Rigor is a concept used as a way of creating academic accountability and it suggests the need to ensure that students are actually learning. While this is a laudable goal, there are some notions within the concept of "rigor" that are both antithetical to actual learning and contrary to Capital University's and the Education Department's goals. The purpose of this page is to explore rigor and its many facets as concepts, the issues that this concept raises in the contexts of teaching and learning at Capital University, and the possibilities for creating the type of academic rigor in which true learning takes place.

Defining Rigor

As a word, rigor contains two opposing forces. The predominant concept in rigor is "difficulty," as evidenced in the definition below:

Definition of RIGOR ( from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/rigor)

1 a (1) : harsh inflexibility in opinion, temper, or judgment :severity (2) : the quality of being unyielding or inflexible :strictness (3) : severity of life : austerityb : an act or instance of strictness, severity, or cruelty2: a tremor caused by a chill3: a condition that makes life difficult, challenging, or uncomfortable; especially : extremity of cold4: strict precision : exactness <logical rigor>5 a obsolete : rigidity, stiffnessb : rigidness or torpor of organs or tissue that prevents response to stimulic : rigor mortis

Examples of RIGOR

  1. They underwent the rigors of military training.
  2. the rigors of life in the wilderness
  3. They conducted the experiments with scientific rigor.
  4. a scholar known for her intellectual rigor

Origin of RIGOR

Middle English rigour, from Anglo-French, from Latin rigor,literally, stiffness, from rigēre to be stiff. First Known Use: 14th century

Related to RIGOR

Synonyms: adversity, asperity, hardness, hardship,difficulty
Antonyms: flexibility, gentleness, laxness, mildness
Along with "difficulty," some uses of rigor suggest differing reasons for difficulty. Rigor mortis is a stiffness caused by a biological process rather than something with a moral stance behind it. Other forms of rigor can, but not always do, have a grander goal for their raison d'etre. For example, intellectual rigor suggests that when students do difficult and challenging things, they learn a lot; scientific rigor suggests that when scientific knowledge is based on careful experimentation, it is more reliable.

Without clarification, "rigor" does not differentiate between the concept of overcoming difficulties emanating from the process of setting and achieving lofty learning goals and the concept of overcoming deliberately-placed, meaningless barriers designed to create an facsimile of learning. Institutions that fail to make this differentiation are in danger of becoming irrelevant

Helpful and Problematic Concepts Within "Rigor"

"Harsh inflexibility in opinion, temper, or judgment" Inflexibility can actually impede the attainment of academic rigor. For example, the inflexible use of information sources can deny critical information to students with sensory, processing, or motor deficits. Being able to adapt information sources to these students' needs leads to them being able to meet the demands of academic rigor. Further, harsh judgments can get in the way of student learning. Cruelty, part of this aspect of rigor, has no place in education.

"A tremor caused by a chill" Not applicable

"A condition that makes life difficult, challenging, or uncomfortable; especially : extremity of cold" The example "extremity of cold" suggests that the sources of difficulty have nothing to do with the need to meet intellectual challenges. Difficulty for the sake of difficulty demotivates excellent students who can recognize it when they see it. It becomes an insurmountable barrier for students who are willing to put in the effort to succeed at real learning.

"Strict precision" This suggests learning something well enough that one develops high level skills with it. Of the several definitions given, this is the one that fits the idea of people learning something well, although it only addresses one facet of learning and probably not the most important facet.

The actual word, rigor, is not terribly applicable in the field of education unless it is modified with an adjective such as "academic" and even then, the word can lead to deception about learning. "Academic rigor" implies, at its best, that high level learning is taking place only because of its contextual use in an educational setting where real learning is valued and not because "rigor" itself is a helpful concept.

University and Departmental Missions and Goals

University and departmental missions and goals form the basis of education at the university and within the Education Department; these mission statements and goals include:

Capital University's mission statement:

Transforming lives through higher education.

By drawing upon the Lutheran principle of free inquiry, Capital University:
  • Provides for personal growth by encouraging, enabling, and celebrating learning;
  • Prepares individuals to be knowledgeable, independent, critical thinkers - educated for lives of leadership and service in an increasingly diverse society;
  • Inspires individuals to be morally reflective, spiritually alive, and civically engaged.

Education Department's mission statement:
Mission: to prepare competent, caring, and committed professionals to teach, lead, and serve diverse communities of learners.

