The Mind & Life Institute is a non-profit organization committed to building a scientific understanding of the mind as a way to help reduce suffering and promote human flourishing. In 2012 MLI launched the Ethics, Education and Human Development (EEHD) Initiative to explore how MLI might directly support new, interdisciplinary approaches for nurturing ethical and prosocial behavior. As part of EEHD, MLI has developed a K-12 educational program entitled, Call to Care (C2C), which is built on a foundation of conceptual and empirical research on socio-emotional learning (SEL) and contemplative teaching and learning (CTL, especially mindfulness and compassion methods). The C2C framework is organized around three integrated modes of care (receiving care, cultivating self-care, and extending care).
Empirically rigorous measurement of the dimensions related to the cultivation of kindness, compassion, empathy and care is essential to the scientific evaluation of C2C and similar programs (i.e. The Kindness Curriculum, Compassion Cultivation Training). We conducted a detailed review of the existing empirically validated measures and identified a number of issues:

  • Current approaches are largely self-report surveys, which create potential subject bias.
  • Few measures have been developed for explicitly assessing kindness, compassion, empathy and care in educational contexts.
  • There are few direct behavioral measures of child/adolescent kindness, compassion, empathy and care.
  • There are few existing measures that explicitly assess the capacity to receive and extend care.
  • Most assessment strategies lack the sophistication and specificity to examine the dynamic, relational processes that are central indicators of kindness, compassion, empathy and care.

The successful evaluation of compassion-oriented contemplative teaching and learning programs is dependent on the ability to devise measures that rigorously and effectively assess multi-trait, multi-dimensional outcomes such as the complex behaviors related to compassionate action, kindness, empathy and the ability to receive care, cultivate self-care, and extend care. These dimensions are inherently relational, and will require novel and sophisticated strategies to be measured effectively.


This measurement development initiative has 3 primary goals:

  1. To promote the development of high quality, innovative, dynamic (e.g. direct observation of interpersonal interactions), empirically rigorous measurement tools to assess the dimensions of kindness, compassion, empathy and care in K-12 educational settings. These measures cannot include surveys or questionnaires.
  2. To establish a network of research sites interested in developing and cross-validating novel measurement strategies for assessing compassion-oriented educational programs.
  3. To convene scholars who can collaboratively partner to develop and disseminate new assessment methods that will be of benefit to the field of contemplative teaching and learning.

Mechanism of Support

The amount allocated for this research effort is a total of $500,000, for up to 2-5 projects. A maximum funding amount for individual projects is not provided, as a range of projects and funding requirements is anticipated. Each research project is expected to last two years.


Proposals may be submitted by public or private nonprofit organizations in the United States such as universities, colleges, laboratories, or research institutions. The Principal Investigator must have a doctoral degree and sufficient training and experience to accomplish the proposed work including evidence of a commitment to empirically rigorous measurement development, prior successful award funding and publication in peer-reviewed scientific journals.

Measurement Development Objectives and Research

Measurement development and validation of measures of kindness, compassion, empathy and care, particularly for school-aged children, is lacking in the field of contemplative teaching and learning. We are seeking novel assessment approaches that are cost-effective, quick to collect, dynamic and relational. Several options for such projects might include the following:

  • Dynamic measures of cognitive and/or emotional mechanisms that are known to impact pro-social behavior.
  • Brief, observational measures of student interactions demonstrating kindness, compassion, empathy, care and related behaviors (e.g. emotion regulation, perspective-taking, social connectedness etc.).

We encourage research projects that examine and thoroughly test and report the psychometric properties of new measures for students and adults in educational settings. Clear statements of hypotheses to be tested, including the operationalization and cross-validation of new measures are required.

We strongly encourage the validation of theoretically grounded, new instruments with existing measures with known psychometric properties whenever possible. New instruments and the methodology for data collection (and coding if necessary) must be described in explicit detail, in addition to estimates regarding the time required to collect, code, and interpret data. Please provide sufficient rationale and justification for the methodologies proposed. New research strategies must be pragmatic and parsimonious enough to facilitate cross-validation with other new measures during the second year of data collection.

A wide range of research approaches and strategies will be accepted, however studies that permit understanding of causal rather than simple correlational relationships, and those that account for the effects of potential mediating and/or moderating influences are preferred. Research and resultant dissemination must include full reporting of the psychometric properties of new measures and must comprehensively address issues of validity (internal, external, predictive, discriminative etc.) and reliability. We encourage the use of existing data, e.g., school records, and other quantitative and qualitative measures and approaches as forms of validation, but we discourage the use of testimonial data for that purpose. Those studies using ethnically diverse samples and sample sizes with the power to detect moderate to large effect sizes are also preferred.

Cross-Project Data Collection Requirement

The two years of funding for these projects will occur in two, distinct phases. During the first year individual sites will develop and empirically test the psychometric properties of a new measurement strategy. This will be followed by a year of cross-validation in which each site will collect data on all new measures that are funded as part of this initiative. This will allow for multi-site comparisons and validation among a broad, ethnically and geographically diverse sample of participants.

Letter of Intent Procedures

Letters of intent must be emailed to the Mind & Life Institute ( on or before April 24, 2015. All applicants must submit a letter of intent to be considered for invitation to receive a request for proposal (RFP).

The letter of intent must include:

  1. A brief description of the new measure proposed methodology.
  2. Significance and potential impact of the work.
  3. Description of how psychometric testing will be carried out (research design, sample, measures for cross-validation etc.).
  4. Phone, fax, email, and mailing address for Principal Investigator (PI).
  5. Biosketch (3 pages maximum) of all key personnel (not to exceed 3 people).

The project description, significance and description of a research plan (items 1-3) are not to exceed 5 single-spaced pages. Please use a 12-point Times font with 1 inch margins for all borders.

The letter must be submitted electronically by email and must arrive on or before the due date. All materials must be submitted in a single email. No facsimile submissions will be accepted.

Electronic submission to as email attachment in PDF format is strongly preferred.

All applicants will receive e-mail notification by June 30, 2015, as to whether they have been selected to submit a full proposal. The Institute will not provide any detailed feedback beyond this notification.

We encourage your inquiries. Please direct any questions to


Download this RFI as a PDF