Friday, October 17, 2014

Rigor, Rigor, Rigor

Recently, I have participated in many conversations and sat in professional development meetings focused on the question “how can we raise the rigor of our instruction in the classroom?” I thought this week I would explore the idea of “rigor” and provide a few different resources on this popular buzzword.

What is rigor? This is a consistent question asked throughout schools, districts and within personal conversations. I have heard different definitions of this word, but one definition that captures rigor in relation to the classroom is, “the level of engagement, skills and knowledge needed to successfully meet challenging expectations.”  Professor John Hattie (University of Melbourne) further describes what rigor in a school looks like as “rarely silent and deadening, and it (is) often intense, buzzing and risky.”

I think I cannot talk about rigor without talking about Carol Dweck’s work, centered on promoting a growth mindset. In the article, Even Geniuses Work Hard, Dweck talks about ways educators we can foster a growth mindset in their students, pushing them to believe that they have the capacity and brainpower to stretch themselves educationally. Angela Lee Duckworth, during her Ted Talk discussed the importance of instilling this growth mindset, ultimately pushing students to become “gritty” in their learning. Grit and growth mindset go hand in hand and when fostered in a classroom can promote the rigor which so many professionals are seeking.

What resources out there exist to help us think about ways to increase the rigor in the classroom? A resource from the EngageNY website is a fantastic place to start. Uncommon Schools compiled a list of data driven classroom practices focused on providing teachers with direction and ideas on how to “up the ante” of their students. For example, this resource offers reflection on tightening objectives and questioning in order to increase engagement. Additionally, it offers ideas and suggestions on peer-to-peer support strategies, wait time and even how to move homework away from being “busy work” and towards useful learning opportunities and resources.

A second resource to look at would be the protocols on the National School Reform Faculty (NSRF) website. These protocols include educational activities such as gallery walks, inquiry circles, and jigsaw to name a few. These protocols promote student conversation and engagement putting the students in the role of active participant. They can be implemented throughout lessons and units to boost participation within the group. Additionally, this website offers protocols for professional learning for adults within schools such as examining student work, ghost visits and student observations. Educators can access these in order to increase their knowledge and raise the level of expectations they have within the classroom. 

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