Education Department goals:

Goal 1. Demonstrate thorough knowledge and understanding of the content to be taught
Goal 2. Engage in critical inquiry to impact professional practice
Goal 3. Demonstrate an understanding of the teaching-learning relationship
Goal 4. Demonstrate effective and culturally responsive practices to support the achievement of
all students
Goal 5. Utilize a variety of tools to clearly and effectively communicate
Goal 6. Demonstrate effective use of technology in professional practice
Goal 7. Demonstrate professional involvement
Goal 8. Apply ethics and values in professional decision-making
Goal 9. Understand and use varied assessments to inform instruction, evaluate and ensure
student learning

University and departmental goals are aligned with a particular type of rigor, one which involves learning, becoming leaders, becoming critical and ethical thinkers, being reflective, and so forth. The question becomes, how do we take the best of the idea of "academic rigor" and merge it with our existing mission and goals without losing the focus on human growth and development which are at the foundation of these goals? The following sections explore various concepts related to the word rigor and the new federal definition of credit hours which could draw the university away from the best of our mission and goals if we do not think carefully about how to apply it. Following these sections are some sections on resources that can be used in order to create academically rigorous classes that support true learning, growth, and development.

Education Department Logo Presentation

The following presentation was developed for the NCATE visit and discusses departmental values as represented in the Teacher Education logo the department has adopted:

Measures of Rigor

The problem with a word like rigor is that because the focus of the word is on the difficulty of the process rather than its content, things that are antithetical to learning begin to be valued. This problem is compounded during an era where accountability is defined in problematic ways, such as by student scores on standardized tests. Evidence of teaching, learning, and academic rigor focus on easily-obtained statistically-oriented information even if this information is at best misleading and at worst, totally false. [1] In such a context, rigor gets defined by easily-gathered numbers such as number of pages students write, number of assignments, grades, number of items in a rubric, number of grammatical mistakes, hours of homework, number of homework assignments, number of problems in homework, number of questions on a test, and so forth. A class can be made difficult in this way and be a very poor quality class as far as any real learning taking place, the kind of high quality learning in which a student's paradigms and schemas actually change in a way that is related to the subject matter of the course. [2]

An assessment is always some form of subset of what the assessment instrument or procedure purports to measure. Sometimes the subset is a substitute that is to represent an activity and sometimes it is an example of that activity. Unfortunately, easily-obtained data such as the numbers mentioned above (hours spent, pages read or written) is a poor representation of what learning is all about since these data do not differentiate between rigor as gratuitous difficulty and rigor as effort towards true learning.

Actual examples of student work, such as the collection that forms the exit portfolio, are a better assessment of rigor, since these materials reflect what a student can actually do or how he or she thinks about teaching and learning. These, of course, are a subset of all the different things a student does in a given course, but the subset of actual things is much more representative of the learning that takes place than a number-based proxy. Even within a portfolio, the quality of representation can range from problematic (multiple choice midterm or final test scores) to really strong (projects that reflect the application of ideas and skills learned).

Further, more important than the number of pages students read is the texts they read and the ways in which they read these texts. For example, is it more rigorous for students to read 500 pages from a textbook that merely quotes various research or philosophical writings or five 30-page top-level research or philosophical pieces that are foundation to an intellectual field? Is it more important to read a given number of pages or to read fewer pages but with a greater level of understanding? The number of pages read by students is a poor determinant of rigor. Even the amount of time to read a given number of pages varies drastically from one student to another.

Measures of rigor, then, not only need to reflect effort but also the qualities of where that effort is directed in order to have any value as an assessment of actual learning.

Academic Rigor and Consistency

In the world of physics, a joule is a measure of work as defined by the following formula: 1 kg·m2/s2. In this formula, a kilogram, a meter, and a second are always of the same amount across contexts as different as rocket science and electricity.

As a way of representing the complexity of teaching and learning, we have created a different formula in our presentation for NCATE (embedded above):
school(teacher + learner)/time=?
This "formula" suggests that there are three highly complex factors that intersect at the point of teaching and learning. The "answer" differs for each given human being involved and in a classroom there could be 25 different answers at every given moment.

The problem is that while subatomic particles, atoms, and molecules are consistent across contexts, schools, teachers, and learners differ drastically. There is no measure of academic rigor that can be consistent even between two students in the same class, much less across universities on a national basis. In any given classroom, some students will be able to do very high quality work in a short time while others, for whatever reasons, need hours and hours just to become adequate.

