Critical Friends Groups
Training educators to launch, facilitate, and sustain Critical Friends Groups in their schools and districts has been the number one focus of City High School’s Professional Learning Center over the past decade.
What is a “Critical Friends Group”?
- A Critical Friends Group (CFG) is a professional learning community of educators who come together regularly to examine their instructional practice and student learning. Members of a CFG commit to making their practice public to one another, to being reflective, and to holding each other accountable for meeting the needs and interests of all students.
- Critical Friends Groups engage in “looking at student work” protocols to ground their discussion, reflection, and growth in evidence-based exploration of actual student products, assessments, and data. In addition, CFG members share resources and ideas with one another; explore outside texts together, including emerging research in the field of education; and engage in collaborative inquiry.
- CFGs are usually a teacher-driven professional development effort that focuses on practitioner expertise and collaborative learning among peers; however, CFGs do need to be facilitated by a trained CFG Coach, usually a colleague.
- At their best, Critical Friends Groups are a powerful professional development experience that can lead to transformational growth for the adult participants and have profound impact on student learning and school culture.
CFG New Coaches Trainings
- New Coaches Training is an intensive, hands-on professional development experience. Any educator who is interested in deepening his or her practice and becoming more reflective will benefit from the training. Participants will learn to develop the habit of regular and collaborative examination of teacher and student work with the goal of student improvement. Coaches Trainings are geared toward teacher-leaders and other educators who are interested in facilitating a Critical Friends Group; however, they are also very useful for school leaders who want to hone their facilitative leadership skills and move their school toward becoming a stronger professional learning community.
- New Coaches Trainings are five days in length. They can be conducted over the course of five days in a row, split into a three day/two day split, or customized to meet the needs of a particular school, district, or group of interested educators. Upon completion, participants are prepared to facilitate a Critical Friends Group and receive ongoing support from City High School’s Outreach Center.
- City High School’s Outreach Center hosts an annual Tucson-area New Coaches Institute each summer in June. The 2013 Institute will be held from June 17-21.
CFG Workshops for Schools or Districts
- CFG Workshops are customized professional development experiences that range in length, audience, and intensity. Some examples include: 2-hour introductory session for a whole school staff to introduce the concept of Critical Friends Groups; an all-day session for building-level administrators around the question of how best to support the CFG efforts in their schools; a follow-up retreat for CFG facilitators from one school or district to provide ongoing support and to track and assess the impact of CFGs thus far in their setting.
- There are a host of options related to Critical Friends Group professional development that City High School’s Outreach Center can provide, depending on the level of awareness, knowledge, and experience of the particular group of educators regarding professional learning communities and, more specifically, the CFG model.
Please contact the Director of City High School’s Outreach Center Brett Goble for more information about any of the above – and to share the needs and interests of your group to determine how the Center can best work with your school or district.
Workshops are led by nationally trained Critical Friends Group facilitators. For more information about Critical Friends Group efforts nationally, visit the School Reform Initiative website.