November 9, 2023
Written by Flint Hill Admission Team

Rigor Versus Productive Struggle in the Classroom

What does rigor look like to you? Is it something that is challenging or is it working a grade level ahead? Does it take minutes or hours? Does it cause frustration? Does it mean meeting high expectations? Should it require assistance or maybe advanced tutoring? We could ask that question to ten people and get ten slightly different answers. We would also get ten different perspectives on the value of rigor.

At Flint Hill, we have answers backed by neuroscience. We know that students learn more deeply when presented with productive struggle versus traditionally defined rigor. Rather than focusing on teaching a grade level ahead, we focus on “teaching up,” which is that sweet spot between challenging and frustratingly hard. We want to see students grapple with a challenge and respond to mistakes with creative thinking and problem-solving because this is where deep learning happens and leads to mastery of concepts.

We believe in active versus passive learning that engages in productive struggle. Active learning involves creating, evaluating, analyzing, and applying when learning. Passive learning approaches involve more lectures, memorization, and output. When students engage in active versus passive learning, they are activating neural pathways across the brain which allows them to build neural connections and retain and enhance their learning. It also activates areas of the brain associated with decision-making and motivation. Students are then motivated to learn more, ask deeper questions and apply concepts across all areas of learning.

Learn more about what productive struggle looks like at Flint Hill. Watch our video on Knowledge Vs. Understanding. Check out the below links for what our teachers are reading, listening to, and watching.


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Students learn more deeply when engaging in productive struggle versus traditionally defined ‘rigor’

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