NSRF is a professional development initiative of the Harmony Education
Center in Bloomington, Indiana. Begun in the fall of 1995 at the Annenberg
Institute for School Reform at Brown University, the program relocated
to Harmony in January of 2000. NSRF is focused on developing collegial
relationships, encouraging reflective practice, and rethinking leadership
in restructuring schoolsall in support of increased student
The National School Reform Faculty offers intensive professional development
to educators from pre-K to post secondary looking to initiate or extend
adult professional collaboration. The program:
a structure for school people to work together in "critical
friendship, looking closely at one another's practice
and helping to improve and adapt it;
a facilitator/coach chosen by the local participants to help them
learn to work together most effectively;
with work on individual practice, then builds toward an understanding
of whole-school/district culture and organization;
on-going consultation and support for leaders;
advanced learning opportunities for facilitators/coaches, school
and district leaders, and school faculty;
with national school reform networks whose members use NSRF to accelerate
their whole-school change efforts.
NSRF program helps schools create what Stanford's Milbrey McLaughlin
calls "learning communities," in which practitioners collaborate
to deepen their knowledge of subject matter, examine their teaching
practice with a critical eye, and consider issues of whole-school
change that support improved classroom practice. The program emphasizes
making one's practice public, continuously assessing teaching in relation
to student learning, and routinely adapting teaching practices and
school structures to meet the changing needs of today's students.
NSRF staff works intensively with schools and districts as they establish
the habits and practices of a learning community and provides ongoing
opportunities to sustain and extend those habits.
NSRF believes professional development for educators best takes place in Critical Friends Groups and collaborative processional learning communities, using proven structures and practices. These learning communities, led by trained CFG Coaches:
- Focus on improving students’ learning and success.
- Build trust by engaging in significant work while providing a safe environment for taking risks.
- Make their work public (e.g. "deprivatize" their work) by collaboratively examining work done by their students and by themselves (e.g. teaching practices, curriculum, school culture issues).
- Give each other usable feedback.
- Encourage diversity of thought, experience and perspective.
- Draw on the expertise of those within the learning community, as well as on the expertise of "outside" resources.
- Engage in reflective discourse based on the ideas contained in "texts" of various types.
- Engage in reciprocal learning, within learning communities and in NSRF as a whole.
- Develop and share leadership within the group.
- Are facilitated by coaches. These coaches are responsive facilitators who have received high quality training and on-going support, and who has been drawn (selected) from the immediate educational community or from the ranks of trusted outsiders.
- Continuously challenge one another to adapt practice towards fostering educational and social equity.
- Are accountable for continuous improvement toward helping every student to succeed in school.
- Use, create and support structures that lead to the above outcomes.
Critical Friends Groups or CFGs generally consist of 6-12 educators who meet regularly for a sustained and focused period of time to work and learn together, and who observe each others practice, examine each others work, and give feedback to each other on a regular basis. In addition administrators and teacher-leaders in the school and district work as facilitative leaders, developing good habits in colleagues by routine use of NSRF practices and tools in staff meetings, cabinet meetings, planning sessions, grade level meetings, department meetings, and other kinds of professional development sessions.