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.
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 about teaching and learning
- Improve teaching and learning
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
- A professional learning community is enhanced when there is
- Openness to improvement
- Trust and respect
- A foundation in the knowledge and skills of teaching
- Supportive leadership
- Socialization or school structures that encourage the sharing of the school's vision and mission (Kruse, et al)