Great news for the Antioch Center for School Renewal (ACSR) at Antioch University New England! The center was recently awarded a grant from the School Reform Initiative (SRI) for a two-year research project to evaluate the effectiveness of its Critical Friends Group (CFG) training models. As part of the initiative, the ACSR also plans to create a standard CFG evaluation system for nationwide use.
“We’re really excited to have this opportunity,” said Laura Thomas, director of the ACSR and a core faculty member in AUNE’s Department of Education. “It will help us not only to improve our own work, but by creating a system that can be replicated by other organizations and centers around the country, we will contribute to the broader work.”
A Critical Friends Group is a small, professional learning community of up to a dozen educators who regularly meet to improve their practice through collaborative learning. Session activities vary, but are determined by members and facilitated by a trained coach. Traditionally, the ACSR has provided CFG coach training through three different programs: on-site, job-embedded training with ongoing support for groups of educators at individual local schools and districts; open enrollment summer sessions at AUNE with follow-up gatherings several times per year; and required customized training for students enrolled in AUNE’s Post-Master’s Principal Certification program.
The goal of the grant-funded study is to determine the success of each of the three training methods in changing individual teacher attitude and practice, fostering the practices of groups of teachers in CFG schools and increasing student achievement. To that end, research will focus on educators throughout New England who completed their initial coaching training through ACSR programs within the past three years.
Voluntary participants include multiple populations of teachers from New Hampshire and Vermont, as well as nearly seventy-five graduates of the ACSR’s open-enrollment institutes, and about two dozen current and former students in AUNE’s Post-Master’s Principal Certification program. Numerous qualitative and quantitative research measures will be employed, such as interviews, focus studies, surveys and questionnaires.
A partner in the two-year project is PEER Associates, a consulting firm that specializes in the assessment of educational programs. Consultant Dave Chase, also an adjunct faculty member in the departments of Education and Organization and Management at AUNE, will facilitate the initiative, supported by Laura. Data collection, which began in the fall, will continue through spring, and findings will be reported by late summer.