Rather, academic rigor can be qualitatively determined by course content and actual student work, including pre-class assessments that show where students are starting from in relation to where they finish the course. This kind of determination reflects the "what" of students' learning; assessing the "how much" can be done in some contexts but not in all.

Data collection in these terms involves considering intent (the course syllabus), the starting point and finishing point for each student (pre- and post-assessments), student work that reflects intermediate course goals across a semester, and the process of student learning. A rigorous course would have relatively lofty goals set out in the syllabus, robust pre- and post-assessments, a collection of student work from across the semester reflecting their progress on these goals, and documentation of what the students were doing to learn (e.g., photos, student journals, professor observations, etc.). With multiple sources of information, qualitative and quantitative data analysis can provide a "picture" of rigor in relation to course goals, department goals, university goals, and the types of learning that are professionally viable for students.

While there are no possible standardized definitions of rigor that can consistently reflect high quality teaching and learning, there are ways of understanding how a course supports student learning and how a department structures courses in relation to the needs of the field.

Academic Rigor and the Bell Curve

True academic rigor and the bell curve have nothing to do with each other. In fact, the standards of academically rigorous courses in which professors have a vested interest in students succeeding create a need for criterion-referenced assessment rather than norm-referenced assessment. In a criterion-referenced assessment system, it is possible for all students to meet the criteria, the way it is possible for all people taking a driver's license test to pass and receive a license.

Setting up a course that is made difficult for the sake of difficulty will put some students in the position of failing, and potentially grade distributions in such a class could scatter into a bell-shaped curve, but this is not a laudable goal and it does not prove that the course is truly academically rigorous. More importantly, such a class is antithetical to university and departmental goals. A focus on grade outcomes as a test for rigor during course setup creates a foundation for student failure, not just in terms of grades but also in terms of all students actually learning something. After all, if the goal is to give C's to half the students and D's and F's to another portion of students, then course requirements have to stymie the majority of students into doing work that somehow has to be determined as mediocre or worse. From the very beginning, such a class is a sham because the focus is not on actual student learning but rather using a spurious means (grades) to measure an invalid idea (academic "rigor"). This in turn becomes detrimental to the university because the majority of our graduates become mediocre.

Our accreditation is based on us providing high quality education for all our students and for all our students to become teaching professionals. Further, Capital's excellent reputation for training high quality teachers is based on the fact that the vast majority of our students learn and learn well. Finally, when a professor sets up an academically rigorous course and then scaffolds students' abilities to do well in the course, the outcome is both that all students get a good education and that the professor has succeeded in teaching not just the students who have some kind of inborn "knack" for the class but also the students for whom the class has been a struggle. This kind of success is what we are asking our students to learn to support, in a world of K-12 education where all students are expected to learn; we should do no less. It is also the kind of success that makes the work of teaching worth it.

Academic Rigor and Motivation

Daniel Pink's book, Drive, describes motivation in terms of computer operating systems. He states that "Motivation 1.0" was survival, and was operational as the predominant form of motivation up until mass production became central to human society. Once mass production developed, "Motivation 2.0" began to be much more important. This is the motivation of B.F. Skinner and company--extrinsic motivation produced through rewards and punishment. Pink suggests that when a person's job was relatively simply and boring, extrinsic motivation was effective.

Jobs are typically no longer just screwing lug nuts on automobile wheels all day. They are much more complex and they require people to have a different kind of motivation in order to do them well. This is "Motivation 3.0," which is intrinsic motivation. He then discusses how to encourage intrinsic motivation.

Encouraging intrinsic motivation does not mean that every classroom activity has to be "fun." It means that every classroom activity has to have meaning and utility. Practicing the hours per day it takes in order to succeed in Capital's Conservatory of Music is not fun, but students do it because they understand how practice contributes to being able to do what they love to do even better. Authenticity of the task rather than "busy work" leads to students having a greater amount of intrinsic motivation.

Intrinsic motivation in the digital age means focusing on higher level thinking, in relation to Bloom's taxonomy. Surely the basic knowledge has to be learned, however, we should, as quickly as possible, get to what matters about what we are teaching. The internet provides students with instant access to an unbelievable amount of information. This means that we should be judicious about what absolutely has to be learned in order to understand something and what could be looked up very quickly as part of a class discussion, group project, or individual project in order to move forward. For example, in order to understand government, students need to know that every state has a capital and what that means in relation to other governmental structures as well as for themselves as citizens. But looking up the capital of a given state is so quick, the utility of memorizing 50 states and their capitals is questionable. (What to do with the time students are not spending memorizing? Instead, students need to have all the skills required to find reliable information on the web and to differentiate between high quality information and deception; this is a place where a lot of instruction should be focused.)

