Using Critical Friends to Improve Professional Practice
We have our annual "Critical Friends Group" training happening this weekend. Although I did my training two years ago, have facilitated for others, had others facilitate for me, I whole heartedly endorse the program.
What is Critical Friends?
Critical Friends Group or "CFG" is bringing people together to help solve a problem or dilemma that a staff member is having and has brought to the table to share with others in order to find solutions.Where often teachers so easily go off on tangents with regards to education, critical friends keeps the discussion very focused. There are a number of protocols that have been developed by School Reform Initiative and presenters usually meet with their facilitator to determine what a good protocol is for the issue.
Common Misconceptions about CFG
People that bring a "problem" to the table are inexperienced, weak teachers. Most people have some real interesting dilemmas that are solved by insightful discussion.Usually, people participate in a CFG session before they have the confidence to bring something of their own to the table.
I can critique my work on my own. Teachers are reflective, but it's amazing how many ideas come out of a CFG session. I had brought an ongoing science project to the table a few years back as a presenter, and in one hour, had progressed the project more than I had in three years of reflection.
I don't have time for this. True, our time is valuable, but even participants get a lot out of sessions. I was in a CFG session two weeks ago, and it's amazing how much I got out of the session. When we confine our work to microcosm of our classroom, we sometimes fail to learn from others who are doing amazing things in the school.
Tips for Implementing CFG
We had a very passionate staff member who brought CFG to our school three years ago and it's grown by leaps and bounds. I think it's crucial that you have a number of dedicated staff members who have benefited from the practice and time in the calendar to practice CFG as a staff. If you have the opportunity to learn from a CFG session, check it out!