G. Writing Smart Objectives

Planning for a program, and the evaluation of that program, is made easier by carefully creating objectives that include specific information about what is to happen to whom by when in what amount. Following the “SMART” acronym helps create objectives that are measurable and attainable. The meaning behind each letter of “SMART” is described below.

A specific objective guides measurement while a vague objective is hard to measure. For example, to find out whether a Safe Routes to School (SRTS) program increased students’ well-being is harder to measure than whether the program increased the number of steps they took before school.
To qualify as measurable, there should be a tool, like a tally form, or methodology to capture the needed information.
Objectives should be attainable. If only 25 percent of the students live within 2 miles of school, it is not realistic to expect that a SRTS program will result in walking and bicycling by 50 percent of all students. It is important to consider all the information gathered before the program to derive realistic objectives.
While it may seem obvious, the objective should relate to the intended activities. For example, if a SRTS program is focused on engineering improvements on one particular route to school, it is not relevant to have walkability of the entire community as the objective.
An objective needs to have a time frame. If not, it may be arguable that an objective is yet to be met some time in the future, or someone may expect the objective be met sooner than is realistic. A date or time frame eliminates these uncertainties.

For examples of SMART objectives, see Step 2: Write Objectives.