RPM Objectives: A Few Hints about Rigor

The Literacy Cookbook COVERIn an earlier post, we looked at why and how to create RPM (Rigorous, Purposeful, Measurable) objectives.  While it makes a lot of sense to teach with RPM objectives, it can be challenging when you first start to develop them.  So, I will offer some hints in the next few posts.  First, let’s consider RIGOR.

Keep in mind that RIGOR is not solely a function of a verb’s placement in Bloom’s Taxonomy.  For example, although it is true that “explain” is typically a higher-level thinking skill than “describe,” sometimes asking students to “describe” can be quite rigorous—particularly when the description requires significant background knowledge.  If “describe” is used to “describe what you see” or “describe how you feel,” it’s not too difficult.  But take a look at this objective:

“SWBAT to describe features of the economy in the pre-Civil War South in order to explain how economic factors influenced Southerners to participate in the war.”

If you don’t know what “features of an economy” are—much less what they were in the pre-Civil War South—you will have a tough time meeting this objective.  The requirement for content knowledge adds rigor.

Moreover, the stated purpose—“to explain…”—amplifies the rigor in this case.  That’s another thing: pay attention to the verb used to state the purpose: it can expand or deflate the overall rigor.  Notice the difference between doing something “in order to EVALUATE…” vs. doing something “in order to LIST….”  In the latter example, you can almost feel the air rushing out of the room.

Finally, while we’re on the subject of verbs, let’s not forget that unless you are psychic and can read your students’ minds, the verb “understand” should not appear in your objectives.  It’s not rigorous.  It’s simply impossible for us to know if it’s been met.

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About theliteracycookbook

In addition to this blog, I am the creator of THE LITERACY COOKBOOK Website (www.literacycookbook.com) and ONLY GOOD BOOKS Blog (http://onlygoodbooks.wordpress.com/), and the author of THE LITERACY COOKBOOK: A Practical Guide to Effective Reading, Writing, Speaking, and Listening Instruction (Jossey-Bass, 2012) and LITERACY AND THE COMMON CORE: Recipes for Action (Jossey-Bass, 2014). Check out my Website for more information about my consulting work.
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