LAUNCHING A CRITICAL FRIENDS GROUP
In July 2017, 2012 Knowles Teaching Fellows Heidi Park and Ian Caldwell attended Critical Friends Group New Coaches’ Training facilitated by the National School Reform Faculty along with 12 other Teaching Fellows (funded by Knowles professional development grants). While they found the training inspiring and useful, they recognized that implementing the kind of collaborative leadership required of the Critical Friends Group model would require ongoing support not provided by the training. Funded by a Knowles Seed Grant, the group met virtually throughout the 2017–2018 academic year, where they practiced what they learned and supported one another as they took collaborative leadership into their school settings. During the year, three of the group participants presented work, four facilitated meetings, and 11 acted as critical friends virtually. Eight group members saw benefits in existing groups, two started new groups, and seven of them used Critical Friends Group strategies with students in their classrooms. One person used Critical Friends Group work to facilitate professional development at their school; and another developed a plan with three colleagues to run a pilot Critical Friends Group, provide Critical Friends Group training over the summer, and roll out Critical Friends Group work to their school at large during the 2018–2019 academic year. The project culminates with the group returning to meet again in the summer of 2018, where they will plan how to share what they’ve learned with the larger Knowles community.