Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Rigorous and Relevant.

Several years ago, our then-superintendent seemed to use the word RIGOR in nearly every discussion about curriculum, planning, and pretty much anything related to teaching.  While there are many people who cringe at certain words -- MOIST, for example -- RIGOR is a word that generates something like nails on a chalkboard to me.  (It makes me think of dead bodies, or zombies, with rigor mortis setting in.)  Most of all, the word rigor seems to like to pair with the word WORKOUT, generating sweat -- or MOIST skin.  

So on this 93 degree day, after arranging and rearranging my classroom, meeting with the newbie teachers, and rethinking virtually everything that was a certainty in my world yesterday, I was greeted with an invitation to "Add Rigor to Anything."  If you are a teacher, you owe it to yourself, and your students, to consider Terry Heick's suggestions, as you ramp up your game for the fall.  

So what will make things rigorous?  The reality is that it won't be the same for everyone.  As much as I hate to admit it, rigor = academic engagement, and ultimately academic success.   Sure, that sounds like a line from a professional development slide.  (I may even use it in one sometime, if I can get the word RIGOR to come out of my mouth without feeling like I am choking...)  Learners will retain more information, transferring material into long-term memory for recall at a later time, maybe even connecting that information to some new knowledge to construct meaning.

Is it possible to allow students to define and choose their own path of challenge?  Sure.  If they understand divergent and convergent thinking, are willing to share and defend opinions, and use research from the experts to support their defenses.

But first, they have to stop being afraid to be "wrong", and have to learn not to stare at the classroom teacher waiting for a nod of approval to support their opinion.

Opinions matter.  Rigor, and rigorous and meaningful assessment can only happen if students are first willing to take risks, with their eyes focused on a purpose, instead of a grade.

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