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Are You Scaffolding Instruction? Or Proceduralizing It?

I’m often asked to help professional learning communities (PLC’s) develop common definitions of rigor. We start with a reading on what defines rigor and then rate sample tasks as high– or low–level. You can download the article “What Is Rigor?” as well as sample task cards at http://go.solution-tree.com/PLCbooks/Reproducibles_CACC.html.

That’s the easy part. Usually, disagreements about the rigor of the task come from how teachers envision implementing the task rather than the task itself. For example, one teacher might picture using a task early in the unit while another envisions it as a summative assessment. That changes how they view its rigor. Or, one teacher would create a worksheet to lead students through the task while another would leave it open–ended.

Eventually, these discussions lead to the insight that how we implement a task is at least as important as the task we choose in the first place. And, that there is a key difference between scaffolding to give all students access to a task and creating procedures so that students only have to follow steps to complete the task. Take procedures far enough, everyone soon agrees, and you can have kindergartners doing calculus. However, those proceduralized problems won’t be rigorous, no matter how difficult they were at the start.

Scaffolding is completely different from procedures.

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