What Exactly Do “Fewer, Clearer, and Higher Standards” Really Look Like in the Classroom? Using a Cognitive Rigor Matrix to Analyze Curriculum, Plan Lessons, and Implement Assessments
From the abstract: “With the ever-increasing call for more rigorous curriculum, instruction, and assessment in the United States, the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers are aiming to define the rigorous skills and knowledge that students need in order to succeed academically in college-entry courses and in workforce training programs (Glod, 2009). The proposed Common Core Standards will require high-level cognitive demand, such as asking students to demonstrate deep conceptual understanding through the application of content knowledge and skills to new situations. Using two widely accepted measures of describing cognitive rigor – Bloom’s Taxonomy of Educational Objectives and Webb’s Depth-of-Knowledge Levels – this article defines cognitive rigor and presents a matrix that integrates these models as a strategy for analyzing instruction and influencing teacher lesson planning. Using Hess Cognitive Rigor Matrix (CRM), a density plot illustrates how the preponderance of curricular items (e.g., assignment questions and problem solving tasks) might align to cells in the matrix. Research results applying the matrix in two states’ large-scale collection of student work samples are presented, along with a discussion of implications for curriculum planning in order to cultivate twenty-first century skills.”
Hess’s Cognitive Rigor Matrix (CRM) is a useful tool for teachers to evaluate their lesson plans and instructional tasks, including assessments, for rigor. The matrix combines two popular indices of cognitive complexity: the updated Bloom’s Taxonomy and Webb’s Depth-of-Knowledge (DOK) levels. According to the authors, Bloom’s Taxonomy and Webb’s DOK levels, while related, differ in scope and application of use. Bloom’s Taxonomy categorizes the cognitive skills required of the brain to perform the task, while DOK looks at depth of content understanding and scope of a learning activity. In combining the two indices, Hess CRM can help teachers examine their assignments and learning activities for depth of understanding. The paper also includes a brief summary of research related to the use of the Hess CRM in evaluating samples of student work. The research presented is helpful in showing that the CRM is being used and validated in real classroom settings. This paper is a quick read, and teachers can immediately use the Hess CRM to examine their instructional activities.