A New Definition of Rigor

Rigor does not simply imply assigning more work to students or making them work more difficultly. It is the result of hard work that pushes students to reach new and exciting heights.

According to appearances, it would be more prevalent than it is. According to the Common Core State Standards, it is only mentioned four times. Teachers are frequently perplexed and concerned when they encounter a word that is not frequently encountered.

I’m talking about rigor here.

What exactly does the term “rigor” mean?

If you look through the 66 pages of ELA standards, you will find it among larger discussions about author choice, evaluating sources, and writing arguments. Mathematical standards do not include this concept.

However, rigor is the keyword:

  • “I think we should make our lesson more severe.”
  • “We need to increase the rigor with which we conduct our evaluations.”
  • “Does this book have the necessary rigor to be considered for that grade level?” says the reviewer.

All of these statements have been made to me at conferences, faculty meetings, and in casual conversations with colleagues. Even though it is a well-known phrase, I am not certain what it means in this context.

Many people are under the impression that rigor makes things more difficult. It is believed by some that it requires more effort. Some people claim they are unable to define rigor, but they can recognize it when they see it.

Teachers must strive for more specific objectives if they are to achieve rigor in their lessons. The dictionary isn’t very helpful in this situation.

A result of this understanding is the push-down/pile-on syndrome, which has become widespread. College-level textbooks are now being taught in high schools. The ideas and works that were previously assigned to high school students are now being tackled by middle school students. Elementary students are now required to complete 20 minutes of homework per night. This is a form of cruelty on their part.

The term “rigor” is not defined in the text. It is a result of the actions of the students. The level of rigor varies from curriculum to curriculum. Each student has a distinct personality. It is not measured in terms of how many hours are crammed into a single school day, but rather in terms of depth and comprehension.

Rigor is not a cause, but rather a result of hard work.

Rigor and David Foster Wallace

We only have to look at the work of David Foster Wallace, a great novelist from the twentieth century. In 1994, he was a part-time English 102 (Literary Analysis and Prose Fiction) instructor at Illinois State University. Following the Common Core, he should exclude the heavyweights of literature from his course syllabus. No Hamlet. There is no punishment, and there is a crime. There will be no Canterbury Tales.

Instead, he was required to read Mary Higgins Clark’s Where Are the Children? and Thomas Harris’ Silence of the Lambs, both of which were published in the same year. Carrie by Stephen King and Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry was also included on the list. The fact that someone with a reputation for being pretentious may have picked up a few tips on rigour is quite interesting to contemplate. Foster-Wallace penned the following:

It’s right in front of you. The ability to challenge students’ thinking in novel and exciting ways results in rigour. This occurs when students are challenged to comprehend fundamental concepts and motivated by a desire to learn more about what they don’t already know.

Foster-syllabus Wallace’s makes it clear that his course is not what the majority of people would expect it to be like. Literary Theory and heavy-duty literary criticism will not be included. Foster-Wallace has a more broad and practical goal of assisting students in their academic endeavours.

Let us strive for more than simply making things difficult for our students. Let’s get them to the point where they are encouraged and engaged, and where they are confronted with important problems and ideas. Let’s see if we can broaden their perspective. Let their intelligence be the star of the show. Let us cultivate a passion for in-depth knowledge.