What Exactly is Rigor in the Classroom?


Research is bountiful on the topic of rigor, and this is an extremely brief overview. Having a basic working understanding, and then reflecting on our own strengths and challenges will help us search out exactly what we need.

Rigor is NOT more or extra. It is not more homework or extra problems. This is a common misunderstanding among teachers and parents alike.

Rigor IS part of quality instruction. It is weaved throughout every curricular area. Differentiation is part of providing rigor, as it is with everything we teach, therefore no students are excluded.

Rigor covers the three areas of teaching: Content, Instructional Practice, and Assessment. Here are a few phrases to help you develop a better understanding of how rigor fits into your classroom.


  • Is standards based
  • Includes basic skills and important concepts
  • Applies knowledge to problems in authentic ways

Instructional Practices include:

  • Activities that are engaging to learners
  • High demand thinking
  • Elaborated collaboration and communication
  • Intellectual risk taking

Assessments of various types

  • Assess higher order thinking
  • May include elaborated response
  • Should demonstrate a deep understanding of content

When I look at rigor and text complexity, I can see the natural connection. If we are choosing our standards aligned texts to provide complexity, they will seamlessly help develop rigorous instruction and assessments in all content areas. I wrote earlier posts that further define text complexity, and you can find them HERE and HERE.

Rigor is highly dependent on questioning, and again, there is a lot out there on that subject. Lately I’ve been working with Making Thinking Visible routines, a process developed through Harvard, that teach thinking skills. You can find a previous post about Making Thinking Visible routines HERE.

A prior post with a book suggestion: Increasing Rigor in Your Classroom

Here’s a fun place to check for classroom rigor ideas: Classroom Rigor n Pinterest 

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