THE 4 Rs: Rigor, Relationships, Relevance, and Results

September 11, 2011

Day-to-day instruction and learning expectations for the 21st century of learners include the elements of rigor, relationships, relevance, and results. The inclusion of these interrelated elements into curriculum, instruction, and assessment reflect the dimensions of higher standards and student

achievement. When all elements are present within teaching practices, students appear to be better prepared for success in school and in life. Research shows that successful schools provide rigorous academics, relevant learning opportunities, and meaningful relationships with good teachers guiding s

tudents to achieve high results.


Rigor refers to the need for students to reach high levels of competence in academic areas. Academics are a focus with students receiving a quality education and not get lost in the system. Teachers must establish a reading environment that sets high expectations for every student. Students must be motivated to learn, provided learning opportunities to achieve mastery of the Standards, and excel beyond. Teachers must ensure that subject matter is understood and that students engage in learning experiences aligned with the Standards. Rigor requires challenging instruction and the necessary support for each student to reach the standards. A rigorous curriculum includes higher expectations for all students and provides support for low-performing students through intervention programs and extended learning opportunities.

Effective instruction should accelerate learning for struggling students and at the same time challenge the academically talented learners. Opportunities for students to think must be an integral part of instruction. Instruction becomes rigorous when students are taken beyond the recall of information. Students should be taught how to become critical readers as they analyze text. Students should apply and demonstrate their understanding of concepts. Requiring students to reflect on and analyze their thinking and learning is a challenging yet essential task. Rigor is present when students not only actively engage in and reflect about learning, but they also utilize 21st century skills such as critical thinking, creative thinking, problem solving, collaboration, and written and oral communication.


An appropriate and healthy environment for learning begins with relationships. Relationships refer to coaching and encouragement from adults toward all students. Positive relationships among students and faculty are essential to student success. Students know when schools are safe places. Students sense when they belong and if adults recognize their self-worth. Students know when teachers genuinely care, believe in them, and are interested in their successes.

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