The term critical friend describes a stance an evaluator can take in his or her relationship with the program or project they evaluate. Costa and Kallick (1993) provide this seminal definition: “A trusted person who asks provocative questions, provides data to be examined through another lens, and offers critique of a person’s work as a friend” (p.50).
The relationship between a project and an evaluator who is a critical friend is one where the evaluator has the best interests of the program at heart and the project staff trusts that this is the case. The evaluator may see their role as being both a trusted advisor and a staunch critic. He or she pushes the program to achieve its goals in the most effective way possible while maintaining independence. The evaluator helps the project staff to view information in different ways, while still being sensitive to the project staff’s own views and priorities. The evaluator will call attention to negative or less effective aspects of a project, but will do so in a constructive way. By pointing out potential pitfalls and flaws in the project, the critical friend evaluator can help the project to grow and improve.
To learn more…
Costa, A.L. & Kallick, B. (1993). Through the lens of a critical friend. Educational Leadership, 51(2) 49-51. http://bit.ly/crit-friend
Rallis, S. F., & Rossman, G. B. (2000). Dialogue for learning: Evaluator as critical friend. New Directions for Evaluation, 86, 81-92.