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Many educational institutions seek discretionary grant funding to undertake major initiatives. Program evaluators often assist with the grant writing process by providing feedback on a grant application’s goals, objectives, and outcomes. Here are some tips for writing grant goals, objectives, and outcomes that are logical, based in research evidence, and SMART – specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound.


Goals present the final impact or outcome that your project is designed to produce. The grant writing process began with recognizing and defining a problem or needs, and the goals should be directly related to solutions to the problem/needs. Goals are usually expressed in broad terms and visualize a desired outcome that solves or alleviates the problem/needs. Most grant applications will have one goal; larger projects may have more than one goal. Here is a sample goal for a Balanced Literacy curriculum redesign project:

  • The Balanced Literacy curriculum initiative will improve 3rd through 5th grade students’ achievement in language arts.

Objectives represent major steps or actions taken to accomplish your goal. These steps or actions may be based on best practices for implementing a specific educational program or intervention. In contrast to goals, objectives are presented in SMART format; that is, objectives should be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. Thinking about our Balanced Literacy curriculum redesign project, here are a few SMART objectives:

  • By the end of the first quarter, at least two teachers from each target grade (3rd-5th) will be recruited to participate in a Balanced Literacy curriculum writing team.

  • By the end of the second quarter, all members of the curriculum writing team will complete at least 24 hours of professional development in Balanced Literacy.

Outcomes are often required components of a grant application. Outcomes represent the measurable results associated with the accomplishment of a goal; they are also written in SMART format. Funders may use project outcomes as the basis for evaluating the success of your grant, so they should be chosen carefully. Here are two outcomes associated with our Balanced Literacy curriculum redesign project goal:

  • By the end of the project, the percent of 3rd through 5th grade students scoring proficient on the state’s standardized language arts assessment will increase to at least 80%.

  • By the end of the project, 90% of 3rd through 5th grade students will read on grade level.

More Grant Writing Tips:

  • When writing objectives, include all relevant groups and individuals in your target population. While the beneficiaries of most educational initiatives are students, some objectives may focus on engagement and training of teachers and administrators as part of project implementation.

  • When writing objectives, establish reasonable timelines for accomplishing objectives. If permissible according to grant guidelines, focus on project planning during the grant’s first year instead of rushing to implementation.

  • Review existing research on your educational intervention before writing objectives and outcomes. Inquire about which specific outcomes are associated with your selected intervention and what degree of improvement can be expected if the intervention is fully implemented.

  • Funders may define goals, objectives, and outcomes differently. When writing a grant application, always use the language and definitions of the funder.



Updated: Feb 6

Gaston-Shaffer is the integrated consulting team from two Virginia-based firms: Gaston Educational Consulting and Shaffer Evaluation Group. Gaston-Shaffer offers to school districts and higher education institutions comprehensive strategic planning services, i

ncluding community stakeholder consultation, planning facilitation, and performance measurement planning.


As Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Gaston Educational Consulting, LLC, David Gaston develops and executes strategic initiatives to improve organizational and academic achievement, team building, and organizational culture.


As Founder and President of Shaffer Evaluation Group, Patricia Moore Shaffer works with partners — school districts, colleges and universities, government agencies and nonprofits — to develop and evaluate programs that address and correct long-standing inequities in education so that all children and youth can excel.


Shaffer and Gaston regularly combine their expertise to collaborate on evidence-based strategic plans and how to implement them to fully benefit students and the entire communities where they reside. They have successfully collaborated on multiple projects,

Small group in discussion at table
Strategic planning at Caroline County Public Schools

including strategic plans for school divisions in Charles City and King George County in Virginia.


Currently, Gaston-Shaffer is facilitating strategic planning for Caroline County Public Schools in Virginia. Business and industry partners, students, school board leadership, faculty and staff recently participated in stakeholder focus groups and online surveys, where they identified their vision of student success at CCPS. This thorough community engagement process yielded prominent themes, which a steering committee is currently into strategic goals and objectives that the entire learning community can get behind. An accompanying measurement framework will provide performance indicators and metrics that are measured each year to gauge plan progress and success.


To learn more about Gaston-Shaffer's approach to strategic planning or to request a proposal, please contact seg@shafferevaluation.com.

By Dr. Marquita Hockaday


For several individuals, the month of December is sometimes considered “the most wonderful time of the year.” Families and friends come together to celebrate and rejoice, spending time together when they are apart working and learning during the rest of the year. With that being said, schools and workplaces sometimes tend to struggle with understanding how they can recognize, embrace, and acknowledge the various holidays that are celebrated during this time of year. Thus, it is important to first note this holiday season is not about one specific celebration, but instead we should come to understand all of the holidays observed in December, including Christmas, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, Las Posadas, and Boxing Day (to name a few).


One way to accomplish the above task is to use James Banks’ Four Approaches to Multicultural Reform. These four approaches can be integrated into schools and workplaces to assist with an individual not only recognizing and celebrating various holidays, but also gaining knowledge and understanding of different cultures. Further, these approaches allow others to bring their own knowledge and expertise to the forefront.


This post will provide a brief description of each approach and an example of how schools or workplaces could use the approach to respectfully and responsibly acknowledge different celebrations this holiday season.


Integrating James Banks’ Four Approaches to Multicultural Reform This Holiday Season


Approach # 1: Contributions Approach


This is the easiest of the approaches and has the least amount of involvement and research. For this approach, individuals read books, watch movies, and participate in activities to gain a better understanding of different holidays. For instance, a teacher can read Seven Spools of Thread: A Kwanzaa Story to their students and then have them complete an activity related to the theme of the book. Additionally, a workplace might encourage their team members to read and/or watch several books and films related to Hanukkah to help them better understand the rituals and then provide a teambuilding activity after the fact. A list of some suggested Hanukkah films can be found here.


Approach # 2: Additive Approach


This approach requires more involvement, including adding content, themes, and perspectives directly into curriculum or material without changing the structure. For example, this would mean thinking about the emphasis placed on Christmas (the use of Christmas carols and Christmas paraphernalia in holiday commercials) from individuals who celebrate other holidays. In schools and workplaces, individuals can have students and team members read articles about other cultures around the world and how they celebrate other holidays (such as Boxing Day) and what these celebrations look like. They can compare and contrast these observations to what our holiday season looks like here in America.


Approach # 3: Transformation Approach


The transformation approach actually changes the structure of the materials being presented to students or individuals in the workplace. They are challenged to view problems, issues, concepts, and themes from different perspectives and several cultural points of view. Thus, for example, students and team members would be tasked to think about Hanukkah as, of course, a celebration, but also to understand that the celebration is a commemoration of how the Jewish people were able to reclaim Jerusalem and the Maccabees were victorious against the Syrian Army. The goal with this approach is to have individuals see the larger picture and question issues and problems. By doing so, they will gain an understanding of various cultures and why they engage in celebrations. Hopefully, this will lead to a larger appreciation of the holiday.


Approach # 4: Social Action Approach


The final approach, social action, asks individuals to take what they have learned from the transformation approach and engage in some kind of action that leads to social change. They are encouraged to understand and question social issues and then do something about the understanding they have gained. For instance, if students and individuals in the workplace were to think about the origin of Hanukkah and consider the social action approach, they might be tasked by their instructors and leaders to think of other groups who are often oppressed and come up with an action plan to help provide this group with equitable and just treatment.


The aforementioned are not the only ways to create an inclusive and culturally responsive school and workplace environment this (and in future) holiday season(s). However, integrating Banks’ Four Approaches to Multicultural Reform might be an appropriate, responsible, and respectful place to start.


Happy holidays from Shaffer Evaluation Group!