37: Simple Framework for Rigor





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4 Elements to Rigor:  Student are approaching material with rigor when they …

  • make meaning for themselves
    • ask students to explain content in their own words
    • ask students to explain how content can be used to solve problems in the project and in their own lives
  • impose structure on information
    • have students organize knowledge using reflection prompts and graphic organizers
    • have students compose formal and informal written pieces about content
  • combine individual skills into complex organized processes
    • ask students how skills can be used
    • ask students to use problem solving approaches to plan out steps to a solution
    • ask students to explain the steps and rationales in their solutions
  • apply knowledge to novel situations
    • create novel situations for students to apply knowledge
    • create variety of problems for students to solve


High rigor tasks have been shown to improve learning for students at all readiness levels.  For more details, see this article.  These elements for rigor highlight key elements of understanding.  For more elements related to understanding, see this article.  This simple definition for rigor can be used to evaluate a sequence of scaffolding activities to see if they allow for a variety of rigorous learning activities.


  • Use 4 elements to design project scaffolding activities and assessments that explore key learning targets
  • Evaluate project calendar activities using 4 elements and make adjustments if needed
  • Design prompts and problems that have students explore key content using 4 elements
  • Display 4 elements in classrooms
  • Implement rigorous learning activities
  • Provide specific formative feedback to students so they can regularly improve their understandings and student work
  • Use reflections to check if students are able to apply 4 elements to what they are learning
  • Teach students the 4 elements and their connection to deep learning
  • Let student use 4 elements to evaluate the quality of their learning experiences and provide feedback on projects



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