NAEd/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellowship




The application portal will open in Summer 2023.

Dear Applicant,

Thank you for your interest in the National Academy of Education (NAEd)/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellowship Program. Below you will find instructions and a link to the online application. The application deadline is 5pm Eastern Time on Wednesday, November 15, 2023.

The postdoctoral fellowship was established in 1986 by the NAEd with a grant from the Spencer Foundation. The fellowship program is intended to support early-career scholars working in critical areas of education research. To that end, the NAEd seeks to fund proposals that promise to make significant scholarly contributions to the field of education and to advance the careers of the recipients.

Applications are reviewed by NAEd members and are judged on the applicant’s past research record, career trajectory, and the quality of the project described in the application. To date, the Academy has funded more than 800 postdoctoral fellows. This year, we will award 25 fellowships to begin during the 2024-25 academic year.

The fellowships of $70,000 are intended as salary replacement for one year and to cover other research expenses outlined in the proposal. Fellows must not receive other funding in support of their proposed research during the grant period. Fellows will also receive additional funds to attend required fellowship retreats and NAEd meetings.

Please read all of the enclosed materials carefully as you prepare your application, and feel free to contact us if you have questions.


Gregory White
Executive Director


The National Academy of Education (NAEd)/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellowship supports early-career scholars working in critical areas of education research. This nonresidential postdoctoral fellowship funds proposals that make significant scholarly contributions to the field of education. The program also develops the careers of its recipients through professional development activities.


  • Applicants must have received their PhD, EdD, or equivalent research degree between January 1, 2018, and December 31, 2022. 
  • Applicants may not hold tenure status at the time of the application deadline.
  • Applications must be made by the individual applying for the fellowship. Group applications will not be accepted.
  • The proposed project must be a research project.
  • Applicants may not be employees of the Spencer Foundation or the National Academy of Education.
  • This is a non-residential fellowship, and international applicants are encouraged.


  • Fellows may not receive other concurrent funding for their project during the tenure of the fellowship. Fellows may not hold a separate grant from the Spencer Foundation during their fellowship period.
  • Fellows must receive approval for their project from a human subjects review board prior to release of fellowship funds.


The fellowship of $70,000 will be awarded to 25 scholars. Fellows may elect to take the fellowship full-time over one year or half-time over two years. This is a non- residential fellowship. Scholars may conduct their research at their home institution or at another research site that they have arranged. During their fellowship tenure, fellows are required to attend three professional development retreats hosted by the NAEd and to make a formal presentation of their research to the Academy. The NAEd provides additional travel funds for fellows to attend these meetings.

Preparing the Application

All applications must be submitted through the NAEd online application. The NAEd will not accept any hard copy applications.

All materials must be received no later than 5pm Eastern Time on Wednesday, November 15, 2023. Please account for time zone differences.

For any uploaded documents, please adhere to the following guidelines:

  • All applications must use 11 point Times New Roman font, double-spaced with one-inch margins. Do not reduce your font size—reviewers must be able to read all documents.
  • All applications and documents must be submitted in English.
  • All uploaded documents must be in pdf format. (NAEd staff will not support any document conversion to pdf.)
  • Do not include cover letters, a table of contents, or any additional materials.

The selection committee has recommended that the National Academy of Education reject, upon arrival, any application that does not conform to these guidelines. Please read and follow the application instructions carefully to ensure that your application is not rejected prior to review.

The final selection committee is comprised of scholars with varying backgrounds. Because the proposal is reviewed by a multidisciplinary committee, it must be compelling to scholars who do not have expertise in the given area. Getting feedback from colleagues and others who can provide constructive criticism is strongly encouraged. It may be especially helpful to enlist the help of a colleague with a different focus to ensure that the proposal is easily understood by the selection committee members with different disciplinary backgrounds. The NAEd also recommends reading “The Art of Writing Proposals”, an article published by the Social Science Research Council, for guidance on writing a strong proposal.

Please note, due to the volume of applications received, NAEd cannot confirm receipt of applications via telephone. Applicants will receive an automated e-mail upon submission of a complete application.


Only applications from individuals will be accepted. Candidates must use the online application available on the NAEd website.

Provide an abstract of the proposed research project. A text box is available on the online application form. Please refer to length restrictions on the form.

In no more than 10 double-spaced pages describe the research project. This document must include page numbers and the applicant’s full name and registered e-mail address as a running header.

Include the goals of the project, its contribution to the field, and the significance of the work, especially as it relates to education. Provide evidence that there is a solid plan for conducting the proposed study. Describe the research methods, data analysis, and interpretation techniques. Describe the manner in which the outlined inquiry is part of a larger context of work, and give examples of that larger context. Please refer to the Applicant Resources for suggestions.

Please keep in mind that each proposal will be reviewed by some senior scholars familiar with the applicant’s field and by others less familiar; thus, language specific to a field should be situated within an argument persuasive to a generalist audience.

Applicants may attach two extra pages (single-spaced) for references. The project description (10 pages) and references (two pages, single-spaced) should be uploaded as one document within the online system. Technical and supplemental appendices (charts, graphs, tables, questionnaires, etc.) may be included and do not count towards the limit; however, please be judicious in the quantity included, as reviewers are not required to review material in the appendices. An applicant may have a document that is more than 12 pages, but it must not have more than 10 pages of project description and only two pages for the bibliography.

The online application form will allow applicants to enter the names and e-mail addresses for three references; it will not allow applicants to request more than three references. Once the e-mail addresses are entered, the online application form will send an automated e-mail to each reference, providing them with a link to enter their materials online.

Applicants are strongly encouraged to discuss the application with reference writers before submitting their names and e-mail addresses on the application. Applicants should follow up with references to verify they received the initial e-mail and are able to submit their reference materials.

Applicants will not see the reference materials in the system. Candidates may submit their application prior to having the reference materials submitted, but the application will be considered incomplete if references have not submitted their materials by the deadline.

Please provide the e-mail addresses for recommenders early to allow sufficient time for them to submit their materials.

In no more than 20 double-spaced pages provide an example of a previous research project that demonstrates the applicant’s promise as a researcher and ability to complete the proposed project. Applicants may submit a chapter of a book, an article, or other research, and the writing sample may be published or unpublished. DO NOTE: Most journal publications are single spaced and double columned; this format will not be accepted. If an applicant wishes to submit a published piece, it must be reformatted to adhere with the NAEd application guidelines: double spaced, 11 point Times New Roman font, and 20 pages or less, including references. If an applicant wants to submit a piece longer than 20 pages, they can submit a portion of the full document and provide a link to the full piece. If providing an excerpt, please be judicious in what is included in the submission, as reviewers are only required to review material in the document.

Please upload a current CV or resume that includes the categories below. Please do not include acronyms on the CV.

  • Education beyond high school (include any professional education beyond the highest earned degree), beginning with your most recent program of study. Be sure to include the name(s) of your institution, location, major/minor, degree, and date awarded.
  • Employment beginning with most recent. Include your title, the organization name, location, and dates.
  • Awards or fellowships received. Include title and dates.
  • Publications and research relevant to education.

Provide a career statement narrative, describing what led the applicant to their current role and interest in this particular project. Applicants should indicate future professional plans and how the proposed research contributes to long-term professional goals. A text box is available on the online application form. Please refer to length restrictions on the form.

Repeat applicants must provide the title and a one-paragraph summary of their previous proposal(s) for every year applied. A text box is available on the online application form. Please refer to length restrictions on the form.


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