Academic rigor defines the lesson as something more than just the curriculum or its content. An academically rigorous lesson challenges students with depth and complexity. It explores and constructs new knowledge. It motivates students to think outside the box; to push the boundaries of their thinking. Academic rigor begins with a teacher who has high expectations for their students and creates an array of engaging activities.
Why does it matter whether students are engaged in rigorous learning? Engaging the brain in rigorous learning is simply a matter of neuroplasticity. When students are challenged, their brains are building new neural connections. By demanding higher-level thinking, we increase the potential for more creative problem-solving, better executive function, deeper reflection, and intellectual growth. Failure to provide academic rigor for GT students can severely limit potential individual growth. These students can easily become bored with school and in worse case scenarios, lose motivation and drop out altogether.
There are a myriad of reasons why school districts may not offer more rigorous courses beginning with the lack of teachers certified to teach the classes. Unfortunately, in some areas there is a mindset among school boards and parents that more rigorous classes are not necessary. There is also a misperception that if coursework is too rigorous, it will affect students’ test scores. For a school with a majority of its students working well-below grade level, will more rigor result in more failure and increase retention rates?
Can refining differentiation, AP classes, or dual-enrollment provide the necessary degree of rigor needed by GT students? Simply labeling options as rigorous does not ensure that they are in fact rigorous. An AP class which teaches to the test may offer little rigor for GT students. Dual-enrollment classes through local community colleges may not provide rigor beyond an advanced high school course. Classes in which teachers must differentiate instruction and curriculum for a wide array of ability levels may not be adequately differentiated for high-ability students.
Strategies to cultivate a climate with academic rigor include requesting students to explain their problem-solving thought processes; pre-test to determine student knowledge; eliminate repetition; Socratic seminars; and expect advance vocabulary. Rigorous classroom should be student-centered; use authentic assessments; connect learning to real-life context; emphasize critical thinking; provide for student choice and learning opportunities based on ideas; and cultivate curiosity. Teachers can increase rigor by teaching cognitive and metacognitive skills; organize their curriculum to look at big ideas and concepts; and provide exposure to events outside the classroom.
How do teachers get students to a place where they are engaged, but not overstretched? There needs to be a point of equilibrium when it comes to rigor in the classroom. Pushing a student too far beyond their capabilities for an extended period of time may cause the student to lose motivation. Students should be exposed to tough problems – those not easily solved – on a regular basis but with teach directed strategies which keep students engaged and willing to persist in finding solutions.
A transcript of this chat can be found at our Wakelet page.
Global #gtchat Powered by the Texas Association for the Gifted and Talented is a weekly chat on Twitter. Join us Thursdays at 8E/7C/6M/5P in the U.S. and Fridays at 1PM NZDT/11AM AEDT/1AM UK to discuss current topics in the gifted community and meet experts in the field. Transcripts of our weekly chats can be found at Wakelet. Our Facebook Page provides information on the chat and news and information regarding the gifted community. Also, checkout our Pinterest Page and Playlist on YouTube.
About the author: Lisa Conrad is the Moderator of Global #gtchat Powered by TAGT and Social Media Manager of the Global #gtchat Community. She is a longtime advocate for gifted children and also blogs at Gifted Parenting Support. Lisa can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Searching for Rigor – Identifying Practices of Effective High Schools (pdf) | The National Center on Scaling Up Effective Schools
School Leadership Strategies for Classroom Rigor (pdf) | Eye on Education
Academic Rigor: You’re Doing It Wrong and Here’s Why | The Edvocate
Teaching for Rigor: A Call for a Critical Instructional Shift (pdf) | Learning Sciences Marzano Center
Rigor and Assessment in the Classroom (pdf) | Instructional Leader Texas Elementary Principals and Supervisors Association
Teachers’ Perspectives and Development of Academic Rigor: An Action Research Study (pdf) | Dissertation University of Bridgeport
Understanding and Reporting on Academic Rigor (pdf) | The Hechinger Institute on Education and the Media Columbia University
The Relationship Between Project-Based Learning and Rigor in STEM-Focused High Schools (pdf) | The Interdisciplinary Journal of Problem-based Learning
Gifted Children Often Don’t get the Challenge They Need | Vanderbilt Peabody College
How to Increase the Rigor in Online Assignments for Gifted Learners | Broward Schools
Graphic courtesy of Lisa Conrad.
Many, if not most, school districts will rely on some type of remote (during COVID outbreaks) or hybrid learning in the coming school year. Gifted education needs to be integrated into any programs offered to GT students. Gifted education specialists and coordinators will be key to advocating for and implementing any program offered during the ongoing pandemic. Less than a generation ago, it would have been unconceivable and mostly unwanted to provide gifted education either remotely or in a hybrid situation. The past 18 months have changed many attitudes to the possibilities it may offer.