When a course nurtures the development of intrinsic motivation, then the amount and quality of learning becomes true academic rigor. This is because intrinsic motivation typically leads to people choosing to put more time and effort into what they are doing.

Encouraging Intrinsic Motivation

A chart here (http://education.calumet.purdue.edu/vockell/edPsybook/Edpsy5/edpsy5_intrinsic.htm) provides a framework for developing course structures that invite intrinsic motivation.

Challenge: students set meaningful personal goals and have opportunities to work toward these goals. The goals should be in the students' individual zones of proximal development. As they work towards these goals, they need constructive, immediate feedback. The feedback should acknowledge the students' abilities to learn; instead of "you're doing a good job on that research project," constructive feedback would be: "this research looks to be comprehensive in scope [or some other specific characteristic]. Your hard work is paying off."

Curiosity: students have opportunities to explore and learn about things that they are curious about. This can mean introducing a topic with something that appears to be a conundrum or something that is really interesting. For example, the French composer Jean-Baptiste Lully was conducting his music for Louis XIV when he hit his toe with the staff he used (in those days conductors used a long staff which they hit on the floor as opposed to today's baton). The wound on his toe became gangrenous and he eventually died from it. This information can lead to some natural curiosity about who Lully and Louis XIV were as well as medicine during that period of time. Imaginative Education has a whole framework for creating lessons that encourage curiosity.

Control: students can choose aspects of their learning. Even a small amount of choice can be motivating.

Fantasy: what if the South had won the Civil War? What might have happened? In order to answer these questions, a person would need to know what did happen and why.

Competition: while competition between people can quickly become a demotivator for students who lose, competition with oneself can be both motivating and healthy.

Cooperation: there are times when a group of people can accomplish a lot more than people could working individually. Groups can allow for a lot of peer teaching and for the support necessary to take risks in trying new things.

Recognition: this is not praise from the teacher. Instead it is something a whole class can share--appreciation for the specific qualities of a person's or group's project and the hard work that went into it.

A word needs to be added about demotivators. While we cannot make someone intrinsically motivated to do something, poorly-thought-out classroom procedures and activities can throw up barriers to intrinsic motivation. For example, classroom policies that are designed for the lowest common denominator such as an excessive focus on cheating (beyond a few words pointing students to the more detailed syllabus discussion of it) leads students to the conclusion that the professor expects them to want to cheat. Inflexible rules and practices that seem to have nothing to do with the course topic can become demotivators. "Busy work" is definitely a demotivator. Students need to know how all course practices and procedures contribute to what they are learning and if a convincing argument cannot be made this way, then the practices should probably be dropped.

Intrinsic Motivation and the No Child Left Behind Generation

Traditional undergraduates currently entering Capital University have spent their entire educational career up to this point under the terms of NCLB. This means that they have been subject to many high-stakes standardized tests. While they may have had wonderful, gifted teachers, they are likely also to have had teachers whose fear for their own jobs led them to teach to the test. Some students may have been in schools where "teach to the test" was the predominant school culture.

These students may experience some difficulty with courses that focus on intrinsic motivation and self-directed learning. Does this mean we should continue the Motivation 2.0 practices in order to keep things comfortable for these students?

Our graduates are going into a very difficult job made even more challenging by wage freezes, public denigration of teachers in the media, and continued "accountability" for teachers through standardized testing of students.

People who are extrinsically motivated should not go into the field of teaching. Children's educational needs are just too complex for them to be exposed to teachers who are in the business for "June, July, and August." The work of real teaching is far too intense for people who are not highly motivated within themselves to do it. Teachers who are not curious themselves and not willing to volunteer to learn are not the kind of role models we need in Pre-K-12 classrooms.

Instead, we can scaffold the development of intrinsic motivation in part by helping students to understand motivation and also through the field placement aspects of our program. I have seen the junior block field placement transform students from half-hearted learners to wanting to become a really good teacher and recognizing how their coursework helps them to do so. We can also scaffold the development of intrinsic motivation through group work within classes where the more intrinsically motivated students serve both as a role model and peer teachers. It is essential for students to learn how to work in environments where they are expected to (and scaffolded to) take initiative and think deeply.

