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Ambitious Instruction

A resource guide for increasing rigor in the classroom and complex problem-solving

Ensure all learners have opportunities to engage deeply in meaningful intellectual work. In Ambitious Instruction, author Brad Cawn offers a blueprint for how to make rigor visible, accessible, and actionable in grade 6–12 classrooms. The resource guides readers toward using the twin tenets of problem-based learning and synthesis to significantly strengthen students’ ability to read, write, and think within and across disciplines.


  • Develop a working understanding of rigor that will serve as the basis for rigorous, instructional excellence.
  • Discover how to integrate inquiry and dialogue into your instruction to help learners engage in meaningful exploration of complex problems.
  • Become familiar with actionable strategies that can be utilized to develop and increase rigor in the classroom.
  • Learn how to create and organize tasks, texts, and processes in order to improve teaching and learning.

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Introduction: Redefining Rigor
Chapter 1: Getting Started on Ambitious Instruction—Building Curriculum Around Problems
Chapter 2: Planning Ambitious Instruction—How to Connect Problems to Practice
Chapter 3: Implementing Ambitious Instruction
Chapter 4: Facilitating Ambitious Instruction
Chapter 5: Supporting and Sustaining Ambitious Instruction




  • Cawn, B. (2016). Texts, Tasks, and Talk: Instruction to Meet the Common Core in Grades 9–12. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree Press.
  • Depka, E. (2017). Raising the Rigor: Effective Questioning Strategies and Techniques for the Classroom. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree Press.