What is Authentic Intellectual Work?

The goal of this professional development initiative is increase student learning by engaging students in authentic intellectual work. Authentic Intellectual Work (AIW) is defined by three criteria-construction of knowledge, through disciplined inquiry, to produce discourse, products, and performance that have value beyond school.

The AIW framework establishes criteria for teaching that:

  •     maximize expectations of intellectual challenge for all students,
  •     increase student interest in academic work,
  •     supports teachers’ taking time to teach for in-depth understanding, rather than superficial coverage of materials,
  •     provide a common conception of student intellectual work that promotes professional community among teachers of different grade levels and subjects, and
  •     most important, equip students to address the complex intellectual challenges of work, civic participation, and managing personal affairs in the contemporary world.

Significant features of AIW include the following:

  •     Teachers, administrators, liaisons and coaches form professional learning communities focused on the successful implementation of AIW.
  •     Leadership is provided with additional support 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 apply AIW to everyday classroom practices.
  •     Teachers become more introspective and reflective of their instructional practices.

Iowa Department of Education AIW resources:

AIW Institute:

The Center for AIW:


Katy Evenson
Administrator for Educational Services and Media
800/352-9040, Ext. 6019