Book Review                                      Online Exclusive


How to Plan Rigorous


by Robyn R. Jackson, ASCD, Alexandria, Va., 2011, 121 pp., $22.95 softcover


How to Plan Rigorous Instruction is first in a series, Mastering the Principles of Great Teaching. The four-chapter book by Robyn Jackson begins with a self-assessment diagnostic tool to help the reader identify his or her knowledge of mastery teaching. Then, it’s on to the chapters, each corresponding to a stage in the process for developing a rigorous learning unit.

Creating rigorous unit assessments should meet three criteria, says Jackson: (1) measure thinking skills rather than factual recall; (2) sustain or reinforce rigorous engagement by asking students to think in higher order; and (3) asks students to apply what they have learned to real- world or unpredictable situations.

The second chapter describes the process of selecting rigorous learning material. Often, teachers do not get to choose their content, so strategies are included to increase the rigor in existing material to be considered rigorous. Learning material requires the student to be active.

The third chapter discusses rigorous instructional strategies. Master teachers help students learn to manipulate, reorganize and adapt what they are learning to new situations. Student capacity to engage in learning is done through four stages ─ acquisition, application, assimilation and adaptation.

The final chapter pulls it all together. The author describes learning goals and how they should be measurable, manageable, meaningful and focused on mastery.

Jackson offers specific examples throughout the book, including worksheets, planning templates and checklists and links to online resources.

This book is useful to administrators who want to improve classroom instruction and student learning. The suggestions are practical and the manual is easy to read.

Reviewed by Paul A. Shaw, coordinator of undergraduate secondary education, Piedmont College, Demorest, Ga.


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