#MTBoS Critical Friends Group

I have been reading about using the Critical Friends Protocol for improving teacher products (lesson plans, products, problem sets, whatever) and it seems really neat. The basic process is this:

Critical Friends Process

  1. Presentation One person, the presenter, presents a product they would like feedback on. This can be anything. The presenter shows everything they have and explains the goals, methods, everything they can. If the presenter has specific things they are looking for feedback on, they point them out here. The rest of the group is silent during this time, taking notes on the questions the presenter is asking, notices and wonders, and anything else agreed upon by the group in advance (some groups use specific rubrics for specific types of product, for example).
  2. Clarifying Questions There is a short period devoted to clarification questions. This is NOT a time for advice, only to clarify what is being asked.
  3. Discussion The rest of the group holds a discussion amongst themselves about the product as if the presenter were not in the room. This should include both warm and cool feedback, specific opportunities to improve, next steps, etc. Obviously, any specific questions asked by the presenter should be the focus, but nothing is off limits during this period. The presenter does NOT participate in this discussion – rather they sit back, do not make eye contact, and take notes about what feedback is helpful.
  4. Response The presenter responds to the feedback, especially noting what they found particularly helpful. At this point a more informal version could allow the discussion to continue with all participants, especially if there is a good train of thought to pursue.
  5. Debrief Somebody (many have a specifically assigned facilitator who serves as such throughout the process) leads a short discussion critiquing the process itself.

I would like to start a MTBoS critical friends group. I envision an asynchronous version that works like this:

Asynchronous Internet-based Critical Friends Process

Each discussion takes one week. Members of the group have a shared space where they can receive notifications of the discussion: I think the best choice is likely a thread in Google Hangouts; individual threads can be made with distinct titles (one for each product), it’s easy to get notifications on phones or computers, there is no character limit to typed responses, and if ever people want to make it go synchronous with a video call that is easy too.

  1. Day 1 – Presentation – On day 1, the presenter make a blog post OR (if they wish to keep it more private) e-mails the group with their product. This can be a video and/or written explanation and materials, a google slideshow,  whatever works.
  2. Day 2 – Clarifying Questions – group members have until the end of the second day to read/watch/observe the product and respond with clarifying questions in the group discussion area.
  3. Day 3 through 5 – Discussion – group members discuss the product amongst themselves, in the shared space. The presenter gets notifications and reads the discussion, but does not participate.
  4. Day 6 – Response – The presenter responds to the group. Discussion can continue at that point with all participating, if it makes sense.
  5. Days 7 to whenever – Discussion continues as long as anybody wants. Another presenter begins the process again with a different product whenever ready.


So… what do you think? Does this asynchronous process seem like it should work? Anything you would improve about it?

And does anybody want to join a critical friends group with me, if so? I can volunteer to be the first presenter (though I don’t yet know what I’ll present. so if anybody has something pressing I could happily just facilitate the first round). If you are interested, just let me know here, by e-mail, or flag me down on Twitter (@DavidGriswoldHH) by DM or otherwise. I think we will need to limit the group size to 8 or 10 for manageability (though if more people express interest then we can set up multiple groups!)

3 thoughts on “#MTBoS Critical Friends Group

    1. Unfortunately, this never really got off the ground. I may try again next year. I still think it has real potential.

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