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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 schools—all in support of increased student achievement.

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:
  • provides 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;
  • trains a facilitator/coach chosen by the local participants to help them learn to work together most effectively;
  • begins with work on individual practice, then builds toward an understanding of whole-school/district culture and organization;
  • provides on-going consultation and support for leaders;
  • offers advanced learning opportunities for facilitators/coaches, school and district leaders, and school faculty;
  • works with national school reform networks whose members use NSRF to accelerate their whole-school change efforts.
The 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.










Harmony Education Center

PO Box 1787 Bloomington Indiana 47402 • 812.330.2702
nsrf@harmonyschool.org • fax 812.333.3435
Comments: webmaster@harmonyschool.org
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