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UWE Learning and Teaching Fellowship Scheme

Critical Friend Guidance Sheet


Why use a critical friend?

This scheme is designed to promote the value of collaboration between


colleagues as a means to enhance the quality of learning support and/or
teaching. Collaboration can be an effective way of developing and improving
your application. A critical friend (CF) can provide both support and challenge
through the process of drafting and refining an application. The concept of
critical friendship is common in many educational settings and in action
research (as a mode of validation). Costa and Kallick 1 characterize a critical
friend as:

a trusted person who asks provocative questions, provides data to be


examined through another lens, and offers critique of a person's work as a
friend. A critical friend takes the time to fully understand the context of the
work presented and the outcomes that the person or group is working
toward. The friend is an advocate for the success of that work.

Who would make a good critical friend?

There are advantages in identifying a critical friend who is not directly involved
in your everyday work/teaching. This allows the colleague to offer a more
objective perspective and ensures your claims and aspirations are explicit to
the non-specialist reader who may not be familiar with your immediate context.
Having said this, a critical friend from within your own team discipline can work
successfully too. You can, of course, identify your own CF or you could talk to
your head of department or appropriate associate dean about a suitable
person.

What are the characteristics of a successful critical friend?

A successful critical friend is someone who is prepared to give up some time


to support you in developing your application. S/he will ideally do this through
her/his questioning rather than through telling you what to do. The questions
are likely to speculative rather than judgemental. S/he will share your
commitment to improving the quality of learning and teaching at UWE but will
not seek to impose her/his views on you. S/he will probe your ideas and

1 Costa, A. L. & Kallick, B. (1993), Through the Lens of a Critical Friend, Educational
Leadership, Vol 51 No 2.
meaning. S/he will be familiar with the criteria for the fellowship scheme and
support you in ensuring you have addressed each as well as possible. S/he
will encourage you to provide evidence to support your claims and to ensure
your aspirations are realistic, valid and understandable. S/he will be
committed to helping you produce a successful application.

What are the characteristics of a successful meeting with a critical


friend?

A discussion about your application should not be rushed and therefore


agreeing a protected time for it is important. It may be worth establishing
ground rules (for example around confidentiality) especially if the CF is
someone you do not know well. Successful critical friendship is likely to be
based on a trusting professional relationship. More than one meeting may be
desirable near the beginning of the process and as you near a final draft.
The first meeting could be an opportunity for you to talk through your ideas
the CF could keep notes of the discussion or, perhaps, produce a mind-map or
concept map for you to use as you draft the application. The later meeting
would focus on whether you have done justice to your original ideas and met
the criteria for a UWE fellowship.

Professor Ron Ritchie

September 2009