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Critical Friends Groups (CFG)
Since the beginning of this District, Rivendell has held Critical Friend Groups (CFG) – these are reflective practice groups to support collaboration and the improvement of student learning.
The following descriptions help explain our practice:
What is a CFG?
A CFG is a professional learning community consisting of approximately 8-12 educators who come together voluntarily at least once a month for about 2 hours. Group members are committed to improving their practice through collaborative learning. (As defined by the National School Reform Faculty: http://www.nsrfharmony.org/)
How did the idea of Critical Friends Groups develop?
In 1994, the Annenberg Institute for School Reform designed a different approach to professional development, one that would be focused on the practitioner and on defining what will improve student learning. Since the summer of 2000, Critical Friends Groups training is coordinated by the National School Reform Faculty (NSRF) at the Harmony Education Center in Bloomington, Indiana.
What are the purposes of a Critical Friends Group?
Critical Friends Groups are designed to
- Create a professional learning community
- Make teaching practice explicit and public by "talking about teaching"
- Help people involved in schools to work collaboratively in democratic, reflective communities (Bambino)
- Establish a foundation for sustained professional development based on a spirit of inquiry (Silva)
- Provide a context to understand our work with students, our relationships with peers, and our thoughts, assumptions, and beliefs about teaching and learning
- Help educators help each other turn theories into practice and standards into actual student learning
- Improve teaching and learning
How does CFG make a difference?
Looking at student work together builds professional community and shared norms, increases academic rigor, and provides an immediately applicable, effective way to help teachers change practices to get different results, as well as other modes of collaboratively examining student work..
What are the characteristics of a professional learning community?
Professional learning communities are strong when teachers demonstrate
- Shared norms and values
- Reflective dialogue
- Deprivatization of practice
- Collective focus on student learning
- Spirit of shared responsibility for the learning of all students
- Professional learning communities can develop when there is
- Time to meet and talk
- Physical proximity
- Interdependent teaching roles
- Active communication structures
- Teacher empowerment and autonomy
Additional Information on CFGs
- Looking at Student Work: This web site features "virtual protocol experiences," in addition to sites on student work, actual student work samples, rubrics, and benchmark research.
- Allen, David, ed. Assessing Student Learning: From Grading to Understanding. New York: Teachers College Press, 1998.