Diana Spratt

Critical Analysis #1

Rigor: A Part of the Curriculum?

What is curriculum and how is rigor a part of it? Those are good questions for teachers, parents, and school administrators. Curriculum is what teachers teach and the Common Core Standards are where the curriculum comes from. The new Common Core Standards in reading and math have been handed to the teachers in Arizona this year to digest and teach with fidelity from.

There are many assumptions that go along with the Common Core Standards. One assumption is that every student will learn the Standards at the same time. Another assumption is that there is enough time in the school year for every student to be prepared for Standardized testing, using the Standards. Yet another assumption is that the Common Core Standards are easy to implement.

The realities of these assumptions are totally different. Students in classrooms do not learn the Standards at the same time. Teachers take students at their level of learning and work to complete the Common Core Standards, showing understanding of the concepts, before the school year ends. In Assumptions, Melissa M. discussed the fact that the math curriculum pacing chart has too much to teach. “At the time of AIMS testing, there were 36 topics to teach in three weeks time.” Are students able to learn these math concepts in three weeks? I would be surprised especially if they have to show mastery. The new Common Core Standards have been changed to make them easier to teach. Teresa T. mentions in a reply to Lacy B’s., School Problems, that even though she has been teaching for four years: “…this is our third set of standards.” As a teacher, it is frustrating to correlate our teaching to one set of standards and be comfortable with it when along comes a new set of standards that are “better”.

In order for the Common Core Standards to be better, there must be rigor included. This is an approach in which teachers need to teach “deeper, not more”. Teachers hear from the pubic forum that graduating students are not prepared for college and the real world. Graduates do not know how to think critically. This is where rigor comes in. Students must be allowed to involve themselves in what they are learning. Sarah P. wrote in Assumptions in Teaching, that as soon as her students understand the concept, she: “…has them explore to get a deeper more fulfilling grasp of their knowledge.” Amanda M. found that the excitement her students felt about what she was teaching continued after the school day was over. She wrote in Assumptions in Teaching, about her students working at home on their computers to get deeper meaning about Tombstone’s history.

In conclusion, with the new Common Core Standards rigor must be implemented in order to teach critical thinking. Teachers will have to work together to find where rigor can be added to their teaching in order to deepen the student’s knowledge.

**Comments:**

Diana Spratt

Critical Analysis #2

Rigor: A Part of the Curriculum?

Rigor can be a huge part of the curriculum, but only if the teacher takes the time to make it happen. Building layers of learning, one on top of another to deepen understanding is called rigor. However, in my opinion, I feel that the concept of teaching rigor would be easier to institute in a community classroom-unlike the classrooms we see today.

A community classroom is a classroom where the students make most of the decisions of what they will learn, how they will learn it, and how they will be assessed. The teacher acts as a mentor or guide to enable the rigorous learning. This type of classroom is called Holarchy. Holarchies also focus on reciprocal relationships within the class. An example would be students working together to understand a concept. Theresa T. describes in Relationships, a reciprocal relationship is: “…strong because we support one another.” Power and control over all aspects of the classroom and learning are shared among the students, which builds individuality and responsibility.

The difference between the regular hierarchial classroom we see today and the community holarchial classroom I would like to see, is the teacher is totally in charge and the students have little say in the everyday decisions of learning. When the teacher is in charge there is no room for the student’s interests, curiosity, social growth, etc. because the curriculum is the driving force and only concern. Amanda M. described in Double Binds, “Every social studies teacher in my school says they have to pick out the important things to teach, because it’s impossible to get through the content in time.” Therefore, the students make no decisions because getting through the curriculum in time for standardized testing is all that matters. This type of classroom does not promote individuality.

The community classroom using an inquiry based curriculum would be a fantastic way to have rigorous learning. Students would be the ones who would come up with the questions they would work toward answering, investigate, argue, explore more, all which would deepen learning. The teacher would be able to work one on one, or in small groups to guide the learning as needed. This type of learning would be open ended in the amount of time it would take to reach the end goal. This is a big difference with a hierarchial classroom because the learning would only be allowed so long to complete in order to be ready for standardized testing.

This simply does not allow any time for rigor.

In conclusion, I feel the best type of classroom to teach rigor would be a community classroom. Building responsibility, individuality, interest in learning, etc. is the way to go to get students excited about learning. The students feel safe to express their individuality in the way they show their learning, working with other students in inquiry and argument, and reaching the rigor that is required in real life.

ReplyOptionsI love your analysis on rigor! We have done so many professional developments on rigor within my district; it feels like a second nature now. I agree with you wwhne you say the rigor works best in a community classroom, that is how I run my room. But, I do not think that rigor is something taught; I think it is a way to teach. It is the level of Bloom's that a teacher gets to within content. Great analysis!

