The West Lyon School Board was introduced to the Authentic Intellectual Work (AIW) program during its regular meeting on Feb. 11. Principals Tim Snyder and Doug Jiskoot explained the program currently being tested on a group of 10 West Lyon teachers, and will be implemented schoolwide next year.
AIW is a professional development program that uses collaborative planning and evaluating to improve a teacher’s lesson plans. In other words, a group of about five to seven teachers and teaching professionals get together. A teacher will bring a lesson plan that he/she has used or plans to use in class. The group then reads through the lesson plan and gives it a score. They score on things such as: the lesson’s applicability to the real world, what conclusions the student should draw, as well as the degree of organization and interpretation that is required of the students to perform the task.
A major component of the scoring is to facilitate discussion. Everyone must be able to explain the score that he/she gave and brainstorm ways to improve the lesson so students are able to obtain the maximum benefit from it.
“It’s kind of the concept that more heads are better than one.” Jiskoot said.
Of major importance is developing lessons students can use and relate to outside of the classroom. This kind of learning is more likely to be retained longer, rather than simply memorized for testing purposes.
Each teacher’s lesson review takes about an hour, and the group reviews about four lessons per meeting, which they do once a month. The school has decided to adopt this method of professional development because it fits with a soon-to-be state mandate that 1) Requires teaching professionals to engage in 36 hours of professional development a year, 2) Engage in collaborative peer review.
The principals are required to be active participants in these groups as well, giving feed back and suggesting lesson improvements.
Within a year’s span, a teacher should have four to five lessons reviewed by the group. The leader will alternate each session and he/she will follow a script to lead off the discussion, Jiskoot said.
There were inquires from the board regarding current or potential negative feedback to the program, especially since critiquing is such a major component of the process. More veteran teachers may be resistant to changing lesson plans or to receiving criticism from newer or younger teachers.
In response Principal Snyder said that he has heard a lot of positive feed so far from the participating West Lyon teachers, as well as from teachers in surrounding schools districts that have already implemented it.
“I visited Rock Valley and Boyden-Hull beforehand so I got to talk to their teachers when they got done with their groups, and before we jumped in this. I asked PE teachers to music teachers, ‘what do you think’ and I never really received a negative. And that’s a very rare thing in education, when it comes to professional development, you’re not going to get that many people that say ‘this is a good thing.’ So that kind of sold it for me,” Snyder said.
Next year the district plans to roll out the program schoolwide. It’ll put teachers in groups of five, and unless there is conflict within certain groups, they will likely remain with these assigned peers for two years before being regrouped.
“Putting our groups together is going to be one of our biggest tasks. We’ve got to make sure that we’re getting the right chemistry, with the right leader,” Snyder said.
The four hours a month spent on AIW will be during the allotted teacher in-service time. Funding for the program comes from Iowa Core, which is provided by the state.
The board also discussed and voted on Unity Christian’s request to join the Siouxland Conference. Like two years ago when it applied, the board moved to reject its entrance in to the conference after discussing it with and receiving feedback form the coaches.
“We have 10 teams now, having 11 teams in the conference is pretty tough with scheduling at this point in time, it does create some tough situations, an example would be volleyball,” Superintendent Jim Hargens said.
Due to the size of Unity Christian, the scheduling conflict it would create and the fact it doesn’t have varsity wrestling or junior athletics, the board unanimously moved to deny its admission.
In other news, the 2013-2014 school year calendar was discussed and approved. Kylie Vander Veen was approved to be coach of this year’s girls golf team, and Supt. Hargens formally recognized students of the month: Taeric Ezzel, Paige Ver Meer, Morgan Meendering and Cari Moser.
The board concluded with a closed-door meeting to discuss teacher contract negotiations. The next regular meeting will be held on Monday, March 11, at 7 p.m.