Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Authentic Intellectual Work

Iowa law requires that teachers participate in at least 36 hours of peer collaboration annually. This is the primary reason that several years ago in Hudson we began utilizing an early dismissal each Wednesday. So, when  school dismisses at 1:30 on Wednesday afternoon, teachers go to work on improving practice in their classrooms. The first hour of this early dismissal is set aside for collaboration while the second hour is designed for building level professional development. 

AIW practice scoring during Wednesday
professional development
The preferred model of collaboration in the elementary continues to be the PLC, which has served us well for the last four plus years and will continue to be a staple in this building. The trouble is that the same model is not as easily replicated in secondary grades because the majority of those teachers do not share the same content. What makes PLC so powerful is the collaboration that occurs among teachers who share content. For example, all the third grade teachers are responsible for teaching reading. This means they can discuss strategies specific to the instruction of this content and share the results of their instruction with their colleagues. At the secondary level, there is only one physics teachers. It is kind of difficult to collaborate by yourself. There is no other physics teacher to share ideas with.

So a new approach to this collaboration is being undertaken in the secondary school, one that is unique, fits extremely well within the framework of PLC, and certainly will improve practice in the classrooms. The process is referred to as authentic intellectual work (AIW).

Final practice scoring session of AIW. 
With this model of collaboration, each week an assigned teacher brings a lesson or unit for discussion to their collaborative team. That lesson is then presented for review to the team, who follow a predetermined protocol of analysis. The idea behind this type of collaboration is to take that lesson and improve upon it. Teachers may be asked to specify which Iowa Core learning standards are being presented and then to explain how they are measuring student success. They may be asked to share what value the lesson has beyond high school. Again, the whole point of this collaboration is to take a lesson, have peers review it, and then to make it better. 

This type of collaboration requires our educators to take a risk. They have to be willing to share a work product and invite their colleagues to closely scrutinize it in an effort that will ultimately improve student outcomes. Faculty participating in the teacher leadership system began piloting this process late last spring with a goal of full implementation this school year. At the beginning of this year, our faculty participated in an intense two day training process to learn the philosophy behind AIW. During this time, they had the chance to practice scoring sample lessons and enjoying rich conversations about what powerful and engaging instruction should look like. For the first two weeks of school, Mr. Dieken challenged them with unique practice samples and had them share out what they had learned. The conversations this faculty have been engaged in are outstanding! I am excited for them as they begin the next phase of their learning as teachers begin to bring their own work and lessons that will be part of practice.

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