Strengthening Rigor in STEM- Defining Rigor in the Classroom

Strengthening Rigor in STEM- Defining Rigor in the Classroom

Merriam Webster has many definitions for rigor.  Among the most relevant are:

1: a (2) :  the quality of being unyielding or inflexible   b :  an act or instance of strictness, severity, or cruelty  3:  a condition that makes life difficult, challenging, or uncomfortable

Yuck! That doesn’t really sound like how we want our children to learn- unyielding or inflexible- or become contributing members of society.  So, in the sense of education, what does rigor actually mean?
According to Barbara Blackburn, author of Rigor is not a Four Letter Word, rigor is:
creating an environment in which each student is expected to learn at high levels, and each is supported so that he or she can learn at a high level, and each student demonstrates learning at a high level.

Achieving this definition in the classroom then consists of three basic parts- the content, the instruction, and the achievement.  Most teachers have little to no control over the curriculum, but we try to make each standard as engaging as possible through instruction.  The high-quality instruction that students participate in helps them to take charge of their learning through collaboration and reflection.  When these basic parts intersect, students excel.

Now that we’ve defined rigor, it is probably becoming clearer how rigor looks in the classroom.  Before we talk about what rigor looks like, we should talk about what it isn’t.  Rigor is not:

  • more homework
  • “doing” more
  • only for accelerated students
  • something else on top of everything else

So how does rigor look in the classroom?  Rigor is:

By establishing and strengthening rigor in the classroom, students will become stronger and more critical thinkers and will become better collaborators and learners.

Lane specializes in STEM education, curriculum design and professional development and makes teachers’ lives easier through innovative, standards-based STEM lessons.