Thursday, July 2, 2015

The 5 Prerequisites to Rigor

Everybody wants more rigor. States want more rigorous assessments. Colleges want students who took the most rigorous coursework in high school. Parents want more a rigorous curriculum to prepare their kids for the best colleges, and educators want more rigorous instruction.  I think it's safe to say that we all want more rigor in schools. 

But there's are problem!!!

Wanting rigor for every kid is one thing; delivering rigor in every classroom for every kid is another.  For some educators, expecting them to deliver rigor is like asking a student to multiply polynomials before he can multiply two single digit numbers or in some cases add 2 numbers.  Because of expertise, experience or a host of other factors, the pathway to rigor can extremely challenging for some educators.  There has to be a solid foundation in place before teachers can successfully deliver more rigor, and school leaders and teacher leaders owe it to all teachers to help them build that solid foundation now. 

Just like upper level high school classes require prerequisite courses, rigor has its own set of prerequisites too. In order to create rigorous learning environments for all kids, teachers and leaders have to master the gatekeepers to rigor first. If not mastered or even addressed, rigor will never come to fruition.  It will just be another buzzword that has no real meaning to anyone. 

5 Prerequisities to Rigor
If you want to ensure that rigor is in every classroom and accessible to every kid, you must ensure that these 5 prerequisites to rigor are in place first.

1. Resources
What resources and tools are needed to help create a challenging learning environment and what training is needed for the teacher to develop their skillful use of those resources?  If teachers do not have skillful use of all the resources at their disposal, they won't have the tools to reach rigor.

2. Routines 
Rigor requires routines and procedures for self-directed learning  Resources are the tools, and routines are the behavioral organization structures needed to reach rigor.  Without routines, rigor will be replaced with teacher-directed dependency. What routines and procedures are needed in every classroom to challenge kids to be self-directed in their learning and working with one another as well as with the teacher?

3. Relationships
I never met a kid who wanted to work hard for a teacher he didn't like. Relationships matter, and the better the relationship, the greater investment kids will make in learning at rigorous levels.  What must teachers do to know their students deeply, and what actions will they take to build relationships with every kid that will motivate them to learn at high levels?

4. Relevance 
If kids can't find meaning in the learning they are exposed to, they will never challenge themselves to learn at deep levels. Teachers must remember that how they engage kids entices or turns kids off to rigor. Students must continuously be engaged in active learning from the moment they enter the room until the moment they leave. Kids will stay engaged if and only if the learning is relevant to them and active for them. No relevance, no rigor. 

5. Content Knowledge & Expertise
Knowing your curriculum is one thing, but inspiring kids to know it as deeply as you do is another. The barrier to rigor is not knowing the complexity of the standards that kids need to master.  It's transforming your knowledge into engaging activities and thought-provoking questions that pique student curiosity in such a way that makes them want to learn at the highest levels. The biggest issue with rigor is in creating the learning environment where kids can't wait to dive into rigor, and that is better known as selling your content.  If you can't sell your content and expertise, the kids won't invest in rigorous learning.

How many Prerequisites do You Have?
Remember, we don't teach content.  We teach kids, and if we want to reach the highest levels of Bloom's or the deepest levels of DOK, rigor begins with setting kids up for success first.  If we can focus on creating the conditions where kids want to learn at the highest or deepest levels, rigor will take care of itself because the responsibility for learning will quickly and easily transfer from the teacher to the student.

No comments:

Post a Comment