Six Ways to Add Rigor by Deepening Thinking

By Karin Hess

A misdirected view of rigor can make learning inaccessible to many trainees who can believe deeply. Teachers need to understand how to set the stage to uncover their thinking and help them deepen their understanding.

What does it sound and look like when your students are doing strenuous work and believing deeply? Throughout the years Ive heard a great deal of mistaken beliefs about rigor, such as “increasing rigor implies offering trainees more or harder work to do.”

Raising expectations is NOT as easy as assigning difficult texts to read or utilizing higher-order verbs (e.g., evaluate, synthesize) to explain what trainees are going to do throughout a lesson.

How cognitive rigor works

Cognitive rigor is produced by the interaction of three essential elements: content intricacy + cognitive engagement + the designated scope and depth of the knowing activity.

1. Content Complexity: Complex ideas and strategies (e.g., abstract versus concrete ideas; actual versus metaphorical analyses; practical applications versus theories) always require supports to increase gain access to and engagement.

2. Cognitive Engagement: Engagement with the content (often defined using Depth-of-Knowledge/DOK levels) describes how deeply we want trainees to use their understanding to finish a task– from surface-level recall to conceptual understanding, issue solving, or extensive extended thinking.

We understand from brain research that psychological engagement precedes deeper cognitive engagement. When trainees first make personal connections to new content– “what do I currently understand about this subject?” or “how is this problem pertinent to me/my world?”– doors to complicated psychological processing and problem-solving start to open.

3. Scope and Depth: The scope of the planned knowing or evaluation activity influences the total cognitive rigor, specifically when several sources should be examined and interpreted or a complex product of knowing is to be established (e.g., research task, podcast, multimedia discussion)

Increasing rigor needs to go hand in hand with assistances that assist every trainee gain access to the significance of the material (a new strategy, idea, or theory) before they are asked to describe it, use it, or examine it.


Providing background understanding associated to a topic prior to breaking or introducing a complex text down a complex method into several actions are examples of strategically scaffolding intricate material. When taking on complicated content, even adult learners benefit from scaffolding!

6 Ways We Can Uncover Rigorous Thinking and Help Students Deepen Understanding.

Resource: Collaborative Inquiry Planning.

Karin Hess, author of the Hess Cognitive Rigor Matrices and numerous short articles and books, is a former class teacher and school administrator. She is acknowledged worldwide as a leader in using cognitive rigor, depth of knowledge (DOK), and finding out progressions to the development of state and school-based curriculum and assessment systems. She can be contacted through her site

Ive determined 6 methods to move trainees believing to much deeper levels of understanding and developed a “student-friendly” infographic of the six methods. This can be printed as a poster or cut apart and used as task cards as metacognitive triggers when students are participating in collective discourse or overcoming a complex challenge.

Resource: text structures.

Method Tips( click a graphic to enlarge– resource links provide more details).


Karin Hess, author of the Hess Cognitive Rigor Matrices and many posts and books, is a previous classroom teacher and school administrator. She can be gotten in touch with through her website

Resource: sketchnoting.

When we know what extensive thinking can look and sound like, we can assist students to utilize much of these techniques in nearly any lesson.

Resource: Wonder Wall.

We know from brain research study that psychological engagement precedes deeper cognitive engagement.– doors to complicated psychological processing and problem-solving start to open.

Some teachers print and use the cards to produce cubes that can be rolled like dice to randomly select a timely for small group conversations or reflective journaling.

Resource: peer conferencing or feedback worksheet.

Resource: One pagers, ELA, math/science, social studies.

We develop chances for cognitive engagement and deeper thinking when asking students to …

Educators can generate evidence of cognitive rigor by asking trainees to brainstorm possible options rather of requesting one proper solution; by using feedback to improve their efficiency, rather than informing trainees what to fix; or by having them practice utilizing metacognitive skills while monitoring their own learning procedures.

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