Most likely the most overused and misunderstood word in the lexicon of today’s teacher is the word, “rigor.” 21st Century teachers have been chasing after this elusive, multi-use concept for years without the aid of a fully-formed definition of the term. Comments flood teacher evaluations: “Not rigorous enough. Needs more rigor. Lacks rigor. Your questioning is not rigorous enough. Add more rigor to the exploration.” The unfortunate truth is that most times, these comments are not accompanied by any practical ways in which teachers can do this. Their lessons, are their best and most rigorous ideas, yet often times still miss the mark. So, as a teacher training and development company, we made sure that our work was grounded in a fully formed, actionable definition.
We began with the work or researcher, Robert Marzano. In his book, Creating Conditions for Rigorous Instruction, he develops the definition of rigor as the conjunction of complexity and student autonomy.
This simple, yet powerful illustration provides some important insight as to the connection between rigorous content, and student engagement, defined by Charlotte Danielson, in her now ubiquitous “Framework for Teaching,” as the way learners develop or deepen their understanding by what they do. Danielson's Framework continues to offer more insight to the development of rigorous instruction in the three of her four Domains which focus on instruction:
Domain 1, Planning and Preparation “...The instructional design includes learning activities that are well sequenced and require all students to think, problem solve, inquire, and defend conjectures and opinions. Effective teachers design formative assessments to monitor learning, and they provide the information needed to differentiate instruction. Measures of student learning align with the curriculum, enabling students to demonstrate their understanding in more than one way.”
Domain 2, Classroom Environment “...Effective teachers organize their classrooms so that all students can learn. They maximize instructional time and foster respectful interactions with and among students, ensuring that students find the classroom a safe place to take intellectual risks.”
Domain 3, Instruction “...In the classrooms of accomplished teachers, all students are highly engaged in learning. They make significant contributions to the success of the class through participation in high-level discussions and active involvement in their learning and the learning of others.”
From design to delivery, to evidence of learning, the development of rigorous lessons focuses on students demonstrating a personalize representation of content. Shared Space PD has thus defined rigorous and engaging lessons as those which require learners to:
Internalize their own meaning of content
Create and develop a personal process by exploring multiple pathways
Apply their understanding to new and varied ways
This definition serves as the foundational platform for all of our teacher training and development. Filtering planning decisions through this instructional design will ensure teachers that their units and lessons, #gotRigor.