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What is Educational Rigor?

Updated on July 16, 2014

Rigor is a word that is thrown around a lot in education. However, do teachers and principals truly know what it means to have rigorous lessons? What do they look, feel, and sound like?

Let's look at a definition of rigor before we apply its meaning in a classroom lesson. Rigor can be defined as a situation where a student is asked to use knowledge as well as critical thinking to go above and beyond what a "right there" answer might produce.

Examples of questions types might be open-ended or constructed response questions. These type of questions, unlike multiple choice or matching, require deeper thought and making connections in order to produce a valid answer. Questions that ask students to infer, synthesize, analyze, and evaluate have rigorous attributes.

Teachers should use rigor when planning formative and summative assessments. Having high expectations on assessments will teach students to push themselves further than minimum recall of facts and will instill a higher work ethic.

These types of assessments are more difficult to create and take longer to score. Well-defined rubrics with clear criteria and expectations are a must for student success.

Portfolios and conference logs are also perfect ways to achieve and record rigor in the classroom. Because students are on a variety of levels, these methods allow the teacher to cater questions and assignments to each students' ability.

Rigor does not equate to raising the difficulty or providing work above grade level. Rigorous work should challenge a student's ability to apply their knowledge. Giving students work a grade level above does not necessarily mean it challenges a student's thinking. They must have a foundation of knowledge that is applicable in order to reach a higher order of thinking. Also, if you give students work that is too difficult for their level they will become discouraged and give up. Therefore, a teacher must really know each student's ability and how they can stretch their thinking in order to provide rigorous activities.

In closing let's answer the question of what should a rigorous classroom look, feel, and sound like? First of all it should NOT look like: fill in the blank worksheets, multiple choice or matching only questions, students finishing work quickly and quietly. It SHOULD contain: constructed response questions, essay questions, student-led conferences, teacher-led conferences, students working in pairs/groups, students using multiple sources to complete assignments, students asking questions and holding discussions.

This environment will not only ensure rigor but will also promote listening and speaking skills, which are also lacking in education today and will probably be a topic of a future hub! :)

© 2014 Michelle Mathis

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