Intrinsic Motivation and University/Departmental Goals

Intrinsic motivation is very clearly the foundation to the university and the Education Department's missions and goals. Our students cannot become excellent graduates and representatives of Capital University's quality of education without intrinsic motivation, without investing themselves into the process of learning. To use Motivation 2.0 practices sells our students short and ultimately creates a poor reputation for the university as a whole.

Academic Rigor and the Federal Definition of Credit Hour

One factor that is getting mixed up in the discussion of rigor is the federal definition of a credit hour. As should be apparent from the discussion above, a literal and rigid interpretation of this definition does not lead to true academic rigor. The federal government recognizes this.

In the following letter from the United States Department of Education, the new federal definition of a credit hour is clarified in relation to standard institutional practices.

(http://ifap.ed.gov/dpcletters/attachments/GEN1106.pdf, accessed 2/7/2012)

"Enclosure A" of the above document includes the official definition of a credit hour:

1. One hour of classroom or direct faculty instruction and a minimum of two
hours of out-of-class student work each week for approximately fifteen
weeks for one semester or trimester hour of credit, or ten to twelve weeks
for one quarter hour of credit, or the equivalent amount of work over a
different amount of time; or

2. At least an equivalent amount of work as required in paragraph (1) of this
definition for other academic activities as established by the institution,
including laboratory work, internships, practica, studio work, and other
academic work leading to the award of credit hours.

The letter states that the definition of a credit hour came about because of "the potential for a small number of unscrupulous institutions to exploit this lack of minimum standards [in defining a credit hour]." Presumably, students at these institutions were getting Federal aid but were not getting a reasonable amount of education for those dollars; as a result of the actions of a few, the government has stepped in with a definition that could potentially have a deleterious effect on institutions that are attempting to provide students with a high quality education in which students actually learn.

The letter itself is intended to clarify this definition in a way that avoids oversimplifying the concept of credit hour, focusing on some of the areas in which institutions can have flexibility in relation to this definition. It states:

The definition of a credit hour for Federal purposes is necessary, in part, because more than $150 billion of Federal financial aid is awarded annually based on an individual student's enrollment, as represented in number of credits. The credit hour is a basic unit of student aid eligibility, and the new regulations address vulnerabilities in the student aid programs that leave them open to fraud and abuse. However, the regulations are grounded in commonly accepted practice in higher education, do not intrude on core academic decisions made by institutions and their accrediting agencies, and are completely consistent with innovative practices such as online education, competency-based credit, and academic activities that do not rely on "seat time."

Because there is some flexibility within the federal definition (and more details are in the letter itself), it would make sense to explore all these options and how they might fit into a truly academically rigorous program.

Creating Academically Rigorous Courses

Two major factors can influence true academic rigor. One is the classroom environment--not so much the physical environment but the socio-psychological environment. The other would be the learning goals and procedures that shape the content of the course.

Classroom Environment

The Ohio Department of Education has developed standards and benchmarks for school climate:

Since we are preparing students to teach in Ohio schools, we should consider how university classrooms meet these standards; it is difficult for students to use teaching practices they have not directly witnessed and experienced. In regard to classroom environment, the guidelines state:

GUIDELINE 6 –A Student’s Sense of “Belonging” in the Classroom Encourages Classroom Participation, Positive Interactions, and Good Study Habits
Because children spend six or more hours in the classroom, teachers become significant in children’ lives. Research supports that when the teacher nurtures a sense of belonging in the classroom, students engage more readily, relate positively with peers and demonstrate good study habits...A caring classroom is encouraged by improving students’ ability to listen respectfully to others; providing opportunities to build self-confidence; putting respect and responsibility into everyday practice...

The specific operationalization of this concept following this definition sets up a strong foundation for classrooms that support the development of intrinsic motivation as well as encourages true academic rigor.

Two main environmental factors lead to a classroom that supports high level learning: the ways in which teachers construct students' identities and Student Engagement

Constructing Student Identity Through the Lens of Respect

Point 4 under Benchmark A of Guideline 6 quoted above states:
Teachers use an understanding of individual and group motivation and behavior, creating a supportive, safe, and respectful learning environment that encourages positive social interaction, active engagement in learning, and self-motivation.
A positive social environment is clearly necessary to effective teaching and learning. It is possible to argue against this statement (that a positive climate is not necessary to rigorous learning), however, if the data used to support a counterargument is based on standardized testing, then the counterargument is not valid, since standardized tests are not good measures of actual learning (see Reference 1 below for more information on the validity of standardized testing).

