Academic Rigor in the College Classroom

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 a 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:283914

Essay on Academic Rigor and Relevance

It is possible to combine academic rigor with real world relevance in the college classroom by integrating scholarly research and inquiry, interactive and problem-solving learning and an understanding of diverse cultures and viewpoints. The successful classroom is one where students enjoy learning, accept responsibility for their own learning process and are capable of integrating their new knowledge and skills in multiple ways outside the classroom. Research has shown us that students learn better and more efficiently when they take an active role in their own learning process and understand the relevance of their learning for a lifetime of productive living and working. Therefore, the effective classroom is one where interactive learning and problem-solving takes place at both the theoretical and practical levels, thus promoting intellectual independence which is the ultimate goal of education.

We need to teach and encourage our students to continue to learn on their own, to solve problems and to find answers both inside the classroom and out. In addition, as professors and/or administrators in a major research institution, we not only should strive to be dedicated and talented classroom teachers, but must have experience conducting scholarly research in our particular areas of expertise. In order to stimulate one’s own intellectual vigor and that of one’s students, it is imperative to strive to critique, analyze, generate and integrate new and existing knowledge into the curriculum.

Finally, as our students’ academic leaders, we must have practical experience in and an understanding and tolerance of the diversity of peoples, cultures and viewpoints. This understanding should be expected of our students and should be one of the underlying educational goals of a college curriculum campus-wide. We need to encourage our students to have a continuing commitment to learning throughout life, in order to thrive both in the work environment and outside and to interact intellectually and humanely in an increasingly complex and diverse global society.