Rigor, Relevance & GPA


A couple of weeks ago, our school participated in Instructional Rounds. Administration from our Central Office along with colleagues from nearby districts walked through a sample of our classrooms. Reading their comments / findings was interesting. 100% of teachers were doing something – working hard – teaching. 90% had agendas or I can… statements posted in their rooms. Students were doing what they were supposed to be doing – does this mean they were engaged or being compliant? 75% of questions being asked were in the bottom 2 levels of Blooms. That means 25% of what was observed was “rigorous”, I guess???

The following day we had PD – Rigor, Relevance & Congruent Tasks. We were asked to define Rigor…well, most of us felt Rigor was different for different students / tasks – but all agreed – it was just beyond the reach – some struggle may have to take place – not knowing something but making connections to what we can already do.

Using Etymology…where do these words come from?

Rigor “to be stiff” – does that mean, we may need to loosen up before we can actually accomplish a task? learn something?  It may not be accomplished on our first try???

Relevance – congruity, appropriateness, agreement, pertinent to the matter at hand – okay I get that – are the tasks I’m choosing meaningful and do they lead to the standard I have chosen?

The presenter mentioned a professor from graduate school – I shuttered – it was the same professor in my very first education class. I even shuttered aloud – uhhhhhhh and the presenter laughed.  Not good memories – I struggled in that course. It was not easy. But as I sat throughout the morning – I had vivid memories of lectures, activities and discussions. I remembered specific things from an Intro to Ed, Monday night-class 20+ years ago. Ask me about other Ed courses – I cannot say much. My last course before my semester of student teaching – we discussed a lot – student lead learning, research. But beyond those 2 courses in undergraduate, very little is recalled. But in both of the courses, my professors challenged me to think – they challenged my views / previous knowledge and experiences. I had a voice, they listened, they responded, usually with questions.  I may not have understood it then.  I certainly didn’t appreciate it then, but I now realize, I learned a lot under both professors.

In the past 3 years, I am realizing I am a guide. I am learning to listen to my students’ conversations. I am learning to ask questions beyond factual, yes/no levels. I can at least ask them what made them respond that way OR if they agree/disagree with a classmate.

Our discussions on rigor/relevance have really gotten me to thinking…wondering how I can improve, make learning worthwhile for my students.

A tweet from @AmberDCaldwell earlier this evening really resonated with me and my struggle to convince students,

I need all my students to read this! Student regrets getting high grades. A must read!! An A+ Student Regrets His Grades…

Again, a post from Emergent Math last month The Struggle for Productive Struggle – take time to read/listen to the NPR link he provides.

As I look through tasks from MARS, PARCC, Balanced Assessment, Illustrative Math – its obvious a classroom of 2 examples, practice these, check, quiz and move on to the next concept is not a prescription for success. I have wonderful students – but I don’t want them to do/think because I said so.

I want them to be able to think on their own, to feel challenged – yet without feeling a need to give up. I want them to feel comfortable asking questions, sharing their thoughts / ideas – even acknowledging their mistakes.
I want them to be able to listen to others’ ideas – and decide for themselves if they agree or not.
I want them to notice cool patterns in math – that its not just a bunch of worksheets and unrelated problems in a textbook.
I want them to recall things we discussed prior to this lesson because they developed an understanding deeper than just the surface.
I want them to be able to make those connections on their own (me only as a guide) and move forward.
I want them to be able to learn/be productive without me telling them when, what and how to do so.
I want them to value success because they’ve worked hard to earn it.

I want them to value learning – and realize “they are not defined by their GPA.”

4 responses »

  1. I was just thinking about this topic – I’m still a student teacher in my last quarter of my program, and I’m stressing about grades on both ends, for me and for my students. I know learning is the goal, but I still have been trained otherwise for my entire life and throughout society. How can we deprogram our students if we can’t ourselves?

    • Its a toughy. 3 years ago, I read O’Connor’s book 13 fixes for broken grades – it made me think about what my grades really meant. Its a quick read that will cause you to pause / reflect. I wished I’d known then – where you are – what I know now…I feel that I’ve cheated so many students and their learning because I did what I thought was right – because that’s the way I learned/was graded. Being aware and wanting your grades to really mean something – is a great place to be. I like SBG but only used a modified version due to school policy. Read the book – it will at least start to deprogram your views…

      • This is just the growing/evolution of the teaching profession. Teachers like you pass on the knowledge they have learned to the next generation. If we look back twenty years, forty years, schooling has changed so much. Grading from a glance is really shallow – perhaps, with time (?) we can use portfolios and such to track true learning and growth over time. Until then, people like to say numbers and data for something much more complex than they’d like to believe.

  2. Pingback: grades (inside and out) | for whom the bell rings

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