Hello peers and anyone else who ventures to my ‘educational’ page! This is my first blog post as part of the assignment requirements for winter 2017 class ELE505. I decided to create a ‘new’ blog rather than use my gluten free blog that I had previously created for a different course requirement. I thought that perhaps I may (or may not) use this blog for my future classroom.
One of our assignments for ELE505 was to write a paper on rigor in our current educational environments. I am publishing my thoughts below and I hope you enjoy.
How is rigor, and healthy assessment, incorporated in the elementary classroom while enthusiasm is peaked?
The big question for this paper is what is rigor? I’ve commonly heard the term rigor used when speaking about a workout, as in “I had a rigorous workout” or as a descriptor of a day as in, “I’ve had a rigorous day.” Or even the more unpleasant term that comes to mind when I think of rigor, rigor mortis: the rigidity of muscles after death. All three uses of the term ‘rigor’ paint for us an unyielding, relentless, perhaps more than unpleasant picture of what was experienced. It is funny to me then to be asked more specifically to discuss in this paper, “How is rigor, and healthy assessment, incorporated in the elementary classroom while enthusiasm is peaked?” How can a term with such negative intonations be associated with a classroom while expecting enthusiasm?
This past week I had the opportunity to observe several formats of co-taught and resource classes in one of the local high schools. During conversation about the curriculum modifications with the host teacher, he mentioned that when he and the general education teacher are collaboratively planning, they make great efforts to ensure that the rigor of the content is appropriate for each student. In all honesty, this is the first time I can recall hearing the term rigor used in a professional classroom setting and I was super excited that this conversation took place during the week I was going to be writing this paper. Unfortunately, he did not expand much further on the idea of rigor.
In the Dougherty text, one of the chapters we read in the section of the book labeled, “The Basics”, clarifies what we, as educators should consider rigor. This particular text suggests that we should view rigor as having two features: “demands and qualities.” (Dougherty, 29). The text also tells us that the term rigor in the educational arena is thrown around by policymakers and educators alike but without having a real understanding of what it actual means.
As I seek out my MAT, I am concurrently working on my Special Education and ELL endorsements. In both of the supporting courses, there is consensus that teachers need to be able to reach all students through the common curriculum by making modifications and using differentiation within the classroom. It is my understanding while reading through the various suggestions on how to achieve this type of classroom setting, that a successful differentiating teacher will have reached each of her students through the connections they make to their prior knowledge and experiences that the students will be enthusiastic to learn. This comes from being able to have familiarity with the content while being able to make connections to new content and build from there.
Oftentimes this is called higher-level thinking. Which leads me to the definition on page 174 in Dougherty: “High rigor is characterized by grade-level academic challenge that includes complex demands and qualities.” To me it seems that rigor is not necessary a negative, as I had observed it to be in the introduction paragraph. Rather that rigor is a way to describe a challenging, yet attainable curriculum content that is observable through the use of various assessment methods used in the classroom.
The book by Bender on differentiating instruction even goes on to say, “expanding the range of educational activities in the traditional classroom will, in all likelihood, result in enhanced learning. . .” This sounds like rigor to me! By offering a wider variety of quality activities, which allows me to reach a broader range of students, sounds like it would make for a fun classroom, which in turn would increase the student enthusiasm. I’ve witnessed student excitement when the teacher has allowed each student to make a choice of the math activity they would like to work on. Not only did the students feel empowered by the ability to choose, they were excited to learn. The Downing book explains that student choice is an important educational concept as well, “The student needs to learn that choices he makes will be honored by those around him, empowering him to make other, more complex decisions.” (Downing, 16). Dare I say this is rigor in action?
The thought of how I can incorporate rigor and healthy assessment into my own future classroom is exciting to me. I want to be the teacher who can offer various opportunities to my students to ensure they are enthusiastic about coming to class and learning. This is exactly what education should be about! When I look back at how education was approached when I was a child, there was rigor, but the harsh, inflexible kind of rigor. What a great thing for our future students to have opportunity to experience a joyful kind of rigor that provides them relatable curriculum, high achievement opportunities, and essentially opens up a whole new world in the way of their thinking process.
Dougherty, E Assignments Matter: Making the Connections That Help Students Meet
Standards. 2012. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.
Bender, W.N. (2012). Differentiating Instruction for Students With Learning
Disabilities: New Best Practices for General and Special Educators. Corwin, A
Sage Company. Thousand Oaks, CA.
Downing, J.E. (2010). Academic Instruction for Students With Moderate and Severe
Intellectual Disabilities in Inclusive Classrooms. Corwin, A Sage Company.
Thousand Oaks, CA.