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“Critical Friends" Training Institute

NESA Spring Educators Conference, Bangkok, Thailand

- Go to institute schedule
- See information about the REQUIRED BOOK below!**

Lead Facilitator:
is the director of the National School Reform Faculty at the Harmony Education Center in Bloomington, Indiana. She and other NSRF national facilitators work with schools across the U.S. and overseas to implement Critical Friends Groups trainings, administrative planning sessions, and other work relating to collaborative learning. She also facilitates strategic planning sessions, communication skills around dilemmas and data, and other culture-shifting training for educational and business groups. Ms Mattoon has enjoyed working with educators as an NSRF national facilitator for 11 years. Before becoming director of NSRF, Ms Mattoon taught for 26 years at Harmony School, an independent, early childhood‐12 school in Bloomington, Indiana. She was awarded the Hoosier Educator Award in 2000 and the Dorothy Johnson Award for Excellence in Education of Young Children in 2001. During her teaching years, she created and developed a conflict resolution, mediation, and life skills program and still works with schools to transform their cultures into ones of peace, mutual support and collaborative learning. Ms Mattoon has been trained in Mindfulness‐Based Stress Reduction and teaches adults and students how to acquire a greater peace of mind and focus.,

is a National Facilitator for the National School Reform Faculty. He works with schools across the US to implement Critical Friends Groups. Based in Chicago, Mr Horton also works as an Educational Consultant, working with teachers and administrators to create cultures of high expectation and academic and personal success for all students. He began his career at Paul Robeson High School in Chicago as a social studies teacher where he and his colleagues implemented a peer coaching model that led to the improvement of instructional practices in the school. He went on to work as the Director of Professional Development for the Small Schools Workshop at the University of Illinois at Chicago where he was instrumental in the development of small school leaders across the US.

Intern Trainers:

What are CFGs?
A Critical Friends Group (CFG) is a form of a professional learning community — educators who meet regularly and share a commitment to professional growth, collaboration, and improvement of student learning. In 1994, the Annenberg Institute for School Reform designed an innovative approach to professional development, one that focuses on the practitioner and on sharing ways to improve student learning. Since 2000, Critical Friends Groups Trainings have been coordinated by the National School Reform Faculty (NSRF) at the Harmony Education Center in Bloomington, Indiana.

Learn how CFGs can be used in your school and how protocols help to make CFGs possible: Download The “Self-Guided Tour to NSRF and Critical Friends Groups”to gain more information about the training institute. Additionally, you may download Michele's article, "How Are CFGs Different From PLCs?" that was published in the Fall 2012 issue of NESA NEWS.

Critical Friends Training Institute Description:
Discover the power of Critical Friends Groups for your school, department, or group and become an NSRF-certified CFG Coach in this five-day institute. This training will focus on teaching participants how to increase student achievement through collaborative professional learning communities (CFGs). Participants will gain skills to improve student learning, create equity in the classroom, increase efficient, effective communication and enhance personal performance through the use of protocols and reflective practice. Upon completion of the five days of this training, participants will become NSRF-certified CFG coaches.

Essential Question:
What do I need to know and be able to do to create, foster and sustain equitable Critical Friends Groups as part of a collaborative professional learning community in our school?

Over-arching Outcome:
By the end of the five days, participants will leave having learned several protocols for engaging their colleagues in reflective conversations about teaching practices, adult and/or student work with the goal of achieving higher and more equitable student outcomes.

General Agenda, April 4-8:

  • Day One: Today is an introduction to Critical Friends Groups. While being engaged in today’s protocols and activities, participants will learn to lay the foundational work for CFG’s—how to build trust, create a safe atmosphere, the importance of reflection and debriefing, and learn about protocols and why they work.
  • Day Two: Participants will learn several protocols for discussing texts and solving professional dilemmas. The facilitator will model protocols for the large group, directing participants to pay close attention to facilitation skills such as: organization, language, timing, etc.
  • Day Three: Participants will learn new protocols designed to promote: active listening, analyzing data, and effective strategic planning. Participants will also be introduced to protocols that will allow them to improve their work and the work of their students. Today participants will have the opportunity to begin to facilitate, present, and participate in these protocols.
  • Day Four: Participants will learn how to match various protocols to the type of work they bring. They will also work in small groups all day using the protocols they have learned to improve their work, their student’s work or to solve professional dilemmas. They will have opportunities all day to participate, present, and facilitate protocols.
  • Day Five: Participants will plan with their colleagues how they will use CFGs and NSRF protocols and activities in their classroom, with their colleagues and in their school. Participants will learn what it takes to set up and run an ongoing successful CFG.
Required Resource Book:

National School Reform Faculty™ Resource Book: Adult Learning in the Service of Student Achievement. Click here to order and receive the book in advance of the training. **IMPORTANT: When you call with your credit card number or type in a Purchase Order Number, make note that you’re attending the NESA Special Institute to receive the book at a 50 percent discount, plus shipping.

Institute Schedule

  • Thursday, April 4 (pre-conference day) — 8:30-5:00
    10:00-10:30 coffee break / 12:30-1:30 lunch / 3:00-3:30 coffee break
  • Friday, April 5 — 8:30-5:00
    10:00-10:30 coffee break / 12:30-1:30 lunch / 3:00-3:30 coffee break
  • Saturday, April 6 — 8:30-1:00
    10:30-11:00 coffee break / 1:00-2:00 lunch
  • Sunday, April 7 — 8:30-5:00
    10:00-10:30 coffee break / 12:30-1:30 lunch / 3:00-3:30 coffee break
  • Monday, April 8 — 8:30-1:00
    10:45-11:15 coffee break

“Critical Friends” Training Institute Fees:

  • NESA regular member delegate: US $825
  • NESA associate member delegate: US $950
  • Non-NESA member delegate: US $1100

Fee includes coffee breaks, three lunches and conference social events.


Separate registration is required to attend — to secure places at the training institute, please complete this APPLICATION FORM and email to Aristea Evangelou at the NESA Center: Aristea will forward you (registering as an individual) or your school's team leader (for teams) a link to an online registration form that each team member should then complete.

**NOTE: This institute is limited to 40 participants. School teams are recommended but not mandatory.

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