Bringing Students into your Schools Engagement Strategy

Creating a Schools Engagement Advisory Board

Original article by Julie Wrigley –

Are you keen to scope effective, ambitious and relevant careers guidance for young people about the construction industry?

If this sounds like you or something similar, you may need the support of teacher or student as a critical friend to offer constructive advice and support.

Here’s a quick guide to the kind of critical friend who can really make a difference.

What is a critical friend?

One definition of a critical friend is “a trusted person who asks provocative questions, provides data to be examined through another lens, and offers critiques of a person’s work as a friend” (Through the Lens of a Critical Friend by A Costa and B Kallick).

This trusted person combines aspects of mentor, advocate, coach, scrutineer, and sounding board. They work with you on specific projects, taking time to understand the context of the work and the outcomes you are working towards.

Applying their expertise and experience from an independent perspective, they can offer support, advice and critique.

Why might you need one?

A critical friend might help an organisation design a research programme that will deliver valuable outcomes – without overburdening staff.

Or they could take the insight gleaned from a completed research project and take it a step further – by recommending actionable steps to implement change.
When should you introduce a critical friend?

This depends on your individual circumstances.

A critical friend can be involved during only one part of the research process, such as:

  • at the beginning, to help the research or evaluation design
  • at the end, by taking part in a collaborative workshop with programme staff which goes beyond a debrief of findings to explore recommended actions for the programme.

Alternatively a critical friend can also provide support and challenge throughout the research or evaluation lifecycle.

This is particularly valuable when the programme or intervention under consideration is a fluid, evolving one, or when there are staff changes.

7 tips to be a good critical friend

Here are the key ingredients to look for in an effective critical friend:

  1. Mutual trust and respect
  2. Understands and supports you and your context
  3. Honesty
  4. Skilled observer and listener
  5. Uses dialogue to uncover new interpretations and learning
  6. Willing to ask provocative questions, to voice unspoken concerns
  7. Provides a balance between support and challenge