FACILITATING CRITICAL FRIENDS GROUPS
In the summer of 2012, Knowles Fellow Victor Chen used a grant from the Knowles Teacher Initiative to attend Critical Friends Group® New Coaches Training. In this training, he learned to provide teachers with the tools needed to create a collaborative culture and improve student achievement. By the end of the training, he was equipped to coach and lead peers in developing Critical Friends Groups. During the 2012–2013 academic year, he trained seven colleagues at Thurston High School in Redford, Michigan to become Critical Friends Group facilitators. Approximately 40 of the school’s 48 teachers formed four interdisciplinary groups and began meeting on a monthly basis during the 2013–2014 academic year. The meetings typically involve a group member presenting a lesson, student work, an assessment, or a dilemma about teaching and learning. The meeting facilitator uses a protocol to support the group discussion and help the presenter think more deeply about his or her teaching. During the 2014–2015 academic year, the groups continued to meet and began to choose their own meeting topics and agendas. The groups continue to meet and most have incorporated peer observation and video protocols into their meeting agendas and continue to seek new ideas to further their work. In documenting the outcomes of this grant, Victor reported an improved the sense of community within individual groups and a positive impact on how teachers talk about teaching and learning.