How friends can be critical as schools make essential changes

by Kathleen Cushman


Critical friendships are familiar to most educators. Such professional friendships acknowledge the complexity of teaching and provide structures for teachers to improve their teaching by giving and receiving feedback.

For many teachers involved in action research, forming critical friendships is the first step in establishing an action research project.

This article uses a case study approach to explore the efficacy of critical friendship groups – within schools and between schools – as a professional development approach, in particular where school change is a key focus.

Kathleen Cushman looks closely at different types of school-based critical friendships and the range of strategies that can make up an effective critical friendship.

She provides practical guidance and tools for being both critical and friendly.

Reflective questions

These reflective questions might guide you in your reading of this article:

  • What questions do you have about the effectiveness of your work with students? How might a colleague’s observations help you answer them?
  • How closely do the ideas in this article mirror how appraisal and supervision occur in your school?
  • What do you think about the protocols suggested for visiting each other and visiting other schools?
  • If you are involved in action research, what will happen after your data gathering? Have you established a process for effectively implementing and evaluating change?

Further reading

Critical friends – Educational Leadership

Article by Deborah Bambino on the theme of critical friends (2002)


How friends can be critical as schools make essential changes

Cushman, K. (1998, May). Horace,14(5).

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