Disruption in all areas of education has entered its third year, and early resolutions for identifying GT students for services may no longer apply. Simply delaying the process cannot be the answer. The need for professional development in the area of gifted education has taken on new urgency. Traditional sources for identifying GT students have been put on hold, and concerns about teacher bias have been raised. Gifted education specialists and coordinators can consider identification based on rolling admissions rather than as the result of collection of data at one point in time. Assessments should occur as time becomes available throughout the school year.
Online learning existed long before the pandemic to provide enrichment & accelerated opportunities as well as to meet the needs of rural gifted students. Research-based procedures can be applied to today’s hybrid and remote learning situations. Remote and hybrid learning provide an opportunity for faculty and staff to expand collaboration, reimagine co-teaching, and to extend professional learning to include gifted education. In schools with limited gifted education faculty, involvement with students may need to include coordinators who previously only interacted with staff. Specialists can support classroom teachers to develop differentiated instruction.
What can gifted education specialists do to create authentic independent learning experiences for GT students during remote learning? Authentic learning experiences begin with removing barriers that prevent GT students from realizing their goals. Internet access, culturally responsive teaching, and promoting student voice and choice are important factors. Specialists and coordinators can work closely with classroom teachers to provide opportunities for students to connect with faculty, experts in their areas of interest, and intellectual peers. Online tools can be utilized to provide authentic audiences, capture student voice, and facilitate peer interactions both locally and globally.
Providing online professional learning has become paramount in the era of COVID19. Most PD and educational conferences moved quickly to online platforms. In many ways, it increased the availability of high-quality PD to a wider audience. Gifted education coordinators now have an opportunity to share instructional strategies, guidance on the SEL needs of gifted students, and to increase staff capacity of who are knowledgeable about gifted education in a virtual environment. GT coordinators can facilitate growth through such means as a “systematic, job-embedded book study process that includes the elements of study, select, implement, analyze, & adjust (Fugate & Bower 2019)”.
How can gifted education specialists and coordinators support families during remote learning? Gifted education specialists and coordinators can communicate with families to help them balance the demands uniquely associated with the pandemic – working from home or even job loss, home-schooling, and trauma. They may need to facilitate extraordinary opportunities for GT learners such as flipped learning for students who have added family responsibilities (i.e., caring for younger siblings) during the normal school day.
A transcript of this chat may be found at Wakelet.
Global #gtchat Powered by the Texas Association for the Gifted and Talented is a weekly chat on Twitter. Join us Thursdays at 8E/7C/6M/5P in the U.S. and Fridays at Noon NZST/10AM AEST/1AM UK to discuss current topics in the gifted community and meet experts in the field. Transcripts of our weekly chats can be found at Wakelet. Our Facebook Page provides information on the chat and news and information regarding the gifted community. Also, checkout our Pinterest Page and Playlist on YouTube.
About the author: Lisa Conrad is the Moderator of Global #gtchat Powered by TAGT and Social Media Manager of the Global #gtchat Community. She is a longtime advocate for gifted children and also blogs at Gifted Parenting Support. Lisa can be contacted at: gtchatmod@gtchatmod
AIG Remote Learning Resources | North Carolina Department of Public Instruction
Coping With the Stress of COVID-19: Tips for Families with Gifted Children (YouTube 9:13) | The Amend Group
Profoundly Gifted Students’ Perceptions of Virtual Classrooms | Gifted Child Quarterly
Impact of Internet Connection on Gifted Students’ Perceptions of Course Quality at an Online High School (pdf) | Dissertation Boise State University (2020)
The Perceived Appeal, Challenge, and Learning Choice for Gifted and Talented Students in Advanced Placement Mathematics Courses | Dissertation Pepperdine University (2019)
Reopening Schools after the COVID-19 Lockdown | Journal of Global Health
Learning at Home Resources: Ideas for Teachers and Parents | Lisa Van Gemert
Gifted Enrichment Online Resources | Kentucky Association for Gifted Education
6 Steps to Prepare for Blended Virtual Learning | Lisa Van Gemert
How to Make Distance Learning Engaging | Lisa Van Gemert
Learning at Home Resources: Ideas for Teachers and Parents | Lisa Van Gemert
Nothing Can Stop Me | Wisconsin Association for Talented and Gifted
COVID-19 Resources for Parents | Programs for Talented Youth Vanderbilt University
Just in Time – 20 Terrific Free Content Resources | Briand Housand
Professional Learning | College Board AP Central
Thoughts on Parenting Differently Wired Kids through a Pandemic (Audio 14:22) | Tilt Parenting
Graphic courtesy of Lisa Conrad.