Monday, April 27, 2015

Rigor & Engagement in the classroom #YourEduStory

Topic: What does rigor and engagement look like in the classroom?

Apparently, I skipped this week so I'm going back in time to last week's topic.

According to Webster's Dictionary, rigor is severity or strictness, accuracy or thorough, and/or demanding and difficult. Engagement is the act of being busy.

However, when you ask a teacher to define those terms, engagement is usually the level of student attention and excitement - a similar definition, but still very different. Likewise, rigor is usually defined as how challenging a course is. In education, the two terms go together. We say classes that are more rigorous are more engaging and are, therefore, more stimulating and worthwhile. Though, this is not always the case.

This is when I like to go back to the definition of each word. Engagement is really just the act of being busy. So, yes, a course that is more rigorous is usually more engaging. However, that does not mean the course is actually more stimulating or worthwhile. The latter is only something our own assumptions have added. A difficult course is not always more worthwhile just as a less difficult course is not always mind-numbing.

In fact, how we define rigor and engagement needs to change. The educator's definition is different than the dictionary, which is different than our students' definition. We cannot equate more work or higher intensity to improved learning. And, we cannot link being busy to higher learning outcomes.

We can, however, take pieces of each. For instance, in the best  classrooms I step into, students are busy CREATING. They are not just busy. They are engaged or focused in their creation. They are being imaginative. They are connecting multiple subjects. They is no one way to learn in the class. The class is built for many learners of varying levels. Learning is something you do, not achieve.

The more we focus on learning as an achievement and not as a daily action, we lose what rigor and engagement must be in the classroom.

I love the makerspace, PBL, design-thinking (and other similar ones) models that focus on creation, critical thinking, communication, and collaboration. Students are now ACTIVELY engaged in a challenging curriculum that is not solely keeping them busy, but is helping them become critical thinkers, global communicators, and creators.

What do engagement & rigor look like in your classroom?

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