Our critical friend programme is one of our Coaching and Mentoring Services for schools, boards, school leaders and teachers.
Do you have a critical friend? Someone you can turn to for honest advice, someone outside your day-to-day pressures and demands, someone who can step back and reflect? A critical friend has been defined as, “as “a trusted person who asks provocative questions, provides data to be examined through another lens, and offers critique of a person’s work as a friend”. In essence,
- “The learner describes a practice and requests feedback.
- The critical friend asks questions in order to understand the practice described and to clarify the context in which the practice takes place.
- The learner sets desired outcomes for this conference, ensuring that he or she is in control of the feedback.
- The critical friend provides feedback on what seems to be significant about the practice. This feedback should provide more than cursory praise; it should provide a lens that helps to elevate the work.
- The critical friend raises questions and critiques the work, nudging the learner to see it from different perspectives.
- Both participants reflect and write. The learner writes notes on the conference, thinking about the points and suggestions raised. The critical friend writes to the learner with suggestions or advice that seem appropriate for the desired outcome.”
“Research has shown that 95% of business owners and managers achieve their goals when they have somebody holding them accountable [such as a critical friend], whereas only 43% achieve their goals and success without it.” (Strong-UK)
Typical Critical Friends
Our programme typically consists of an hour a week comprising face-to-face meetings, lesson or other interaction observations and feedback sessions. Additional written observations and suppors can be supplied. In one project, we provided a critical friend to an entire department and in another to a group of schools. Our team includes university faculty, current and former school leaders and experienced teachers of all levels.
Beginning and Experienced Teachers
A critical friend can be invaluable for a beginning teacher, and even for an experienced teacher or an experienced teacher in a new environment.
School leadership is often a lonely task. Many queries or concerns cannot be shared, for example with subordinates or because of confidentiality matters. Oftentimes the only people who understand or can advise on a particular situation are other school leaders, however some things must be kept to oneself, especially in a competitive market. For school leaders, a critical friend can be invaluable both as a confidant and advisor and as a sounding-board. For new leaders, or for an experienced leader in a new environment, a critical friend is probably essential.
A critical friend provides non-biased, uninvolved perspectives on board governance, relationships between board members, a board´s operational policies and procedures and so on. A critical friend in this relationship does not comment on the board´s business, but on how the board operates.
Managing Change, Developing New Practices
Imposed change can be resisted, new practices not adopted, improvements not achieved,. A critical friend who works at the same level, and perhaps who has even through the changes him/herself is necessarily collegial and supportive, and can be key to moving a teacher, department or school in a new direction and to a new level.
Every teacher, leader, board, department, school and group of schools will benefit from a critical friend. Funding for a critical friend programme is often available.
Contact us to find out how a critical friend can help you and your school.