Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Conversations in a Pub: Positioning the Critical Friend as "Peer Relief" in the Supervision of a Teacher Educator Study Abroad Experience

Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Conversations in a Pub: Positioning the Critical Friend as "Peer Relief" in the Supervision of a Teacher Educator Study Abroad Experience

Article excerpt

The stories of teacher educators' professional lives and identities are fostered through the portrayals of "self-narratives" (Sachs, 2001) in which the role of the critical friend can be essential to the process of problematizing practice. Costa and Kallick (1993) conceptualized a critical friend as a "trusted friend who asks provocative questions, provides data to be examined through another lens, and offers critique of a person's work as a friend" (p. 49). Bambino (2002) described critical friends as catalysts for change--the role is evaluative, consultative, and challenging. The role may be formalized through protocols and procedures (Wachob, 2011) or less formal and open-ended through discussions or journals (Hickson, 2011). As Schuck and Russell (2005) state, "a critical friend acts as a sounding board, asks challenging questions, supports reframing of events, and joins in the professional learning experience" (p. 107).

In teacher education, critical friends are valuable change agents who make the work of reflexive practice more collaborative. The critical friend serves as a mirror and a lens, providing a conduit for blending research into practice. As Hedges (2010) describes the relationship, the presence of a critical friend in the field can raise consciousness about practice. In this paper, we describe the role of a critical friend from a different perspective--as one of "peer relief" during a study abroad experience. In other words, we position the critical friend as a colleague who provides relief in the form of a professional clique, serving first as an insider and informant positioned against students and then as a reflexive partner positioned with students.

Our Context of Teacher Preparation

We are teacher educators in a college of education at a large, research-intensive university located in a major metropolitan city in the southeastern United States. Our department offers three initial certification programs: a Baccalaureate degree (B.S.) in Elementary Education (ages 5-11), a Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) in Elementary Education (ages 5-11), and a Baccalaureate in Early Childhood (B.S., ages 3-8). Each program provides field experiences of increasing intensity culminating in a final student teaching internship. During regular field experiences, pre-service begin by observing and teaching individual or small groups of children, eventually teaching the whole day.

CSE: A Study Abroad Option

Pre-service teachers from all three programs may apply to participate in a study abroad experience in Cambridge, England. Applicants from the undergraduate Elementary and Early Childhood programs must have successfully completed their initial field experience (15 day-long observations during one semester) prior to participating in the Cambridge Schools Experience (CSE). For MAT students, the CSE is their first field placement. Therefore, the CSE replaces the second field experience for undergraduate pre-service teachers and the first field experience for MAT graduate students.

Upon acceptance into the program, pre-service teachers participate in monthly seminars to prepare them for the school and cultural contexts they will experience in England. These seminars focus on lesson planning, differentiated instruction, and management strategies. Once in Cambridge, pre-service teachers complete a 4-week, daily field experience in a primary school. The condensed duration of the experience, combined with the high expectations of the host teachers in Cambridge requires pre-service teachers to quickly immerse themselves in the classroom culture. Many of them teach small group lessons on their first day and quickly acquire multiple daily classroom teaching opportunities throughout the first week. The expectation is that they will work toward planning and teaching for the entire school day by the end of the experience.

Participants

Faculty. As faculty supervisors, we met certain criteria in order to be selected for participation in the CSE. …

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