I had never heard of Critical Friends Groups (CFG) until the module 6 readings. Just the name “Critical Friends” makes it a group I want to join! It implies support for each other during stressful times. Who doesn’t need that as a teacher? The more I learn about CFGs I am more convinced that it would be a very worthwhile endeavor for me professionally, as well as for the improvement of student learning.
I was encouraged that the frequency of CFG meetings were on an average of once per month, albeit as long as 2 hours (Zepeda, 2012). This seems like a reasonable expectation and one that would be less likely to overwhelm teachers’ schedules. Teachers are already expected to participate in weekly PLC meetings (sometimes on more than one PLC group), PGE groups, and team meetings. I wonder if CFG groups could meet outside of the school day and accumulate professional development hours? I would think that this would save money and eliminate the need for subs.
I also see CFGs as an opportunity to collaborate with teachers across grade levels and gain insight into areas that I would not otherwise become familiar with. Such an experience would be rich with different perspectives. All of this is likely to result in increased student and teacher learning.
Zepeda (2012, p. 209) states that there are five stages of CFG development. These stages are 1. Forming; 2. Storming; 3. Norming; 4.Performing; and 5. Adjourning. I would like to know if CFG membership typically remains constant from stage 1 through to stage 5? Are new members allowed or encouraged to join a CFG after it has already been established? If so, does this disrupt the flow of the work in which a group is involved? Are CFGs ever established around a specific interest such as ELL, technology, or gifted students? I am interested enough in this topic that I will search out teachers who are familiar with this particular type of professional development and further consider my participation.
Zepeda, S.J. (2012) Professional development: What works. Larchmont, New York: Eye on Education.