Numerous research studies explore the ways in which teacher expectations of students influence student achievement; these expectations become self-fulfilling prophecies. Rare is the student who can fly in the face of negative teacher expectations and win respect from that teacher; to do so takes a great deal of maturity and persistence in the face of discouragement and even bullying. Conversely, many students will live up to high expectations when a teacher demonstrates respect, caring, and a commitment to supporting student achievement. A classroom climate based on respect can push some previously marginal students toward high achievement.

While trust is something that must be earned, every human being is deserving of respect unless he or she abundantly proves otherwise.

The beginning days of a course offer significant opportunities to demonstrate respect in terms of how a course is set up. For example, an abundance of strategies to foil cheaters suggests that the professor does not respect the students, based on their likelihood of cheating. However, a professor who mentions Capital University's policies on plagiarism as printed in the syllabus and moves on to more engaging topics communicates an understanding that students are mature people who are worth of the respect one gives a fellow adult. What happens if an individual does cheat or plagiarize? The professor deals privately with that person without assuming that all other students are equally immature or culpable. It should be noted that cheating is much more difficult when assignments are based on higher order thinking processes and authentic assessment.

There are other places in which one should differentiate between mature and immature behavior. For example, responsible, mature people will let the professor know in advance about absences where possible. They will be absent only for significant issues such as serious medical problems, family needs, and the like. Less mature students will not inform a professor of impending absence and will quickly develop a pattern of absences. Since it is fairly easy to differentiate between a person being responsible and a person being irresponsible, medical excuses and other documentation should be requested only from people who are showing their immaturity and this can be done in private conversation with the individual student.

In terms of student concerns about classroom policies and procedures, it is important to differentiate between mature people who may have a very legitimate concern or suggestion and the less mature who are not fully cognizant of what it means to learn. In the case of the former, give serious consideration to their concerns and ask them to provide possible solutions. In the case of the latter, take this opportunity to help the student to understand why a project or process is part of the course in relation to educational goals.

Our students come from a wide range of educational experiences from those who have graduate degrees to those who went to low level high schools. Students will have great respect for professors who recognize intellectual strengths and academic experiences within the context of a class as well as for professors who respect students well enough to provide them with ways of overcoming poor educational backgrounds.

As a semester progresses, we should expect students to mature and grow. When students know that their changes for the better will be recognized and appreciated, they will be more likely to demonstrate more mature behavior over the long run. This is why it is important to have a forgiving heart when teaching.

At its best, learning is a transformational experience; after all, it involves literally changing one's mind! People who feel respected and honored have a much easier time taking the intellectual and emotional risks that learning entails.

Student Engagement

The following project in Canadian schools explores the need for student engagement in classes:

This article has a lot of information that could contribute to the development of highly engaging courses.

Learning Goals, Procedures, and Materials

In order to achieve a high level of true rigor, we need high level educational goals and pathways to reach these goals that encourage intrinsic motivation. As discussed above, the mission and goals of both the university and the education departments set up the possibility for intrinsic motivation. A main pathway to intrinsic motivation is through engagement based on higher order thinking. The following tables explore various constructs in relation to Bloom's taxonomy. The purpose of these tables is to provide opportunities for making minor tweaks in exising classroom activities such that opportunities for engagement and intrinsic motivation are maximized.

Note that the ideas in these tables may not be the way you would conceptualize Bloom's taxonomy in a given case; the point is for you to find your own ideas whether or not the ideas given here work for you. The following pdf can be used in conjunction with the tables below in order to create intellectually rigorous classes:

Bloom's Taxonomy and Education Department Mission

Ability to explain knowledge to others in own words
Can apply content knowledge and knowledge about teaching and learning in the classroom
Reflects on teaching practice
Evaluates students and self in order to improve teaching practice
Creates constructive learning environment and classroom practices
Knows why caring is important
Understands what it means in students' lives for a teacher to be caring
Is caring towards students
Finds out about students' lives in order to understand them and care for them
Reflects on own practices in relation to caring
Develops more ways to communicate and demonstrate caring
Knows what commitment in education is
Understand the importance of commitment
Is committed to the education of each student
Analyzes student needs and diligently searches for ways of meeting those educational needs
Evaluates past ways of working with students in terms of their effectiveness
Innovates in creating new ways of teaching students
Knows about teaching
Understands teaching as a profession and calling
Field placements reflect students understanding of teaching
Reflection on teaching
Reflection on teaching
Creation of new ways of teaching
Knows leadership principles
Can explain leadership ideas to others
Takes a leadership role in classes and university groups
Analyzes leadership practices to see which ones would work for him/herself
Evaluates own leadership skills across contexts
Develops innovative leadership strategies
Knows about service
Values service
Analyzes how one's ability to serve can be best put to use
Evaluates own service for short term and long term success
Develops new opportunities for service for self and/or others

