We offer one of the most rigorous programs in the province might seem to be an overly strong and surprising statement coming from a school like ours, especially if you read our last blog post titled 'What is learning anyway?'. However, we invite you to continue to challenge the way you have always thought about education and to re-examine some of the common 'school buzz words'. Academic rigor is certainly one we have all heard used.
What does rigour mean?
Dictionary Definitions from Oxford Languages
rigour /ˈriɡər/ noun: rigour
the quality of being extremely thorough, exhaustive, or accurate.
severity or strictness. "the full rigor of the law"
demanding, difficult, or extreme conditions. plural noun: rigors; plural noun: rigours "the rigors of a harsh winter"
Which of the definitions above do you want your child's school to use?
Inspired by the Developmental Evaluation Institute (DEI)’s definition of rigour, we believe in:
Asking probing questions; thinking and engaging deeply; questioning assumptions; synthesizing and making meaning from a values inspired framework.
Using deep methodological toolkits but being flexible in their application.
Innovatively applying evaluation tools, methods and approaches to best meet the needs of key stakeholders, communities.
Encouraging the development of shared emergent and iterative questioning, reflection and action in an adaptive action cycle of inquiry such as: “What, So what, Now What”
Developing rigorous thinking that combines evidence and values to reach conclusions about quality.
Questions that support this kind of definition of rigour:
What kind of thinking are we comfortable and familiar with?
How often do we question the depth of our thinking and approach that is needed for a given situation?
What perspectives and values are we including as part of our thinking that will lead to decision-making?
Our staff and students engage with these kinds of questions every day and such foundational thinking is far beyond the all too familiar definition of educational rigour that involves extra homework, sitting quietly, memorizing curriculum objectives and achieving high scores on standardized tests.
But the quality of our thinking and decision-making is built on the platform of our emotions and perceptions. So, we also have very high expectations when it comes to teaching, supporting and modelling positive social and emotional skills for our students. Our students, staff and community members are all expected to work through problems and conflicts directly with others using the skills of empathy, innovation, self-advocacy, perspective-taking, tolerance, mutual respect and finding solutions rather than defaulting to the often easier habits of gossiping, complaining, hiding or acting out impulsively. This is extremely hard work for children and adults alike and it is indeed a messy and imperfect art by all who attempt it.
We have found that one of the best ways for children to develop these essential and foundational skills is through play and student-centred project work (see additional links at the end of this blog). It is about developing "the quality of being extremely thorough, exhaustive, or accurate" in our communications, our relationships with others and in our own self-reflection and understanding of who we are. We have to practice these inter-personal and intra-personal skills every time we want (or need) to interact with others at school, home, work and in play. When practiced and developed in a safe and caring environment, having strong inter- and intra-personal skills (often known as the 'soft skills') leads to stronger connections, higher levels of traditional academic achievement (and career satisfaction) and healthier, happier lives overall.
Rigorous thinking (especially through student-centred exploration and projects) paired with social-emotional learning (especially through play) is among the most important work we can do as educators and leads to confidence, self awareness and robust decision making. So, indeed, at the Calgary Changemaker School, it is fair to say we have an extremely rigorous educational program!