What is Rigor?

educational rigor Whenever we deliver a rigor workshop, one of the first questions we get is “What is rigor?” While everyone agrees that rigorous instruction is important, few agree on what rigor is. In most cases, educators believe that they know rigor when they see it without really having a fully defined idea of what it looks like.

Rigor is a quality of instruction that requires students to construct meaning for themselves, impose structure on information, integrate individual skills into processes, operate within but at the outer edge of their abilities, and apply what they learn in more than one context and to unpredictable situations. 

Let’s examine each of these qualities of rigor more closely:

  • Construct meaning for themselves:
    Rigorous instruction goes beyond helping students memorize facts, acquire understanding of concepts, and develop basid skill proficiency. Students learn how to unpack concepts, ask interesting questions, develop their own ideas and standards of evaluation, and think critically about the content.
  • Impose structure on information:
    By imposing structure on information, students learn how to organize concepts, make connections among and between concepts, and deal with ambiguity and complexity. Doing so helps them to think accurately, consider multiple meanings and interpretations, and engage in disciplined inquiry and thought.
  • Integrate skills into processes:
    Students aren’t just asked know information or perform a skill; students are asked to develop individual thinking skills about what they are learning and then combine those thinking skills into thinking processes which they then apply to the content.
  • Apply what they learn in more than one context and to unpredictable situations:
    Rigorous instruction teaches students to use or adapt what they have learned and how they have learned to think to solve real-world problems in multiple contexts, even when the “correct” answer is unclear and they are faced with perplexing unknowns.

To learn more about rigor and how you can provide rigorous isntruction to your students:

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