Bloom's Taxonomy and Education Department Goals

Goal 1. Demonstrate thorough knowledge and understanding of the content to be taught
Knowledge of content
Context of content
Pedagogical content knowledge
Assessment of students
Assessment of lesson effectiveness
Goal 2. Engage in critical inquiry to impact professional practice
Knowledge of research methods
Critical reading of research
Implications of research for own teaching practice
Analyzing research and data analysis methods
Deciding how to use research in one's own teaching
Action research
Goal 3. Demonstrate an understanding of the teaching-learning relationship
Knowledge about teaching and learning
Understanding the teaching-learning relationship in fairly complex ways
Develops own practice of supporting teaching-learning relationship
Analyzes various possibilities of teaching-learning relationships
Evaluates own practices
Creates new ways of teaching
Goal 4. Demonstrate effective and culturally responsive practices to support the achievement of
all students
Knowledge of culturally responsive practices
Development of culturally responsive teaching practices
Reflection on own teaching practice
Reflection on own teaching practice
Creating new teaching practices
Goal 5. Utilize a variety of tools to clearly and effectively communicate
Knows communication strategies
Can explain communication strategies
Practices communication strategies
Analyzes possibility communication strategies
Evaluates own communication strategies
Creates or uses innovative media in communication
Goal 6. Demonstrate effective use of technology in professional practice
Knowledge of technology
Problem solving
Use of technology
Analyzes the utility of technology in various contexts
Evaluates own use of technology
Innovates in use of technology
Goal 7. Demonstrate professional involvement
Knowledge of options
Understanding of how these options are useful
Involvement in professional development
Analyzing contribution of professional development to one's teaching practice
Deciding what is helpful and what is not
Becoming a teacher leader
Goal 8. Apply ethics and values in professional decision-making
Knowledge of ethics
Can explain ethical principles and why they are important
Clearly applies ethical principles in educational decision-making
Analyzes the implication of various systems of ethical/moral reasoning
Evaluates ethical stances in relation to own teaching practice
Creates a philosophy of education that is founded in a consistent ethical stance
Goal 9. Understand and use varied assessments to inform instruction, evaluate and ensure student learning
Knows assessment strategies
Understands assessment systems and strategies
Assesses as a part of own lesson planning
Analyzes assessment strategies in relation to the types of information they yield
Evaluates assessment strategies for their appropriateness in given educational contexts
Develops innovative assessment strategies and practices

Bloom's Taxonomy and Factors Leading to Intrinsic Motivation

constructing knowledge independently
demonstrating knowledge and skills in authentic setting
what if...
self reflection

fact finding
creating connections between known and unknown
trying out something to see how it works
figuring out why something worked or didn’t work
which solutions work and which ones don’t
media for learning (text, image, sound)
media that teach and reteach in multiple ways, background information
different types of application-related projects to choose from
what aspects or artifacts to analyze
Choosing what to evaluate

Stories (a story that explains or illustrates a concept)
What if
So what

Quizlet, knowledge-based games



Learning Materials

Our students come to Capital University with a wide range of educational and other types of experiences. Some have been professionals and some have never yet held a job. Some come from very fine schools, including other universities. Some went to low quality schools. Our students have a wide range of strengths as well as areas of significant struggle.

Prior to the technological revolution, it was difficult to get learning materials in the first place--textbooks are expensive, encyclopedias and other references quickly become obsolete, and library research in those days was time consuming. This made it much more difficult to find the learning materials that suit the varying educational needs of each student.

Now we are capable of quickly finding the materials that will help all our students learn. We can find materials to address background knowledge that students need (or need to review), materials in various media to address sensory channels (vision, audiation, etc.), highly engaging materials, and materials that simulate authentic situations so that learning is more easily identified with long term professional goals.

Here are some resources for this:

Understanding media choices and supplementing existing media:

Types of resources that can be found on the web:

Ways to address the needs of all learners:

For materials specific to your course needs, contact Carolyn Osborne (cosborn2@capital.edu) who is the Technology Coordinator for the Education Department.

