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Infusing Rigor into Any (Yes, Any) Lesson

Tuesday, April 26, 2016 -- Scott Sterling

Rigor is one of those education buzzwords that can mean many different things to different people. One thing is sure: it doesn’t just mean more work. Instead, it refers to challenging work that expands the abilities of the student. As you plan your lessons, here are some things to keep in mind to make those lessons more rigorous.

Taxonomies are not obsolete

Bloom’s Taxonomy and similar frameworks for categorizing learning activities are just as relevant now as when they emerged 50 years ago, even in the era of 21st century standards. The first step to ensuring rigor is incorporating tasks that fall on the upper levels of these models, which focus on higher-order thinking skills. You will use these tasks later to properly scaffold a lesson that systematically provides students with rigor.

Come with a plan

Rigor requires working toward a goal; otherwise you don’t know in which direction you are pushing your students’ abilities. The source of the goal will be the particular standard you are teaching, but it’s important to keep in mind that a standard and a learning goal are not the same.

When looking at a standard, focus on the verbs. They provide valuable hints as to the kinds of tasks you should be infusing into your lessons. Arrange those verbs in order of complexity using your favorite taxonomy and you’ve got a scaffolded lesson that pushes students toward the learning goal in an organized way.

Provide autonomy

Students can’t expand their horizons if you are always showing them the way. Leaving some decision making in the hands of your students introduces a measure of executive function that significantly increases the level of rigor. When writing a lesson, think about ways you can give more control to your students while still propelling them toward the learning goal(s).

Think about your assessments

Assessments can be made more rigorous with one simple idea – instead of giving students the right answers for their incorrect responses, ask them to revisit and revise their original thinking. For example, if a response is wrong, simply mark it and give the student an opportunity to try again and come back with the right answer. This works for everything from formal assessments to informal checks on learning.

At Edmentum, we’re dedicated to creating and providing high-quality, research-based online courseware and practice solutions. Learn about how we’ve partnered with the WebbAlign group to ensure the rigor of our content by applying the Depth of Knowledge framework!