Rigor is creating an environment in which each student is expected to learn at high levels,
each student is supported so he or she can learn at high levels,
and each student demonstrates learning at high levels (Blackburn, 2008).

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

How do students feel about rigor?

As I began writing Rigor is NOT a Four-Letter Word, I wanted to hear what students would say, since they are the ones who are most directly impacted by the decision to increase rigor in the classroom. I asked, “How do you feel about rigor, or challenging work in school?” I received over 400 responses from students in grades two through twelve. Their replies reflect the tug-of-war of negative and positive perceptions.

Students’ Responses About Challenging Work
I would want to quit. I would need help. Robert
I really don’t mind it. I prefer to be challenged rather than bored. Tim
I don’t like work like that because if I spend a long time on just one problem and can’t find the answer I get stressed and that just makes it harder to do. Amy
I think it’s okay. I mean, I don’t prefer it, but it’s not as bad as most people think. Sometimes I prefer to have a little bit of a challenge. Kyle
It makes my head and hand hurt. Hayley
I don’t like doing rigor but everything in life isn’t easy so I just try my best to do it. Dominique
I feel that rigorous work needs to be explained better than normal work so I understand the material. Benjamin
I feel that challenging work would be better for people that think their work is too easy. Sumerlyn
OK, but if it’s hard, I want it to be fun too. Keith
I feel that rigorous work is made for some people and some people just might get frustrated and give up. I guess everyone should at least try it and if they can’t do it they don’t have to. Mason
I honestly don’t mind it every once in a while but not every hour of the day. Devon
I guess it’s ok if I’m in the mood for it. Kayla
It makes me feel stupid. I don’t ask anything and I just shake my head like I understand and say yes I get it. Emma
Sometimes I like it….sometimes I don’t. Joseph

Too often, we promote rigor as work that is only for advanced students, or work that is more (doubling the amount of homework) or harder (you already can’t do it, so here’s something that is even harder). That is NOT rigor. I’ve focused my attention on the things any teacher can do to increase the rigor of his or her class–whether it is for honors students or not. My definition of rigor: Rigor is creating an environment in which each student is expected to learn at high levels, each student is supported so he or she can learn at high levels, and each student demonstrates learning at high levels (Blackburn, 2008).

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