So if you read my last blog post on rigor, you may have breathed a sigh of relief. After all, if rigor is not found in doing more of the same problems or asking more of the same kinds of questions, then that’s less work for both teacher and student, right? Not so fast.
Creating a truly rigorous course does involve work and often it’s work of a more difficult variety than simply adding on more of the same. In fact, it’s relatively easy to simply add more of what you are already doing. Sure, you may have to spend more time grading and students may have to spend more time on homework, but time is the only real difficulty when one equates rigor with the amount of work. When you start to see rigor differently, however, when you stop equating rigor with the amount of time spent on a class, things get messy.
If rigor is actually found embedded within instruction, as I posited in the last post, then teachers who want to increase the rigor of their course have to grapple with what to change and how to change different aspects of their teaching. This then, not just finding the time to grade more of the same, becomes the real difficulty. A teacher has to rethink how they are presenting information, what questions they are asking in class, what assignments with which to task students (or not task students, as the case may be). In the end, a teacher may not have to change all that much in order to increase the rigor of their course a great deal. It could be as simple as asking questions in a different way so that the teacher is not leading students to an answer but getting the students to think through a problem and determine various possible answers. But this change will only come when the teacher takes the time to reflect on their practice and craft, and this is what makes increasing rigor challenging; teachers have to be willing to reflect and change even when it’s hard.
Before you think that students are getting off a little too easy, let me reassure you. When a school decides to up the ante in terms of rigor, everyone – and I mean everyone – bears some responsibility. Students must be willing to feel uncomfortable, be willing to feel like they aren’t quite “getting it.” If the teacher is asking more difficult questions, then students are bound to feel this way. Oh, and parents must also be willing to let their children go through this process.
Now for the good news for both teachers and students. When you start to see rigor this way, it actually means less “busy work” and more time spent on what is really important and relevant. Teachers may actually have less, not more, to grade, while their time spent planning might increase. Students also may spend the same amount of time on a class, but as with teachers the time is spent differently, with more time spent thinking and less time spent filling in a second worksheet with similar problems to the first. I know which of these scenarios I’d prefer. How about you?
Postscript: This is my 100th blog post!