AIW and Teaching as a Profession
I recently had the opportunity to sit in on an Authentic Intellectual Work (AIW) session held in the College Community School District.
AIW is a protocol designed to help teachers refine their lessons in the presence of other educators. It puts a premium on what it calls “disciplined inquiry”–student-led, teacher-assisted learning–and on “value outside the classroom.” AIW is Iowa state sponsored initiative.
Boiling down good lessons to these two qualities is fantastic, especially in the context of an AIW session where everyone who is providing input has these two ideas on a pedestal.
It would be nice if this kind of professional conferencing and planning were a daily part of what teachers do, but scheduling, class sizes, and under funding prevent this from being a reality. College Community has decided to devote the resources to AIW necessary to make the program successful.
Second only to actually working with students, co-planning, and conferencing lessons plans is vital to quality teaching. If we want better schools, we’ll implement some sort of daily peer conferencing, like AIW or Bacon-Wrapped Lessons.
The Power’s in the Protocol:
What AIW provides is an efficient protocol for presenting a proposed lesson and then accepting actionable feedback to make that lesson better. AIW includes prescribed time for talking about the specifics of the design, the audience, the intended content, and ways of improving the lesson by extending the audience and targeting specific skills in a cleaner way.
The lesson I witnessed began as a fairly standard lesson on creating a budget for grocery shopping (I believe this was for third grade); not the best but certainly not the worst. What I loved about watching the AIW process in action was how surgical the staff members (teachers, admins, and an AEA representative) were about the specifics of the lesson.
At one point the teachers who designed the lesson stated that they wanted students to practice estimating and using decimals in addition and subtraction. When left to our own devices, teachers often make these wishes for secondary content implicitly. We hope students will learn them, but with all the time constraints, it’s hard to truly design well unless you’re designing with a team.
The AIW team really jumped on and helped amplify this lesson. They quickly turned their attention to using real data (Hy Vee ads) and thinking about a population that the kids could buy food for (the Crisis Center).
The specific content of the lesson got a wash and wax as well, the specific estimating and subtracting the students were doing got moved to the front of the activity, and the whole thing was more polished and student directed.
Again, this process may sound obvious, but the current mode of lesson planning for most teachers is all too personal. We feel like our lessons are extensions of ourselves and with that the success of our students. This emotional connection often prevents us from professionalizing the lesson planning process and creates the closed-door atmosphere of most schools.
Watching an administrator work as the lead of an AIW conference was truly refreshing. I’ve never seen teachers take feedback so well, and I believe that it has a lot to do with the work College Community has done to separate the profession of lesson planning from the personality of the instructor.
Yet another win for students, and a win for the profession of teaching.