A Student’s ability to Conduct Academic Research

The term “academic rigor” has been perambulating its way through educational circuits, but many teachers are not familiar with the concept or how to support rigor within their classrooms. Understanding rigor is essential for understanding how to approach and measure student learning. It questions the standards we demand from our students and reconsiders exactly what we consider as true achievement.

“Rigor,” in the academic sense, is referring to that fine line between challenging and frustrating a student. It means that students are challenged to think, perform, and grow to a level that they were not at previously. It means that students must work, like an athlete at a team practice, to build their skills, understanding, and thinking power so that they can achieve at higher and higher levels. It means that the standards of the course are calibrated so that students are compelled to grow but are not frustrated and overwhelmed in the process.

Academic rigor is commonly thought of in three different phases of the educational process. The first is setting the standard for students; the second is equipping students through instructional and supportive methods; the third is student demonstration of achievement. These three phases were popularized by Barbara Blackburn’s 2008 book “Rigorous Schools and Classrooms: Leading the Way.”

2006 Academic Affairs Faculty Symposium Unicoi State Park and Conference Center April 14-15, 2006
TASK: In preparation for the Academic Affairs Faculty Symposium, the organizers invite you to share with fellow participants some brief reflections on the concept of academic rigor. We would appreciate receiving by Friday, April 7th, your perception of academic rigor, your personal experience with academic rigor as a teacher or student, and/or your thoughts on what faculty and the University should do to promote rigor in our academic programs

Essay ID:285816

A student’s ability to conduct rigorous and relevant academic research is built on a foundation of each respective discipline’s core content knowledge. Frequently, this foundation is best taught through a transmission model of pedagogy. Testing provides a relatively simple, and appropriate, means of assessing students’ ability to recall and apply essential content.

However, the conduct of research demands the student actively assemble, probe, and revise information into new understandings. This is a performative process. It requires an active pedagogy where students and teachers collaborate to solve problems. Unfortunately, many students, acculturated to a transmission and recall model of instruction, struggle with a shift to performative research. Yet, this shift is essential for conducting high calibre, original inquiry.

The writing process, which emphasizes the stages of writing — assemble, probe, and revise– is an excellent tool for introducing students to this shift in rigorous learning. By breaking writing down into stages of research, students can better understand what is expected of them. It allows the instructor to provide greater clarity to the process of conceptualization and articulation. By identifying problems early and allowing students to revise work, students see what is expected of them in the conduct of rigorous and relevant research. Attention to process generates superior products. Oftentimes, the shift to performative research is reserved for graduate school; sometimes it is not addressed until doctoral studies. I believe that attention to the writing process enhances undergraduate achievement as well. Engaging students in authentic performative research can begin as soon as students have declared their major.