.e., funded materials are not available through existing campus resources or through regular professional and/or course development funds in the home department); and seek to advance learner-centered instructional methods grounded in evidence-based research.

In reviewing proposals, we will expect to see:

  • Clear, detailed description of one “small” pedagogical innovation the applicant will try;
  • Strong, compelling rationale for the project including a description of how that “one new thing” is expected to improve one’s existing practice;
  • Clear articulation of how the project aligns with existing theories of and methods in teaching and learning;
  • Demonstration of how the applicant might measure or assess the effects of the proposed experiment / innovation;
  • Awareness of any training and support needs and where the recipient will obtain this support; and
  • Detailed budget and timeline for the project’s expenses. Funding can be used for course preparation, external course content, technology and media development costs, administrative costs and teaching assistants/course assistants, but may not be used to pay faculty stipends. Funds are not available to support future maintenance costs associated with regular wear-and-tear for grant-purchased items.

Application Checklist

  • Cover Sheet – Include name of the PI, title of project, title of the course, intended audience and school
  • Description
  • Rationale for the project
  • Articulation of alignment with theories and methods in teaching and learning
  • Assessment plan
  • Detailed budget
  • Letter of support from the applicant’s department chairs



Awardees will be expected to 1) submit a brief report of work done at the end the teaching semester(s) to the CTL Executive Director and 2) share the lessons they learn with the broader Columbia community, including but not limited to: submitting an article for publication, presenting at a disciplinary or pedagogical conference or at a CTL event, contributing to the Center’s newsletter or web resources, etc. Please note: faculty who wish to make student data public as part of this dissemination may need to obtain IRB approval.


Submission Procedure

Faculty submitting a proposal must complete the proposal application form here. Final proposals must be submitted by the Dean’s office of your school (one PDF file for each proposal) via email to with the subject line of “RFP Start Small 2018: [Last Name of Applicant].” An email confirmation that the proposal submission has been received will be sent within 24 hours.



The deadline is Monday, April 16, 2018 at 5:00 P.M.  Future RFPs will cover courses to be offered in 2018 and beyond. We look forward to continuing to support Columbia faculty as they develop new and exciting enhancements of teaching and learning at the University.


Review Process

Proposals will be reviewed by a committee of faculty representing a range of disciplines and schools who will provide a recommended set of awards to the Provost.



Selections will be made by Thursday, May 31, 2018. Faculty will be notified of the award amount and will be assigned a CTL learning designer who will serve as their primary contact for the program. The CTL learning designer, together with a team of staff with appropriate expertise for the specific project, will provide support in instructional design, pedagogy, media and/or technologies, and assessment.

Information Sessions

The CTL will hold a town hall on Thursday, February 1, 2:30pm in Butler 212 to offer interested faculty members more information about the RFPs and the application process, and will hold a series of RFP-focused office hours on Fridays in April from 2-4pm. You can learn more about previous successful projects and interact with awardees at the Celebration of Teaching & Learning Symposium to be held on Thursday, February 22 in Low Library. Learn more about the Symposium at: