Teacher tip: Intellectual rigour for all students

Intellectual rigour is defined as building student dispositions in higher order thinking, building deep knowled​ge and deep understanding of the way in which knowledge is constructed. Knowledge construction is influenced by political, social and cultural influences.​

What does intellectual rigour look like? 

Building student capability to recognise and develop the dispositions of intellectual rigour are part of daily pedagogical practice.

In practice, this involves students learning to be inquisitive, open and fair minded, ready to try new ways of working, and to recognise and be considerate of alternatives.​

The dispositions of intellectual rigour​​ 

Possible ways of teaching the dispositions of intellectual rigour include:

  • modelling and explicitly teaching the dispositions
  • powerful questions that challenge students to apply higher order thinking skills
  • inquiry questions that challenge students to explore knowledge and issues that are subjective to political, social and cultural influences. Socratic discussions can facilitate deeper inquiry. For a sample structure see Socratic discussions 
  • rich tasks that promote deep learning and deep understanding, such as Conscience alley a strategy that encourages the presentation of two points of view or perspectives. For more information, see Conscience alley
  • teaching application and transference of intellectual rigour dispositions to associated content, new knowledge, concepts, and different situations and contexts. The Four Resources Model for Writing is an example of how students progress from encoding text to composing meaning, to composing content and then constructing belief. For more information, see Four Resources Model for Writing
  • inviting reflection, feedback and goal setting between the student and teacher.​

Reflecting on teaching practices 

In supporting each student to reach their potential, teachers will reflect on their pedagogical practices. Understanding the needs of each student will assist with selection of appropriate and tailored teaching strategies and classroom activities.

Identifying the zone of proximal development for individual students will allow students to be challenged and stretched in their learning regardless of their position within the curriculum learning continuum. Once identified, students can be appropriately supported and scaffolded by their teacher to engage in rich and intellectually rigorous learning. Prompting questions include: 

  • How can you further support students to engage with rigour in their learning experiences?
  • What provocations can you use to establish student familiarity with the dispositions of intellectual rigour?
  • What strategies will you use to gather student feedback during learning, to inform practice and ensure student engagement?
  • What assessment task/s might you develop to demonstrate student learning and application of the dispositions?
  • What reflective processes will you use to measure their impact on building the dispositions of intellectual rigour in students?

Resources to support teachers

​To dowload resources to assist you to develop approaches that challenge your students, see: Professional Practice Note 7: Intellectual rigour

For other supporting resources, see:

Feedback welcome​

For more information, or to share your feedback, please email​: professional.practice@edumail.vic.gov.au