Data Collection and Analysis

Authentic assessments not only are congruent with teaching and learning in a classroom, but they also can support the development of intrinsic motivation. Our students are typically highly motivated when they know exactly how their assignments contribute to their professional knowledge and even more so when they have the opportunity to create projects that will be useful to them as teachers. Collections of projects (group or individual) in portfolios are a strong form of assessment.

Rigor in a portfolio artifact can be created and analyzed in two ways. One has to do with the construction of the project.

When students create projects that are similar in scope and nature to what a professional in a field produces (whether the teaching field or math or science or whatever), then that is a high level of rigor. For example, a unit plan for an elementary classroom connected to Ohio educational standards and using a wide range of resources (children's literature, technology, etc.) and activities is something that practicing teachers create all the time, so this kind of project can be potentially quite rigorous. Independent Professional Development Plans can be the model for student goal setting and achievement during a semester, creating the possibility of a rigorous self-directed learning process for our students since this is what practicing teachers do.

A second form of rigor would be in terms of expectations for students. It takes wisdom to create teaching expectations that encourage high level thinking, intrinsic motivation, and a significant academic output without descending into the types of numbers mentioned above (number of pages, number of words, etc.) that rob a project of its meaning or value.

One way to develop rubrics of student expectations is to assemble a collection of high quality student projects--ones which reflect high level student thinking and not just high level following instructor directions--and try to tease out characteristics that could be articulated. For example, in the What Difference Does Instruction Make junior block project, strong papers demonstrate significant reflection about what happened and why it happened. What constitutes "significant"? There are no numbers that can be used to define it but typically there are statements that consist of possibilities of factors that could have affected results. Here is a checklist students get of characteristics that contribute to a strong paper:

A good rubric allows for variation in projects such that innovative projects can be recognized positively because of content rather than an overfocus on form.

Ensuring Rigor in Education Department Courses

As problematic as the word "rigor" is, the concept of academic rigor, applied in a thoughtful and wise way, can increase the already high level of educational quality we provide to our students in Capital University's Education Department. This consideration of rigor teased apart the concept such that we can adopt sensible practices rather than literal, mindless interpretations of rigor that impede the goals we have set for ourselves as a university and department. When we are able to articulate what true rigor is and address the concerns of people who are too easily satisfied with simplistic constructs of rigor, then we can keep the university moving in the direction of a highly laudable set of goals and mission.

The purpose of the suggestions about rigor and goal setting in classes is to provide new ways of thinking about courses such that we can all take small steps in each course to further the high quality of education we provide.

Sidebar: Secret Teaching Motivations

Sometimes the act of teaching is a conduit for the expression of hard-to-admit desires and emotions. Teaching offers opportunities to control other people, which for angry, hurt, frightened, immature people is an invitation to use teacher control in negative, cruel, anti-educational ways. Teaching is also a challenging thing to do and some people may feel afraid to admit even to themselves that they do not know how to teach, how to fill in all the instructional hours a course entails. In such a situation, it is easier to fill up class time with busy work and ineffective ways to present learning materials than to create high quality learning experiences for students. Highly egocentric people can see teaching as an opportunity for self-aggrandizement. They also have a hard time assessing student work because they cannot understand (and in some cases, even acknowledge the existence of) perspectives that differ from their own. They may not be interested in scaffolding student success, particularly if that means student skills will exceed their own.

Of course, if any one of these scenarios is the case for a given person, that person may not be able to admit this to him or herself much less to anyone else. At the same time, people who fall into these emotional traps create classes that both fail to meet institutional goals and do damage to institutional programs. The first step in dealing with this situation is to recognize it through understanding it and the symptoms of it, which is the purpose of this sidebar. Next steps to take depend on many, many factors specific to the context. At the same time, situations like these must be addressed in some way.
  1. ^ The following factors can compromise the quality of information provided by standardized tests: student anxiety, school cheating, lack of student motivation, poor correspondence between the actual material learned and testing content and procedures, poorly-written test questions, test questions that are inappropriate to the population of the students (such as asking urban children to write about camping trips they have taken with their families), inauthentic ways of assessing skills and knowledge. With these myriad ways, actual value of the standardized test scores seems to be seriously compromised despite the costs students, districts, and states pay to testing and publishing companies.
  2. ^ "Look at all this homework; I can't do that. I guess college is not for me" is a paradigm shift that is not related to the actual topic of a course, so doesn't count toward the concept of true learning. Neither is, "the format of information in the course does not work for me [e.g., student with an identified learning disability or sensory impairment], so I guess I'm not going to pass and should just drop out."