There’s a silent war being fought in the minds of educators around the globe. To many, they hide behind an old paradigm, “if it’s difficult, it must be good.” You can’t step foot in the realm of education without hearing the words “rigor” and “difficulty” being dropped on the daily. But what do they mean? And is one truly better than the other?
I read this quote the other day: Hard Hurts; Rigor Invigorates…
Difficulty is in essence, the word “hard”. My goal as an educator isn’t to make things “hard”, but to find the best means possible of getting the most out of my students. My goal is not, necessarily, to make if more difficult for students… but to get them to see the whole picture. To research, debate, question, synthesize, and whole-heartedly understand the things we discuss… while getting lost in the process of learning.
To quote Steve Jobs, “Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.” This really sums up the whole idea of rigor. It’s not just how detailed an assignment can be, nor how impressive the “laundry list” of requirements, nor how strict the directions are to follow. Rigor is the motivation and design with which we can create an efficient and authentically designed lesson, which will in turn deliver better results.
As educators, we need to question what we really want our students to know. What should they walk away understanding, and how will they demonstrate that they know it? One thing is for certain: all students need to have the ability to ask questions in an insightful, engaging, honest, and debatable fashion. Our goal as teachers is to teach the skills behind the units that would ultimately lead to teaching rigorous thinking. This model of thinking became the basis for me teaching a gamified, self-paced, self-directed, mastery learning classroom, that emphasized the necessity of skill building. When our students walk out our doors, it isn’t the plot of The Great Gatsby that will help them make it through the working world, but the skills they build along the way. This is something we, as teachers, often forget.
Check this little snippet out about the myths of rigor:
This is a good example of where we struggle as teachers. All of the myths discussed above aren’t examples of rigor… but examples of difficulty. Making things more difficult for students is NOT making them more rigorous. Our mindset and way of thinking need to change. It’s time to hold ourselves and all of our students to a new and higher standard of rigor, defined according to 21st-century criteria. Rigor is not assigning more homework. It is assigning better homework, open-ended work that pushes kids to think in multiple ways about the tasks they’ve been assigned, and providing constructive feedback on their efforts.
This gap— between rigor and understanding, is where technology rears its head.
We have to use technology for what it is. A tool to create a better learning atmosphere that better engages our students. Michael Scott from The Office once said, “In order to truly change things and life morale, one big bolding sweep gesture is needed.” (I know this isn’t the best of sources but it is so true)