Let’s talk about Rigor! Parents expect EACS to have a rigorous curriculum and rigorous instruction in the classroom. But what exactly are we talking about when we say the word rigor? Recently, I attended a professional development seminar with EACS instructional coaches, administrators, and a Board Member focusing on rigor and Depth-Of-Knowledge (DOK). One of the topics addressed at the seminar was that the concept of rigor is often misinterpreted and misunderstood.
It is important to understand what rigor is and what rigor is not. Rigorous curriculum and instruction is challenging to the student. It involves using higher order thinking skills and pushing students to their highest level. It involves in-depth learning and presenting varying perspectives to be examined. In summary, rigorous instruction and rigorous curriculum is all about the quality of teaching and learning. Therefore, rigor, is a focus on quality. So, if that is what rigor is, what is rigor not? Rigor is not about the quantity of instruction. It does not equate to just assigning extra work to a student. In other words, just because a student may have several hours of homework to complete each evening, that does not constitute rigor.
With that working definition of rigor established, let’s now focus on Depth-Of-Knowledge (DOK) and the correlation of DOK with rigor. Norman Webb with the University of Wisconsin’s Center for Education Research has identified four levels of DOK. These four levels have been organized by Karen Hess in Hess’s Cognitive Rigor Matrix which is attached for your review. Below is a basic summary of the four levels of DOK.
DOK 1 is Recall & Reproduction. The focus in level one is the ability of a student to define, describe, recognize basic facts, and apply previous learning. DOK 2 is Skills & Concepts and involves explaining why, comparing and contrasting, showing relationships, and distinguishing between different aspects of information. DOK 3 is entitled Strategic Thinking/Reasoning. In DOK 3, students apply concepts, analyze interrelationships, give points of view, and interpret points of view. DOK 4 is Extended Thinking and challenges students to analyze complex and abstract themes, synthesize information from multiple sources, and draw and justify conclusions.
EACS parents should expect our curriculum and instruction to be rigorous and incorporate all four levels of DOK. But as your child’s first and most important teacher, what can you do as a parent to provide opportunities at home for your child to practice higher order thinking? It can be as simple as going to the movies or watching a TV show together and then initiating a conversation in which you provide opportunities for your child to think deeply. Start with DOK 1 by reviewing the facts of what you just watched together. Ask them to summarize what they learned. Then move on to the higher levels of DOK and ask them to compare and contrast the story they just watched with other movies or TV shows they have seen before. Provide them the opportunity to develop and defend their point of view and to support their position with examples of evidence. It is very likely that you already do this on the ride home in the car or around the kitchen table, but the more you challenge them to think, the greater the chance they will develop the skills they will need to be successful adults!
Dr. Kenneth H. Folks