Backward Design for Grant Writers

There has been much talk lately about backward design in education and curriculum development. It is a method of designing curriculum by setting goals before choosing programs and instructional methods. Backward design of curriculum typically involves three stages:

  • identifying the results desired
  • determining acceptable levels of evidence to show that desired results have occurred
  • designing  activities that will make desired results unfold

If you’re a grant writer now is the time to think about programs that can improve the educational experience of your students. It’s important to picture successful programs in your mind.  Michelangelo said, “I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.”

Your third grade readers may be a year behind national norms.  The picture in your mind should be of all your third graders scoring on grade level when they take their final assessment each spring.  Contemplate and picture the type of activities it will take to make sure that each student is reading at the proper level.  You might picture small reading classes with each child receiving individual attention from teachers.  You might picture students reading library books in the hour you give them each day to practice their reading or in after school programs.

You visualize the people and the activities that will help you reach your goals.

Now that you are writing grants, you know you can never allow a lack of money to get in your way when you are picturing your programs and results.  If you can envision the positive conclusion of your program, you will be able to find the money to finance it in your regular budget or with grant funding – if you are determined to make it work. For some this may sound like hocus pocus, but it’s a mindset, a way of thinking about results.

Once you have assessed your needs, defined your problem, and visualized your roadmaps, it is time to think and plan.  Visualize clearly in your mind the results you want from the program.  Visualize the activities it will take to get your students to that result.

Build your budget to pay for the programs and activities you will purchase to get there.
If there is no money available, go to a good grant database  to look for grant money to fund your programs. If you are absolutely determined to make positive changes in your school, you will find the money and the results you have envisioned.

If the concept of backward design appeals to you, here are some resources that can help you use it for planning.

Will your professional development delve into backward design this year? Maybe that can become a goal for your grant writing projects. PD programs are wonderful, fundable projects for forward thinking leaders.

Let me know how you’re doing, how do you envision success in your school?


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About Neva Fenno

Neva Fenno, M.S.Ed., MLIS, has been a special education teacher, school library media specialist, curriculum specialist and grants manager for several urban school districts in New York and Massachusetts for 30 years. As grants manager for 7 years, she managed up to $28,000,000 a year in federal, state, foundation and corporate grants from application through fiscal administration. She has hundreds of stories to tell, not all successes, but from each story there is a lesson to be learned.

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