ReplyOptionsDiana Spratt

Research Paper

Rigor: A Part of the Curriculum?

What is curriculum and how is rigor a part of it? Those are good questions for teachers, parents, and school administrators. Curriculum is what teachers teach and the Common Core Standards are where the curriculum comes from. The new Common Core Standards in reading and math have been handed to the teachers in Arizona this year to digest and teach with fidelity. In this research paper, I will discuss what rigor is, how rigor should be taught within the Common Core Standards, and the controversies of using technology to deepen the student’s learning.

There are many assumptions that go along with the Common Core Standards. One assumption is that every student will learn the Standards at the same time. Another assumption is that there is enough time in the school year for every student to be prepared for Standardized testing, using the Standards. Yet another assumption is that the Common Core Standards are easy to implement.

The realities of these assumptions are totally different. Students in classrooms do not learn the Standards at the same time. Teachers take students at their level of learning and work to complete the Common Core Standards, showing understanding of the concepts, before the school year ends. In Assumptions, Melissa M. discussed the fact that the math curriculum pacing chart has too much to teach. “At the time of AIMS testing, there were 36 topics to teach in three weeks time.” Are students able to learn these math concepts in three weeks? I would be surprised especially if they have to show mastery. The new Common Core Standards have been changed to make them easier to teach. Theresa T. mentions in a reply to Lacy B’s., School Problems, that even though she has been teaching for four years: “…this is our third set of standards.” As a teacher, it is frustrating to correlate our teaching to one set of standards and be comfortable with it when along comes a new set of standards that are “better”.

In order for the Common Core Standards to be better, there must be rigor included. This is an approach in which teachers need to teach “deeper, not more”. After talking to many teachers about rigor, I found that some refer to rigor as something that is not taught. It is a level of learning. I want to promote teaching rigor within subjects. For example, Karen Gallas (1994) described in her book The Languages of Learning, she used science talks and writing to clarify and expand information and insights as the students became scientific thinkers. She wrote: “Writing and talking about difficult ideas, building theories, asking questions-their stance as students of science changed to value their own role as thinkers and knowers.” (p. 77) The students learned to use rigor to discuss with their classmates the ideas they were learning about-no matter the subject.

Teachers hear from the pubic forum that graduating students are not prepared for college and the real world. Graduates do not know how to think critically. This is where rigor comes in. Students must be allowed to involve themselves in what they are learning. Sarah P. wrote in Assumptions in Teaching, that as soon as her students understand the concept, she: “…has them explore to get a deeper more fulfilling grasp of their knowledge.” Amanda M. found that the excitement her students felt about what she was teaching continued after the school day was over. She wrote in Assumptions in Teaching, about her students working at home on their computers to get deeper meaning about Tombstone’s history. With the new Common Core Standards rigor must be taught in order to enable critical thinking. Teachers will have to work together to find where rigor can be taught in order to deepen the student’s knowledge.

Rigor can be a huge part of the curriculum, but only if the teacher takes the time to make it happen. Building layers of learning, one on top of another to deepen understanding is another way to look at rigor. However, in my opinion, I feel that the concept of teaching rigor would be easier to institute in a community classroom-unlike the classrooms we see today.

A community classroom is a classroom where the students make most of the decisions of what they will learn, how they will learn it, and how they will be assessed. The teacher acts as a mentor or guide to enable the rigorous learning. This type of classroom is called Holarchy. Holarchies also focus on reciprocal relationships within the class. An example would be students working together to understand a concept. Theresa T. describes in Relationships, a reciprocal relationship is: “…strong because we support one another.” Power and control over all aspects of the classroom and learning are shared among the students, which builds individuality and responsibility.

The difference between the regular (hierarchical) classroom we see today and the community (holarchical) classroom I would like to see, is in a regular classroom the teacher is totally in charge and the students have little say in the everyday decisions of learning. When the teacher is in charge there is no room for the student’s interests, curiosity, social growth, etc. because the curriculum is the driving force and only concern. Amanda M. described in Double Binds, “Every social studies teacher in my school says they have to pick out the important things to teach, because it’s impossible to get through the content in time.” Therefore, the students make no decisions because getting through the curriculum in time for standardized testing is all that matters. This type of classroom does not promote individuality.

