RPM Objectives: Why Not “RPMS”?

The Literacy Cookbook COVERI was halfway through delivering a workshop on RPM objectives one day when a very smart teacher in the audience raised her hand and said, “Shouldn’t it be ‘RPM…S’?  We keep talking about how the objectives need to be specific.  Shouldn’t there be an ‘S’?”

I paused.  She had a good point.  But, like most people, I am not inclined to change my mind instantly, so I told her it was a good question and I would think about it.  Which I did.

After several weeks of driving up and down the Turnpike, I came to this conclusion: No.  I do not think there should be an “S” because in order to be measurable, an objective must be specific.  Separating the “S” from the “M” would imply that the “M” doesn’t have to be specific.  Objectives that are not measurable usually suffer from a lack of specificity, and vice versa.

Take this example: “SWBAT read a short article on censorship in order to gain a deeper understanding of censorship and how it impacts their lives.”  Setting aside for a moment the problem that “read” is not rigorous (What does it mean, really?  Pass one’s eyes over the page?  Decode?  Comprehend?  Analyze?), it is difficult, if not impossible, to infer how this objective will be measured.  Assuming you are not a mind reader, how can you tell if your students “gain a deeper understanding”?  Specifically, what does that mean?  The lack of specificity makes it unmeasurable.

By contrast, here’s a solid RPM objective: “SWBAT observe and record cloud patterns in order to explain the relationship between cloud formations and the weather.”  This objective does not require any psychic skills, and it is fairly easy to imagine ways to measure it, because it is sufficiently specific.

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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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