Seattle Girls' School

News and happenings in education from the Head of School, Rafael del Castillo

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Rigor Redefined

In a few weeks, students and their families will be scheduling their first Learning Team Meetings of the academic year. This will be an opportunity for your daughter to take a lead role in her own learning as “chair” of this team. With more or less scaffolding depending on the grade, she will set goals, identify both strengths and weaknesses, provide exemplars of work, and set the stage for end of term narratives that will provide an in-depth of view of what the grade has been doing collectively and what your child has achieved individually. When that narrative comes home, what will you be looking for as evidence of success? I want to plant a seed for a redefinition of a phrase we often hear, “academic rigor.” What do we define as rigorous at SGS?

Tony Wagner, of the Harvard Graduate School of Education, suggests that even our best schools are not always preparing students for 21st century careers and citizenship. He identifies seven survival skills for the future:

  • Critical thinking and problem-solving
  • Collaboration and leadership
  • Agility and adaptability
  • Initiative and entrepreneurialism
  • Effective oral and written communication
  • Accessing and analyzing information
  • Curiosity and imagination

He bases his conclusions on both classroom observations and conversations with leaders in business, non-profit work, philanthropy, and education. He describes a “rare class”
where academic content is used to develop students’ core competencies, such as those suggested above; where complex, multi-step problems are regularly featured, where students seek multiple solutions that require creativity and imagination; and where success requires teamwork. I certainly hope that this classroom sounds familiar to you, because it is what we strive for at Seattle Girls’ School, I observe this type of learning everyday within our walls, and often beyond them in “being there” experiences.

Take a look at Tony Wagner’s entire article at another blog site -

What do you think of this redefinition of academic rigor? I would love to hear your perspectives and feedback.

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