Critical Friends Feedback Using Google Drawings

One of the first blog posts I created was on giving effective and timely feedback using various Google Apps and the Google Doc Add-on called Orange Slice Teacher Rubric. If you missed that post, please click on the link below. I did not want to repeat myself about feedback in this post, even though that would not be the worst thing because of how effective this strategy really is.

Link to the Effective Feedback Post:

Two summers ago I attended a PBL workshop in Sioux Falls, SD. It was a great learning experience and I got many “take-aways” from it. One of the things we modeled at the conference was a protocol call “Critical Friends”. This protocol can be used in a variety of ways by students, teachers, and administrators. Critical Friends is powerful because it based on dialogue and reflection, both of which require effective communication and collaboration. So how does it work?

There are several models that are out there for this protocol. The model I am going to discuss is going to break Critical Friends into 4 parts:

Part 1: The Presentation

In this initial step, the presenter(s) will describe their ideas, projects, or products to a Critical Friend group of 3-4 members. This group is to remain silent. They should be jotting down notes as they are evaluating the presentation. They should NOT ask for any clarification or ask any questions at this time.

Part 2: The Critique

The second part begins with the Critical Friends group talking amongst themselves about the presentation. They should not make eye contact with the presenter(s) and converse freely, as if the presenter was not even in the room. The group should focus their conversations on the three distinct things:

  1. The strengths of the presentation. List specific things about the presentation and use supportive and complimentary statements about parts of their presentation you liked. Some great sample phrases to use for this could be: “I like the fact that…..” or “I like how the…..” or “I like this part because…..”
  2. Suggestions for improvement. List parts of the presentation you are unsure or confused about. Write down possible issues that you feel may come up. Some great sample phrases for this could be: “I wonder if…..” or “I wonder why……” or “I wonder how people will respond……”
  3. Ideas for next steps. Share ideas on changes for improvement and solutions for possible concerns. Communicate thoughts on how the presentation could be expanded into an area the presenter never initially thought of. Some great sample phrases for this could be: ” A next step may be…..” or “They could try……instead”.

The presenter is not allowed to respond to the Critical Friends group. They listen silently and can take notes for part 3.

Part 3: The Response

The third part is a period of “open discussion”. The presenter(s) and Critical Friends group can ask each other for clarification at this time. The presenters can use this time to respond to comments from the group. Furthers discussion on likes, improvements, and next steps is encouraged at this time.

Part 4: The Share

I have created a template in Google Drawings that can be used during this process. The template allows students, teachers, and administrators the opportunity to write down information as the protocol is moving through parts 1, 2, and 3. After the Critical Friends feedback session is over, have the students/teachers/administrators share their templates using the “share” button in the upper right-hand corner of the template to the presenter.

Click the links to make a copy of the template and information sheet to share with your students, colleagues, or administration.

Critical Friends Feedback Template

Critical Friends Feedback Information Sheet

Now that you have an idea of what this Critical Friends protocol is about, what are some ways in which it can be utilized?

  1. Student peer review on a writing assignment/research paper.
  2. Student feedback on a project during the planning stages.
  3. Student feedback on a “pitch” about an idea for a project/activity.
  4. Teacher’s presenting a new lesson idea to colleagues.
  5. Teacher’s seeking feedback from their students on lessons, projects, or classroom management issues.
  6. Administrators seeking feedback on change initiatives in their district/school.

Be creative thinking of ways to incorporate Critical Friends into your teaching, PLC’s, and meetings. By using this protocol, you are providing students, teachers, and administrators with practice on important 21st century skills of communication and collaboration.

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