Often times, teachers are pressured to create more rigorous content. The idea is the increased rigor will challenge students to grow intellectually and become better critical thinkers. While rigorous content can achieve this intellectual growth, rigorous assignments may not.
What is the difference between rigorous content and rigorous assignments?
Rigorous content presents information in a way that encourages students to become inquirers. The content should force students to ask themselves questions, research answers, and think critically. The content does NOT have to be long, but it does need to encourage students to question and to seek answers to those questions through research and experimentation. Rigorous content can utilize data collection and analysis as well.
Now, rigorous assignments are often long, complicated, and riddled with complicated instructions and too much background information. Students are forced to guess what they should be learning and doing instead of questioning how to apply knowledge. Rigorous assignments often take hours of time to complete and require rote answering of questions. Students might answer 40 questions, but these questions probably do not encourage them to question improvements, experimentations, or follow up.
Now, how can you create rigorous content? I would start by modeling content that has already been created. Take notes on what aspects of the project make it rigorous. We have gotten a ton of feedback on the rigor with this fuel cells kit. You can start there or ask a teacher friend or someone at your school for a rigorous project.
We encourage you to find and create rigorous content for your students. Let us know if we can help!