The community classroom using an inquiry based curriculum would be a fantastic way to have rigorous inquiry based learning. Students would be the ones who would come up with the questions, investigate, argue, explore more, all which would deepen learning. In The Languages of Learning, Karen Gallas (1994) describes a community of learning seen in, “…the primacy of expression and creative thinking as goals that serve all children, that push their boundaries of thinking and communication, and jostle the teacher’s boundaries in much the same way.” (pp. xvii-xix) The teacher would be able to work one on one, or in small groups to guide the learning as needed. This type of learning would be open ended in the amount of time it would take to reach the end goal. This is a big difference from a hierarchical classroom because the learning would only be given a limited amount of time to complete in order to be ready for standardized testing. This simply does not allow any time for rigor.

Since the best type of classroom to teach rigor in is a community classroom, students would build responsibility, individuality, interest in learning, etc. as the way to get students excited about learning. The students feel safe to express their individuality in the way they show their learning, working with other students in inquiry and argument, and reaching the rigor that is required in real life.

Technology is controversial in several ways: teacher’s fear of the unknown, the cost of technology, using technology to broaden the student’s learning, to name a few. There are many types of technology used in the classroom such as laptop computers, interactive whiteboards, iPads, blogs, and Skype. I am sure more types of technology tools are around or are on the horizon.

Robert Marzano studied teachers using Promethean interactive whiteboards (Marzano & Haystead, 2009) and found that; “…in general, using interactive whiteboards was associated with a 16 percentile point gain in student achievement.” For schools and school districts, this is very impressive because their whole focus is to raise standardized test scores. Betsy Weigle writes in Teaching with Technology, technology is “…the most automatically engaging approach to student instruction that exists.” Since this is true, why would a teacher not want to use technology to deepen the student’s learning? The Internet alone would enable a student to research any topic he/she had a question about. With the guidance of the teacher to assist with any technology problems or questions about sites, there is an endless amount of access for the student.

Surprisingly, the idea of using technology in the classroom does have teachers who do not want to use it. Some teachers are afraid they would not be able to use it to the best of their ability. Ability being the operative word. It takes time to understand how to use new technology. Many teachers would need hands on time before school was in session in order to become technology “fluent”. This is on top of understanding how to incorporate the curriculum. Mary Beth Hertz (2011) wrote in Embracing Continuous Improvement with EdTech, “Just as a teacher has to re-think his or her classroom structure to incorporate a new element such as guided reading or math manipulatives, a teacher trying to incorporate and truly integrate technology in the classroom must reflect, fail, and try again.” Failure is the scariest part of technology and teaching. The world of today has our students using technology on a daily basis and we as teachers must involve their learning in the same manner.

The implications of making sure rigor is embedded in the curriculum can be seen through our students having critical thinking skills. Teachers will have to find a way to teach rigor because I do not feel it is automatic when it comes to a state’s curriculum. If it were automatic, we would not hear about high school students leaving school without the ability to think critically. If the standards guide our teaching, teachers must teach rigor and using technology makes it easier.

References

Gallas, K. (1994). The Languages of Learning. New York and London: Teachers College Press.

Hertz, M.B. (2011). Embracing Continuous Improvement with EdTech.

http://www.edutopia.org. Last accessed June 22, 2012.

Martinez, M. (2012). Assumptions. http://schoolsteachersparents.wikidot.com/forum/c-565369/eci-696-summer-2012. Last accessed June 22, 2012.

Marzano, R. J., & Haystead, M. (2009). Final Report on the Evaluation of the Promethean Technology. Englewood, CO: Marzano Research Laboratory.

McIntyre, A. (2012). Assumptions in Teaching and Double Binds.

http://schoolsteachersparents.wikidot.com/forum/c-565369/eci-696-summer-2012. Last accessed June 22, 2012.

Puchala, S. (2012). Assumptions in Teaching. http://schoolsteachersparents.wikidot.com/forum/c-565369/eci-696-summer-2012. Last accessed June 22, 2012.

Thompson, T. (2012). School Problems and Relationships. http://schoolsteachersparents.wikidot.com/forum/c-565369/eci-696-summer-2012. Last accessed June 22, 2012.

Weigle, B. (2010-2012). Teaching with Technology. http://www.classroom-teacher-resources.com. Last accessed

June 22, 2012.

ReplyOptionsVery interesting paper! I have heard the term rigor, but never used it at my school or researched it before. I like the references that you used and how they fit your arguments. Good job!

ReplyOptionsDianna,

We haven't used the term rigor at our school either. But, teaching things in depth, I would agree is important. You mentioned teachers that said they must pick out the most important things and teach that because of lack of time. This is a huge problem. I don't understand why there are so many standards and why policy-makers expect teachers to get through them all with student master as a goal. I also agree with you that students need to learn critical thinking skills.

ReplyOptions