At the end of our round at Burwood PS a lot of us were still puzzling over rigour: Is it a product or a process? How is it distinguished from high expectations? How easy is it for us, as teachers and leaders, to achieve rigour in our classrooms. And if it is quite easy to achieve, why aren't we seeing it?
I do like the Barbara Blackburn books because they contain big ideas written with practical examples that makes you believe that rigour can be quite easily achieved. In "Rigour is Not a Four-Letter Word", Blackburn defines rigour as: Rigor is creating an environment in which each student is expected to learn at high levels, each student is supported so he and she can learn at high level, and each student demonstrates learning at high levels.
That definition seems to me to say that rigour it is both process and product. The video below has a couple of gems. One is her thought about questioning, "It is not enough simple to ask higher order questions. If a teacher asks a higher order question and accepts a lower order answer, that's not rigorous". This really resonated with me. How often in rounds do we try to capture the teacher's level of questioning, without capturing the associated responses? Have we been looking at questioning through too narrow a sense? Is the student answers we should be focusing on more in our observations?
Another puzzle that we discussed during the round is the idea of teachers holding high expectations. Contrary to the Tell Them From Me data, we frequently observe teachers who are demonstrating low expectations. In fact genuinely high expectations are only observed in a minority of classrooms. Why is that? Do we need to change teachers' practices or their fundamental beliefs? Are there simple changes to practice we could encourage teachers to take? Have you tried any of these changes yourself since the round?
Looking forward to seeing your thoughts and ideas as you respond to my starter, and then to each other. And I'm hoping for rigorous thinking ...... but how will I know when I see it?
Leading for Clarity & Coherence
I'm sometimes puzzled during school visits about what I observe in classrooms. I've talked with the school leaders about priorities and what we might hope to see, but during the observations a different type of teaching altogether emerges.
On other occasions, I know that a school has been engaged in a significant initiative and great changes to teaching and learning have occurred. But just prior to the observations a new initiative has begun, and the previously observed practices seem to be occurring far less frequently or even drop off altogether.
Sometimes a new political agenda emerges, despite the best arguments of educators at the highest levels. Currently imposed targets with the threats of consequences for those who don't meet them is an example of a change that might disrupt the clarity you have.
So my big questions are: how do we ensure clarity and coherence in the eyes of the leaders? and most importantly, how do we ensure that this is shared clarity and coherence between leaders and teachers? Do your readings shed any light on these questions?