Academic Rigor-The Quality of Teaching & Learning
Rigor occurs when instructors create challenging lessons that guide (scaffold) their students to the success of the learning outcomes. Rigor requires active engagement, instructor feedback, and multiple opportunities for critical thinking in a course. In a rigorous course, learners should feel challenged while also having the scaffolding and supports in place to be successful. A strategy for establishing rigor in a course is to use Bloom’s Taxonomy action verbs that are appropriate for the course level when developing module/unit outcomes. Using this approach will guide you in selecting formative and summative assessments that meet the rigor requirements for your course. We have developed a guide that will provide more detail and direction: Academic Rigor: What is it? Why is it important? Where do I start?
For faculty, it’s all about brain work. They tend to see rigor as the interaction between critical thinking, active learning, high expectations, and meaningful content (Graham & Essex, 2001; Draeger et al., 2013).
For students, it’s all about the syllabus and the support. They tend to focus on “how much” they are asked to do and the help they get in doing it—citing things like workload, grading difficulty, clarity of instruction, and level of support (Schnee, 2008; Draeger et al. 2014; Wyse and Soneral, 2018).
Adult students, who often are taking classes online, balancing life and education, and entering college with diverse backgrounds, may have a different understanding of rigor altogether (Schnee, 2008; Campbell 2018).
Standards for Academic Rigor in Online Graduate Courses-Miami Online.
Read more about rigor and college credit.
The Power of Rubrics
A rubric is a multi-purpose scoring tool for assessing student deliverables and performances. Rubrics work in a number of ways to advance student learning, improve teaching, contribute to sound assessment, and are an important source of information for program improvement.
A well designed rubric:
- provides a scoring tool for equitable and efficient grading
- is consistent in evaluating the quality of the work from student to student
- provides detailed (substantive) feedback to students based on specific criteria efficiently and timely
- evaluate competencies and/or mastery of outcomes
A rubric consists of the following three components: criteria, levels of performance, and descriptors. Learn more about the power of rubrics by visiting Developing and Using Rubrics.
Providing substantive and timely feedback to students is essential. Well-designed courses include scaffolding activities that prepare students for summative assessments that meet the rigor expected for the course level. Giving feedback on activities and assessments helps to ensure that the course as a whole supports students in achieving the learning outcomes. In an online environment, the importance of quality feedback is heightened by the fact that the students do not have the same in-person interaction with you. Review our suggested tools and strategies for providing substantive feedback.
Authentic assessment allows students to engage in meaningful work that accurately demonstrates their competencies. It focuses on the actions students take to demonstrate mastery in your course. Asking them to simply define terms or select a multiple-choice answer on a quiz is asking the student to memorize and repeat information (traditional assessment). However, asking students to perform a task, write a paper, demonstrate a skill, role play, and even take part in a discussion gives them an opportunity to provide an authentic response. Authentic assessment asks students to demonstrate skills and knowledge by performing realistic tasks within the discipline, it provides opportunities to practice, consult resources, get feedback, and refine performances and products. Authentic assessment can be used in any type of course (face-to-face, online, or hybrid) from introductory to graduate level. This resource will support you in developing high-quality authentic assessments for your course.