Post-its and Ponderings
A middle school teacher's thoughts on science, technology and learning

Friday, January 12, 2007

CFG: Critical Friends Group

In the hectic schedule of meetings and obligations, there is one commitment that I eagerly anticipate - our CFG meetings. This is the second year I have participated in a Critical Friends Group (CFG) at my school. A group of us meet each month to discuss a piece of work or an issue brought in by one of our colleagues. Our structured conversations last about an hour, but the renewed pedagogical vigor lasts for days to follow.

We use protocols, such as the Collaborative Assessment Conference, Tuning Protocol, Consultancy and others. They all differ slightly, but all share a similar characteristics: all provide for a structured conversation about a piece of student work or an educational issue. This formal discussion is far more effective than the typical "teacher's lounge" conversation.

CFGs are a trend quickly infiltrating school systems. The National School Reform Faculty maintains an entire website on the subject of CFGs.

I agree with Carol Nejman when she says, "In a teacher's life there are always a thousand things to do and not enough time to do it all. Disciplining myself to take the time to meet with colleagues on a voluntary basis was difficult at first. Later, the work became so invigorating I couldn't stay away."

That's what CFGs do for me. I think they are fantastic. Too often, as educators, we are isolated in our own classrooms. In fact, I haven't really formally observed another teacher since I completed my preservice training. I can learn a lot from my colleagues, however, the system is not currently designed to encourage such interactivity. Any move towards making professional development more collaborative receives high marks from me.



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