Critical Friends are values-development trainers and counselors, who support schools and kindergartens. Critical Friends help in analyzing the strengths and weaknesses of the organisation, assess the effectiveness and impact of the values-development activities and support teams in creating their long-term plans for values-based school or values-based kindergarten.
Who are Critical Friends?
Critical Friends are advisors working for Centre for Ethics, University of Tartu. The idea for such counselling programme hails from Canterbury Christ Church University, England. All of our advisors have received training on character education and values-development for organisations from the Center. The trainers of themselves come from very different backgrounds and thus enrich the counseling process with their specific knowledge and experience. Our evaluation and support model resides on the “Good School” and “Good Kindergarten” model, which offers kindergartens and schools a whole-school approach for self-analysis.
Who can benefit from Critical Friends?
One of the main reasons the Center for Ethics started to train Critical Friends to work with kindergartens and schools is the whirlwind of change of the modern educational institutions face.
Kindergartens and schools are expected to deliver results, yet create high autonomy, personalized and emotionally supportive learning process for children, partake in variety of activities from creating bully-free classrooms, digitally competent staff, physically active and creative learning environments for students, engage local community and municipality in long term development and lead the way as an exemplary kindergartens or schools in their region or country. Many kindergartens and schools have said, that with high ambitions or countless options, it it oftentimes difficult to choose, what to focus on and most importantly - how to evaluate which activities are in accordance with the kindergarten/school values, what is their effect and impact?
Critical Friends help to school and kindergarten identify and articulate their strengths & weaknesses and also pay attention to potential areas for improvement:
- Help to plan the activities that support the development of the organization as a whole;
- Hear out and involve all parties involved in school and kindergarten for self-analysis;
- Give constructive and growth mindset feedback to all parties involved.
If the school or kindergarten invites Critical Friend to help them, the methods/activities will be selected according to the needs of the institutions. Most commonly, they involve following methods/activities:
- Whole day observations (including classes, breaks) for at least two days;
- Group and/or individual interviews with management, teachers, support professionals, students, members of the Board of Trustees, parents, school staff, other staff;
- Out-of-class observations in the school environment (i.e. focusing on school culture and values, security and well-being, hobbies, involvement of different actors in the school community);
- Studying the organization and need of support systems;
- Studying and analyzing the basic documents of the school/kindergarten (i.e. curriculum, mission & values, assessment policy, internal rules etc).
- Mapping the networking practices for the empowerment of key people needed to support the school/kindergarten;
- Planning of follow-up activities (involving different experts in the process where appropriate);
- Feedback and advice from management (and from the school where appropriate).
Currently Centre for Ethics has 14 Critical Friends (see the list HERE, in Estonian).
For additional information, please contact
Good School project manager
e-mail: nele.punnar [ät] ut.ee
phone: +372 538 48320