Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)

Committee Chair

Danny R. Stedman


This study investigated the importance of rigor and teacher efficacy in relation to student achievement. There are several definitions of the word rigor. Blackburn (2008) defined rigor as “An environment in which each student is expected to learn at high levels, each student is supported so he or she can learn at high levels, and each student demonstrates learning at high levels” (p. 16). ACT/SAT data, the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), the High School Survey of Student Engagement (HSSSE), and the High School Reform and Work all conclude that students who are college and career ready have graduated high school successfully, completing rigorous courses throughout their high school experience. Several strategies to increase rigor have been defined in this study: questioning (convergent and divergent), Bloom’s Taxonomy, Depth of Knowledge, International Baccalaureate (IB) program, the Advanced Placement (AP) program, Worksheets Don’t Grow Dendrites, and AVID (WICOR, Cornell Notes, Socratic Seminar, Philosophical Chairs, and Costa’s Levels of Inquiry).

”Self-efficacy is the optimistic self-belief in our competence or chances of successfully accomplishing a task and producing a favorable outcome” (Akhtar, 2008, para. 1). Self-efficacy leads to teacher efficacy, which is the teachers’ own belief of their “ability to plan instruction and accomplish instructional objectives” (Gavora, 2010, p. 2).

This study analyzed one rural school district in eastern North Carolina, focusing on the three comprehensive high schools through surveys and interviews. The findings in this study indicated that teachers were incorporating rigor into their classrooms using several research-based strategies: differentiation, WICOR, higher order thinking questions, AVID strategies, and inquiry-based learning. Teachers need professional development with content knowledge, standards, lesson plan components, and strategies to meet the needs of all students. Teachers have an array of comfort levels with rigor in their classroom. The following recommendations focus on improving rigor in the school system by creating a budget for the sole purpose to assist with increasing rigor. Remote teaching, where students would meet in the library and sign on to their computers to stream the class. Provide professional development for teachers that focuses on content, how to implement rigor into their content, providing alternative strategies, student creativity and how to have students think critically. Provide all teachers with intense professional development on how to use and implement the Learning Focus Lesson Plan and train all teachers on AVID strategies (WICOR, Socratic Seminars, Cornell Notes, and Philosophical Chairs).

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.