Rigor?

Discussion in 'Baptist Colleges / Seminaries' started by michaelbowe, Jul 22, 2011.

  1. michaelbowe

    michaelbowe
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    It keeps being brought up in different threads about how a person defines Rigor.

    I defined a rigorous class in seminary that involved 1 hour lectures three times a week, for fifteen weeks. I had to interact with students during the class, I had to write four 10 page papers, and a final group project, by group 3 other people, which was a 50 page paper. Also, I had weekly quizzes on the reading, a 100 question midterm, and a 150 question final, most of the questions were fill in the blank. I was not able to use my notes for these tests.

    I had other classes that had 2 hour lectures, 2 times a week, papers, mid-terms, and finals. These classes were challenging. Someone could not simply just breeze through these courses.

    These classes are from an accredited school, which is a criteria of mine for rigor, yes there are some exceptions, but few and far between.

    What are your thoughts?
     
  2. TomVols

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    Hard to define something that is so subjective. I've had classes that had rather free-form lectures with only two exams and no papers. Would you call that rigorous? What if I told you the exams were 200 questions and were four hours in length? Would that add to the rigor?

    I've had courses that required substantive amounts of writing and reading that I thought were a breeze but the guy next to me was sweating bullets just reading the syllabus. I've also had courses that I thought were tough that had no papers but required daily quizzes on yesterday's readings and lectures.

    It's all subjective. An "easy" Greek class for the person with great language aptitude will be a nightmare for the one who does not. The in-depth Patristics class that requires thousands of pages of reading and numerous papers will be dessert for one and Hades on earth for another.
     
  3. michaelbowe

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    I agree it is subjective, but the question keep being brought up in various threads so I thought I would get other people's perspectives.
     
  4. TomVols

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    Oh, I didn't mean to demean the query. I just think it's kind of like asking "How do you determine what is 'delicious?'" :)

    It will be interesting to see what people submit. Makes me want to ask a similar question.
     
  5. exscentric

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    I think rigor is what happens before mortis arrives. :)

    When I consider rigor, two classes come to mind. A freshman Acts class and a graduate Matthew class. The two hardest classes I was subjected to. The Acts class is clear in my mind, I can still after forty years think my way through the book and when a topic comes up I can usually turn to the proper chapter.

    Matthew, well not so much, it is a lot blurry and I cannot say I know much about the book. The Matthew class was the harder of the two.

    Conclusion, rigor does not but may make for proper learning.

    On the other hand the easiest class of my life was one which I feel benefited my ministry over the years the most. (It was an audio/visual class consisting of methods and a large dose of being able to communicate information.)

    What is valuable and what is easiest to retain may not necessarily come from rigor.

    The rigorous classes involved three hours per week class, 10+ page paper, 2-3 books being read, 2-3 assignments per week, memory work, class participation, mid-term/final test with numerous quizzes throughout the course.

    The easiest class requirements were show up and a kind of a mid-term/final.
     
  6. preachinjesus

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    Hmmm, I think I might have started this whole conversation. I am a firm proponent of rigor in education and other facets of life. (And it sounds like a word I would use around here.)

    Basically, when it comes to education I believe one needs to examine if you want the degree or the education. A degree is something you can get almost anywhere. A true education is a life long commitment to growth and learning. One of my strong criticisms against the last 100 years of evangelical/fundamentalist higher education is that many of the efforts have been rigor-less and produced students unable to confront higher critical thought. Now this isn't a blanket statement but it does apply to many institutions. That said I do acknowledge that education is a two way street, the student needs to be one who desires to learn.

    It is a good analogy that describing rigor is like describing something that is delicious.

    Generally I'd describe rigor in a course as the facet of the course which push the student to grow in their knowledge and exposure to a subject. One of the way which this happens is the required reading list. Another is in the design of the assignments. Also the use of testing to help students demonstrate learning. Finally, the interaction with a learned professor is important.

