Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Rigor and Relevance: The Stuff of Common Core

If you're in education, you've heard of the Common Core State Standards.  If this is new to you, well, wow! you had better get on board because this train is coming!

This blog will host a series of posts about Common Core.  Some by me; perhaps some by others I can recruit who know more than I do about Common Core. 

The conversation about Common Core isn't new.  There are rafts of blogs and articles about Common Core, so this is simply one more resource.  Perhaps I can provide some service by consolidating, analyzing, summarizing, and other Common Core-like activities.

Rigor and relevance.  These are two of the topics discussed almost any time someone mentions Common Core.  Why?  There are lots of statistics that point to why, but let's start with something more engaging.

So that's a perspective on rigor.  What does it mean?  It means that a lot of educators struggle to understand what rigor is and what it looks like in the classroom.  I like to ask teachers what they think teaching with rigor feels like, which puzzles them.  I want to know if they think "rigor" means "more strenuous."  Most educators know that rigor doesn't mean more pages, more work, or more problems, and most educators realize that rigor requires more complexity, more time, and more critical thinking.  What they don't know is how to make that happen.  Ahhh, that would be strategies and different ways of looking at instructional practice and different ways of thinking about student learning.

What about relevance?  Well, there are a couple of ways to look at relevance.  Let's start with another example that might be more engaging.

Now you may be wondering why I insisted on italicizing the word "engaging."  I did it because we use that word a lot and, as we learned in Princess Bride, we have to be sure the word means what we think it means.  We want students to be engaged in their learning, but just because a lesson seems interesting, even entertaining or just because students seem to be focused or busy doing something does not mean they are learning.

You might now be wondering what rigor and relevance actually are and how that might look in a classroom, what that experience might be or seem like from a teacher's perspective.  And that's what I hope to begin to pursue in the next blog post.

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