Saturday, October 31, 2009

raking leaves seeking rigor

Today we have a beautiful day, so I am raking leaves, assembling boxes and thinking about rigor. You can be involved in what might be perceived as mindless tasks, and yet have your mind engaged in exploring philosophical concepts.

How are we inviting our children to engage in rigor and to seek its expression in their lives? In this case, my definition of the term rigor is that of logical rigor or strict precision.

One of the questions I ask my students in the wood shop is, "Was this project too hard for anyone?" and of course they wouldn't admit if it was. But when I ask if the next project should be easier, or harder, they confirm, they all want projects to increase in difficulty. A challenge is more fun than pie.

Involvement in crafts is one of those ways through which our children invite logical rigor, or strict precision into their own lives. Playing sports can have similar effect, or dance, or musical performance. You swing at a ball and you either hit or miss. Try to take a catch, or turn a pirouette and you either do or you don't. And it doesn't take an expert to know the difference, just a bit of growing expertise.

One of the things I witnessed last week in the wood shop, was a 3rd grader, taking her work for confirmation of self assessment to another student. "Feel how smooth this is!" she asked. Having tangible results is one of the ways we invite children to participate in the pursuit of rigor. Rigor requires the ability to self-assess and to invite the assessment of others. When measurements of learning are those discernible only to adults as they test for right and wrong answers, or to educational testing agencies, working in statistics and abstractions as they measure school performance, we are clearly on the wrong track.

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