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Helping Trainees Trust CLASS When They Don’t: 7 Ways to Share Your Passion for the Tool

02 Feb 2016 by Curry Ander

Think back to when you were new to CLASS. Really try to remember the details of those early days. Most of us had some pretty strong reservations, but we just forged ahead anyway. We had to. The CLASS seemed like just another assessment in a long line of new things to have to learn in an already-impossible work schedule.

Now, think about when you turned a corner and started to trust the CLASS tool. Try to recall the specifics of when you began to overturn your resistance toward CLASS. What was your "click" moment? For me, it was finally doing live observations. I went into those first observations not believing I could code in 10 minutes, much less believing that I could see (or not) all 10 dimensions in every cycle. Lo and behold, there it all was (or not)! You could have knocked me over with a feather. Learning that CLASS really worked in live classrooms was a huge turning point for me. 

Still, there was an even deeper issue for me to overcome. I was fast becoming sold on the tool’s value, but I hadn't yet seen the depth of how CLASS embraced my core value system about children. Even with all my  years of training, observing, and working with teachers, I still couldn't see the connection. At first, CLASS didn’t seem to think the same way I did. My trust in the tool evolved over time as I understood the tool with more insight. Once, when I had some concerns about a teacher, I stepped back after I coded and looked at all the scores as a whole picture. I saw that my concerns were not all in Behavior Management or Negative Climate (the place everyone puts them), but there were the low scores in Positive Climate, Teacher Sensitivity, etc. Oh! There was my value system intact, laid out in all 10 dimensions- not just where I was used to putting it.

In her recent blog post, 6 Facilitation Tips for Challenging Training Videos, Staff Trainer Sherilyn Crump goes over how hard it is for trainees to maintain objectivity during some of the harder videos in the training. I think that post is incredibly helpful for us trainers. The process of learning to maintain objectivity while coding relates so well to the mental shift it takes for trainees to trust the tool, to want to adopt the CLASS lens, and to overcome their habits and resistance. 

Here are some trainer tips to help your trainees begin their trust in the CLASS:

  1. Share your story of how you had difficulties with your own trust of the tool. What changed your thinking to be more trusting of the master codes? When did you see that it works for your value system? Tell your story.
  1. Admit that you know they don’t yet trust this CLASS tool. Why should they? They don’t know it yet, and they are scared of the infamous test. Empathize with them. Let them know that you care and that you understand that these are "early days" for them and they have some understandable reservations. Help them to be kind and gentle with their learning curve and to let it all unfold as the training progresses.
  1. Every chance you get, bring the conversation back to children. Regardless of whatever reason the trainees had to come to your session, you can trust that they truly care about children. The real reason to remain objective (other than passing the test) is because it will better help the children in the end. The reason to trust the CLASS is because it has such a great track record for helping children. Bottom line: it’s about children! 
  1. Help your trainees really see how children respond to teachers' interactions in the training videos. The trainees are looking through all their old lenses, meaning they're probably only looking at the teacher. Often, they're less focused on the child’s response to the teacher. Take the weight of the world off of your trainees' shoulders by helping them find their evidence for each indicator based on the child’s response. Don't ask, "What did what the teacher say or do work for them as an observer?" Instead, ask them, "Did what the teacher say or do work for that child?" This shift in questioning makes such a difference. Trust in the tool means understanding how it really works.
  1. Help trainees learn to trust that their concerns (or excitement) about teachers will show up in the dimension scores. For example, when a teacher speaks harshly to children, it will point to evidence in Negative Climate. But when they see the master code score is only a 1 or a 2, they lose faith that the master coders “get it.” Help them see that, in the other dimensions, the scores reflect that children did not actively/willingly join in (Instructional Learning Formats) or that the lack of warmth and connection to the children resulted in a low Positive Climate score. Show them that the scores do indeed reflect that this teacher needs help, even if those harsh words still resulted in a lower score in Negative Climate than they liked.
  1. Use training videos to help your trainees understand the meaning of "rote learning." In understanding CLASS, especially the Instructional Support Domain, we often overlook the need to help our trainees see what “rote learning” looks like. I’ve been surprised that so many trainees need more time defining “rote.” Take examples straight from your training videos. Then, help trainees envision what “not rote” means; help them understand that "not rote" means “stretching the muscles of children’s brains” (Bob Pianta) and explain what that looks and sounds like. Squeeze in some time to show your favorite Concept Development exemplar video that brings out your passion for the tool. Tell a story of classroom you were in that had some great problem-solving, and share what you saw and heard from the children. Let trainees see how your trust in the CLASS has helped you to understand how to help teachers support children in very specific ways.
  1. Help trainees see that the bigger picture extends past their classrooms, programs, states, and  even their own countries! People from all over the world have chosen CLASS because it clearly shows the relationship between higher CLASS scores and better child outcomes. Share with your trainees that they are becoming part of this global shift in education that moves students away from rote learning and toward positive relationships and exciting cognitive learning. They can trust that CLASS is a part of this paradigm shift and now so are they.

Let your passion shine, it is all so very hopeful. 

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