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THE AIW JOURNEY BEGINS

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THE JOURNEY BEGINS

Dr. Ken Bates, PhD

Discovering Authentic Intellectual Work (AIW) was the result of my research on the impact of the International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Program on college preparation. This discovery was made extra special for me because the Wisconsin-based AIW was developed close to our home and schools: Green Lake, Wisconsin. AIW was even more familiar to me because I had taken a course from one of its consultants, Dr. Bruce King. Bruce has a reputation for being innovative and responsive to the real and present needs of schools.

Once a decision was made to reach out to AIW, I consulted with our IB Leadership Team to get their opinion. This is a crucial step in implementing any new initiative, for without buy-in from the staff it would be seen as another top-down decision that would not engage the staff.

As we began reading more about the details of the program, it seemed like a good fit for an IB school. The IB philosophy is to allow schools autonomy in their daily instruction while maintaining a rigorous curriculum. Our team had struggled with the issue of how to have quality daily lessons that encouraged higher level thinking and problem solving. AIW has the structure and format to give schools the next step in seeking instruction that is relevant and rigorous.

Our next step was to meet with Bruce and see if we could match our goals with that of AIW. It was an easy conversation because although Bruce was not familiar with IB, he had worked with schools that were looking for improved instruction. There was a mutual learning curve for both of us; we needed to learn about AIW, and he needed to learn about IB.

We didn’t know it at the time of our initial discussion, but AIW would eventually lead us on a path to develop a Professional Learning Community (PLC).  A PLC is a designed structure that  fosters collaboration among teachers for staff development. In a 2014 study commissioned by the Gates Foundation, Teachers Know Best: Teachers’ Views on Professional Development, teachers stated that they want staff development that helps them plan and improve their instruction, is teacher-driven, includes hands-on strategies relevant to their classrooms, is sustained over time, and recognizes that teachers are professionals with valuable insights.

I believe this is a good description of AIW.

Our next step was to bring Bruce in to meet with our teachers and explain the basic concepts of AIW. We knew that any discussion of something added to the teachers’ plates could bring some resistance, so the first meetings would be crucial.

In the next blog post, I will write about the initial process of implementing AIW in our school.

Dr. Ken Bates is a retired District Administrator for Green Lake Schools, WI. Green Lake Schools is Wisconsin’s only IB school district. The district has been recognized as an Exemplar by the Partnership for 21st Century Skills.

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