Most early learning teachers work with others on site or as part of professional learning communities or networks. The role of a critical friend and the role of mentor are two important roles to consider.
The term critical friend has its origins in critical pedagogy. One of the most widely used definitions of a critical friend was outlined by Costa and Kallick (1993). They suggested that a critical friend can be defined as 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. A critical friend takes the time to fully understand the context of the work presented and the outcomes that the person or group is working toward. The friend is an advocate for the success of that work.
You can be a critical friend to others and you can have a critical friend. You can mentor others or others can mentor you. Both of these roles are important but they are different!
Healy and Welchert (1990) defined the mentoring process as “a dynamic, reciprocal relationship in a work environment between an advanced career incumbent (mentor) and a beginner (protégé), aimed at promoting the career development of both” (p. 16). Lea and Leibowitz (1983) defined mentoring as an integrative process that includes “teaching, guiding, advising, counseling, sponsoring, role modeling, validating, motivating, protecting and communicating” (p. 26). The mentoring process is a way to create informal links between the protégé and organizational expectations.
Click on the words below to reveal the difference.
- Provides advice.
- Shares stories with others as a way to guide practices of others.
- Observes practices of others to provide individuals with feedback on practice.
- Establishes a collaborative relationship.
- Listens to comments and responds without judgement.
- Offers provocative questions that lead participants to deeper thinking.
- Explores the context of work with participants.
Critical friends and mentors provide constructive feedback about strengths, weaknesses, problems, and opportunities for further development.
When you think of these two roles, how do they support early learning teachers? How do they support early learning teachers that are working toward changing their outdoor play practices with children? Record in the comment box how a mentor or critical friend could be used to support early learning teachers changing their philosophy or practice.