    One of the first marks of programs that lack sufficient rigor is in their reading and text requirement lists. Not all of the texts at undergraduate level need to be as nuanced as the graduate or post-graduate levels. Yet there needs to be an exposure to thinkers and ideas which stretch the student. A professor needs to propose the lists since they know the subject the best. Anytime a degree allows students to ad hoc select their own texts isn't a good idea. What major thinkers and difficult writers is one reading in their courses? How much reading is required? How does the professor push the students to engage in their task of reading and evaluating the texts?

    How one engages through content in assignments is also important. Here the idea isn't about just asking students to write a 20 or 30 page paper on some obscure subject but to get them to have a course design which facilitates growth and intellectual maturity. How do the students work with their assigned reading? What interaction with other students is there? Most importantly, how do the students interact with professorial feedback on their assignments? Just doing assignments for assignments sake can be helpful, but the important facet of all of this is feedback.

    Testing is necessary but difficult. It is more than just information recall but needs to evaluate how the student has learned and grown. Sometimes classes have simple multiple choice tests that are full of obvious answers or non-answers. Perhaps the easiest thing to say about this is that if your degree doesn't require you to demonstrate knowledge in a testable way it isn't a rigorous degree.

    My final thought would be how do you interact with a professor and what can you do to receive professorial insight and feedback. I am wary of any degree that believes it can accomplish the goals of education simply by having the student watch a DVD or listen to a CD. This is difficult to link in with actual lecture time. There needs to be a conversational aspect of education. We generally grow more in conversation than route lecture. How much involvement with professors is there? Obviously not all students are going to take up this opportunity but professors exist to do more than just make tests, deliver lectures, and assign reading. What is your professor pushing you to do?

    Maybe that is a beginning for what I consider when I look at a rigorous program. Certainly I've left things out. Yet we need not sacrifice rigor when attempt to relay a good educational experience for students.

    When we push students to be better we all come out winners.
     
  7. quantumfaith

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    Preach,

    I am with you. Unfortunately, "higher education" in our nation has become what I call "commoditized", meaning for most it is simply a means to and end (a degree). Real education should be rigorous. It should compel and inspire us to be life long learners and seekers after more and richer knowledge.
     
  8. TCGreek

    TCGreek
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    While I'm a champion for excellence in education, I'm realizing more that God is more impressed with excellence of character.
     
  9. michaelbowe

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    I think the two can go hand in hand. This thread is basically referencing the schools that offer short cuts, allowing people to have paper on the wall, and titles that are not deserved. Do you think short cutting rigor for degrees says something about a person's character?
     
  10. rorschach

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    One question I have about "rigor" is whether it is at all worthwhile. Many PhDs have committed themselves to their seminar work and dissertation, yet are incapable, at the end of the day, of thinking for themselves. They may not even understand their course material, and such was the case with a seminar I took under John Thompson, focusing on matters of Scripture and Tradition up through the Reformation, yet the students couldn't understand Scripture outside what their denominations told them to believe, and they couldn't explain Augustine's view of Scripture despite spending an entire seminar discussing it.

    Despite spending hours and hours every day studying and writing for that seminar, I would not say that the rigor was in any way indicative of the quality of the course or the students it produced.
     
  11. PilgrimPastor

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    Here's an example that comes to mind: when I was in the Marines I studied (for a short time) the martial art of Aikido. It means the "way of harmony" and it is a form that use force redirection much more than meeting force with force, the military and police have long used related methods for restraint and non-lethal control of a violent individual.

    At any rate, its very interesting (and I'm not trying to over spiritualize an Easter martial art form...) that unlike American forms of Karate and other styles, one studies for YEARS before earning any "color" belt. You study for years and earn a brown belt and may spend many more years before you quality for a black belt. That is the only colors of title. That's it. You are a learner for a long time, then a qualified learner then a master/learner.

    Should not formal study, especially in the ministry, be similar? I'm glad it took me 10 years to earn a doctorate and to be honest, the prospect of holding that degree designation is very humbling. Further, it doesn't mean that I have attained all knowledge, it means that I have learned how to learn.
     
  12. TCGreek

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    Earning an accredited doctorate is to be applauded. Right now I ponder whether I should pursue one or not. I see where the good Lord leads.
     

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