A. S/he stands between you and bias. S/he’s there to act as a sounding board, and someone who will try to listen and encourage your point of view, but also to challenge you when you are inconsistent.
Q. Who is the critical friend?
A. Anyone you choose. It has to be someone you feel comfortable with, and with whom you can perhaps reveal weaknesses in your practice without feeling humiliated or apprehensive. Someone you trust, in other words.
Q. I don’t mind this thinking of a concern and then imagining a solution, putting it into action and then evaluating it perhaps with a ‘critical friend’ because I think I’m doing at least some of that already, and this just seems a bit more systematic and rigorous. But I’m not at all sure about the writing part. Do I have to do it? I don’t like writing.
A. Writing is an integral part of the process, because through writing, like in a journal for example, you can keep tabs on your ideas, and later on even show it as proof of development. At the end you need to do a write-up to round it all off or to help you before progressing to another enquiry cycle and this you might need to show to your critical friend, or other colleagues whom you’ve drafted in to help, or even to pupils. They will then have the chance to see whether what you have written fits with their ideas of what went on. It’s all part of the research process, but for all that the writing doesn’t have to be very long.
It has another purpose as well, I think, and that is that teachers have so much expert knowledge, and write-ups can add to that knowledge even if only locally. Teachers face many similar concerns in the classroom. For example, one of the concerns that I often see explored is how best to reach each individual or particular individuals in a mixed-ability class. Such Reports may help to inform the practice of your colleagues as well as yourself.