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Critical Friends Group for Newly Appointed Educational Leaders

Updated: Nov 17, 2023

I sat, attentively listening to my supervisor as he elaborated on the impending challenges I would encounter in my new role as a first-time assistant principal. He began to outline various concerns: discontent among the staff, overcrowded class sizes, student behavior issues, the district's decision to integrate all special programs into our school, a stark socioeconomic divide, parental demand for homogenous classes versus heterogeneous classes and the complex situation of two staff members who had engaged in an affair being reinstated on the same team, with me responsible for monitoring their conduct. As I absorbed all of these challenges, I couldn't help but wonder whether all my leadership training was enough to support me.

Thankfully, I was in a doctoral program with many new and seasoned principals who introduced the Critical Friends Group Model (CFGM) to me. The Critical Friends Group Model is the product of a simple idea: providing deliberate time and structures to promote adult professional growth that is directly linked to student learning.This model is made up of two essential elements:structured protocols and intentional conversation which guide the group's learning. (Annenberg Institute for School Reform, 1997; School Reform Initiative, 2010).

How It Works

Find and bring together a collective group of new educational leaders from like minded schools who are interested in becoming a Professional Learning Community (PLC) with in your community, district. or country province. Set a meeting day monthly or bi monthly for about 2.5 -3 hours.

· Start out with a skilled facilitator who has used and been trained with using the SRI protocols.

· Once the PLC team is formed, assign a designated host and facilitator for each meeting.

· Identify a topic to be discussed, start with the SRI Consultancy Protocol.

· At the end of each meeting a purposeful reflection will occur.

The SRI Consultancy Protocol offers a structured process to support focused and productive conversations, build collective understanding, and drive school improvement. There are other protocols which can be used at these meetings which can be an integral part of building resilient professional learning communities. These protocols can be found at School Reform Initiative, .

What Did Critical Friends Group Do For Me?

As I began to navigate my role as an educational leader, three significant changes occurred:

First, facilitating professional learning allowed me to engage in conversation about the teaching and learning, enabling me to understand the strengths and needs of the school.

Second, building trust and relationships with staff and teachers fostered transparency of conversation, collaboration, and mutual respect.

Third, being able to identify, label, and address challenges empowered data driven decisions- making concerning curriculum, instructional practices, resource allocation and professional development, resulting in improved student outcomes.

This Critical Friends Group model has empowered me to cultivate confidence, acquire knowledge, and, most importantly, develop agency for my voice. As I progressed in my leadership journey, I employed this model in different schools, among staff, parents, and within international school communities. My friendships and connections have proven to be a valuable source of support and insights, akin to a treasure chest filled with gold and silver. If you desire further information and training related to CFG, please take the next step and connect with me to effectively lead your school or organization toward positive change and improved educational outcomes.

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3 comentarios

Kevin Fahey
Kevin Fahey
18 nov 2023

Well said. Keep up the good fight!!

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loved hearing how you overcame your challenge

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Very informational for the future of education.

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