Activity Feed Discussions Blogs Bookmarks Files

What is Rigorous CTE and Why Is It Important?

Rigorous describes something rigid and difficult, and imposes hardship, such as taking a rigorous hike. Some might avoid rigorous tasks such as weeding a garden to avoid hardship. Others might embrace a rigorous physical workout because the goal of athletic performance drives them. Tasks can be categorized by degrees of rigor, and each person chooses whether to embrace or avoid rigorous tasks based on their goals.

When rigorous is applied in education, the term means something slightly different from difficult, arduous tasks.  Rigorous education is not more physically difficult or necessarily a more extended test or exotic and difficult questions. Rigorous education differs from other learning in requiring more thinking before finding a solution or completing a task. 

Rigorous CTE, just as in other subjects in schools, is defined on a continuum of learning from low levels of thinking to high levels of thinking. The notion of moving from low to high is not measured in the quantity of how many facts someone knows. High levels of academics are measured in the complexity of thinking, not the rapid recall of facts, such as a Jeopardy Game Show winner. 

The most common frameworks for defining levels of cognitive learning are the six-level Bloom’s Taxonomy and 4-level Webb’s Depth of Knowledge. Common to both of these frameworks is low-level thinking of acquiring and recall in bits of knowledge. The Rigor/Relevance Framework is another Teaching/Learning framework that defines both rigor and more relevance. CTE teachers can see in this framework where their teaching of technical skills is commonly at the high relevance level but also can set student aspirations on both.

All these frameworks define the higher halves of the scales of more rigorous learning using terms such as analytical thinking, creativity, reflection, and extended thinking.  So Rigorous CTE is when instruction helps to develop higher-level thinking, typically seen in higher-level academic courses. Rigorous CTE does not mean making CTE courses more difficult or raising cut scores on a Technical Assessment.  It means planning instruction which increases the complexity of student thinking. This is where there needs to be greater collaboration between Academic Teachers and CTE Teachers.

Why is Rigorous CTE important?  Workplace standards and not educator-developed standards drive CTE curricula. Practicing craftsmen and employers describing the required abilities to be taught.  In those conversations, employers often identify specific technical skills but also expect human or professional skills such as communication, problem-solving, analytical thinking, and critical thinking. 

The best path to Rigorous CTE and teaching the thinking skills employers seek are collaborating on lessons with experienced academic teachers. (FYI, the best path for Academic teachers to develop Relevance that engages students is collaborating with CTE Teachers). Academic teachers in secondary school design learning activities in the disciplines of Mathematics, Science, Language Arts, and Social Studies. When CTE teachers only expect students to learn fundamental technical skills, the content is exclusively within the CTE subject area.  However, when attempting the stretch the student's technical skills to problem-solving and analytical thinking, the content broadens to include content from these academic subjects.  CTE teachers may have the academic depth to teach these skills in some situations. But for many, the collaboration of academic teachers can provide ideas to make the lessons and assessments more effective. 

Students may perceive rigorous lessons as obstacles, but they are essential challenges leading to future success. Academic challenges wrapped in real-world CTE projects are perceived differently from most students’ prior academics. Consider Rigorous CTE and Integration as one in the same strategy. Rigorous CTE, striving to meet employers’ expectations, requires collaboration and blurring the lines of delineated subjects.  Teachers working together can better prepare students for the ever-changing workplace. 

Sign In to comment