Having started a blog on my school Web site several years ago, I decided to branch out and begin sharing my thoughts, reflections, resources, cool finds and news on a bigger scale.
First, an explanation: 3Rs4Teachers???? In the past year, I have had multiple opportunities to reflect on and write about my beliefs regarding what is critical in education. Repeatedly, three terms surfaced in my writing: “rich”, “relevant” and “rigorous”–these have become my 3 Rs. Purposefully designed instruction in which teachers and students use a RICH array of resources to learn, practice and produce RELEVANT knowledge and products in ways that are RIGOROUS will lead to graduating citizens ready to take on their roles in our global society.
Let’s clear something up right away. Rigorous does not mean simply assigning “more” work. Nor does it mean making student activities and assessments “harder”. Perhaps an anecdote will help clarify: one of my son’s middle school teachers proudly proclaimed at back-to-school night that his classes were “rigorous.” As proof, he cited the fact that virtualy no one earned As on his tests. That’s NOT rigor–that’s a mismatch between the teaching and learning going on in the room and the assessments the students then suffer. I’m not sure what the class lessons, in-class activities and homework were supposedly preparing the students for, but it was clearly not for the teacher’s tests, which were, of course, all traditional pen-and-paper and did not require students to apply concepts to real-world problems or scenarios. Strike two for lack of relevance. I think you get the picture.
So, what is rigor? For my students, rigor and relevance are almost always inextricably linked: worksheets practicing new vocabulary and new verb conjugations may be necessary, but they are neither rigorous nor relevant. So, as soon as they are ready, students are called upon to use their language skills in multiple scenarios reflecting real-world application of the content. In every case, this means that it is not enough to have known the most recent material we have been practicing: they need to draw upon all of the language they have learned since the first day of French 1 in order to accomplish the task. Often, they may also draw upon skills learned in English and arts classes and concepts studied in the social sciences to achieve the objective. They may need to select and use Web 2.0 tools in order to produce their final product. By demanding that students combine knowledge from multiple lessons and even multiple disciplines, teachers can better replicate the degree of resource and knowledge variety that will be required of them in “real life.” Project-based learning is just one way teachers infuse rich resources, relevance and rigor into teaching and learning. Web 2.0 tools help teachers provide additional resources for supporting student learning (by using tools to “flip” their classroom) and also for showcasing student achievement.
But the current difference in many classrooms between “real” life, and what therefore must be “fake life” going on in classrooms every day is the subject of another post.
Next up….I’ll repost my previous blogs that were originally only on my school Web site. That seemed easier than rewriting them!