What is authentic intellectual work? "Authentic" is used here not to suggest that students are always unmotivated to succeed in conventional academic work, or that basic skills and proficiencies should be devalued, but only to identify some kinds of intellectual work as more complex and socially or personally more meaningful than others. Specifically, authentic intellectual work involves original application of knowledge and skills, rather than just routine use of facts and procedures.
It also entails careful study of the details of a particular problem and results in a product or presentation that has meaning beyond success in school. These distinctive characteristics of authentic intellectual work are summarized as construction of knowledge, through the use of disciplined inquiry, to produce discourse, products, or performances that have value beyond school.
Successful implementation of the Iowa Core will rely on effective instruction and assessment practices that lead to deep conceptual understanding through intellectually rigorous and relevant learning opportunities, appropriately differentiated for diverse learners. AIW, with its emphasis on standards of construction of knowledge, in-depth understanding through disciplined inquiry, and value beyond school, is an important framework for teachers' professional development that will contribute to improvement in instruction and assessment practices to support the Iowa Core.
Significant features of the AIW project in Iowa include:
- Teachers, administrators, liaisons and coaches form professional learning communities focused on the successful implementation of AIW.
- Leadership is provided and enhanced through Leadership Meetings that focus on expansion within a school, appropriate allocation of resources, and deep understanding of the AIW framework.
- Instructional personnel develop a common vision of quality instruction that is supported by research and aimed at improving student achievement.
- Teachers, individually and collectively, become more reflective and apply AIW to everyday classroom practices.