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Is our academic curriculum rigorous — Azizi Ahmad

JANUARY 21 — Academic rigour is determined not just by what is taught, but how it is taught and how it is assessed.

A demanding curriculum isn’t so demanding if it is taught in a way that students can’t learn it or if, on tests, students aren’t really expected to know it.

A rigorous curriculum is “focused, coherent, and appropriately challenging,” William Schmidt (Michigan State University)

The term rigour is widely used by educators to describe teaching, schoolwork, learning experiences, and educational expectations that are academically, intellectually, and personally challenging.

Rigorous learning experiences, help students understand knowledge and concepts that are complex, ambiguous, or contentious, and they help students acquire skills that can be applied in a variety of educational, career, and civic contexts throughout their lives.

In education, rigour is commonly applied to lessons that encourage students to question their assumptions and think deeply, rather than to lessons that merely demand memorisation and information recall.

For example, a fill-in-the-blank worksheet or multiple-choice test would not be considered rigorous by many educators.

In order to achieve that goal, educators need to analyzed the content of the curriculum classes and then figured out what students would have to learn starting in preschool in order to do well in those classes.

Some schools might meet the definition of rigour by “giving students a curriculum that will prepare them to succeed in college or the world of work.”

But curriculum design is only part of what defines rigour. What actually happens in classrooms is hugely important more is needed in terms of the number of books students should be required to read.

“In academically rigorous classrooms, it is more ideally for students to read at least one book every two to three weeks.”

It is worth noting that many educators equate rigour with pain, rigid thinking, and harshness.

Too often, rigour becomes “Let’s give more homework.”

“Lessons must be ‘rigorous’ if they make kids suffer” and the fears the curriculum becomes narrow, rigid and deadly dull as teachers attempt to cover more topics.

We should restrain in talking about “achievement” and “rigour,” which have no connection to the inquisitiveness, determination, creative thinking and perseverance students need for genuine lifelong learning.

As academic rigour is as “a demanding yet accessible curriculum that engenders critical-thinking skills as well as content knowledge.”

It takes students to “raise questions, think, reason, solve problems and reflect.”

In addition to gaining knowledge about a subject, students “should be asked to comprehend, apply, analyse, synthesise, evaluate and using that knowledge.”

Whatever the definition, making classrooms more intellectually rigorous is no small challenge.

Actually not everyone knows and understands what it means and what it takes for such demand. “Everyone is telling what to do but they can’t tell us how to do it.”

No matter how demanding a state’s standards, nothing will change for students unless teachers change their lessons.

More attention is needed to see what really happens in classrooms.

* Azizi Ahmad is an educator

** This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail Online.