Nurturing Teacher Leadership

“What a joy it is, sitting down with a teacher team and watching a new anchor lead his group flawlessly. Or hearing the pilot team members share their reflections – about the power of AIW team meetings or about tips they learned about the process. This is why I do this work.”  (Journal entry, Oct., 2017)

After a school visit, I always reflect – in writing – about the process, the possibilities and the challenges that teachers and I encountered. On this particular fall day, I had just left Oconomowoc High School in WI, after having spent the morning working with their whole staff, then with the pilot team members from the prior year. Those pilot team members now serve as the facilitators – or anchors – of the school’s new AIW teams.  Though they might not identify themselves as such, these teachers have now become instructional leaders. 

Typically, our work with a new school or district begins with 2-3 pilot teams. The pilot team members attend a 2-day AIW kickoff, where they are introduced to the foundational theories, research and processes that define AIW. They also have an opportunity to try out the scoring rubrics, using samples of teacher tasks, student work and instruction that the AIW Institute coaches bring.  Those pilot teams then commit to meeting from 4-6 hours each month, engaging in the scoring process using artifacts from their own classroom practice. AIW Institute coaches help facilitate 4 of these team meetings throughout the year; in this role, we score and discuss artifacts with the team, model team facilitation strategies, answer questions about the AIW criteria and scoring process, and plan next steps with building administrators and teacher leaders. 

After the pilot year, a school expands AIW team participation to additional teachers within the building. As the number of teams increase, the anchors play an essential role in helping expand the school’s capacity to support AIW on a larger scale.  They facilitate the new teams and, in doing so, assume teacher leadership roles. For some anchors, this represents the first time they have taken on such a role. The AIW Institute coaches offer support to the anchors, celebrating their successes and helping them problem-solve around the challenges they encounter. 

As an AIW coach, I feel honored to be engaged in work that elevates the challenging, exciting, and messy work that teachers engage in each day.  I also feel honored to be able to support – and observe – the emergence of new teacher leaders. 


Laura Lang, Ph.D.
Associate Director, AIW Institute