CLASS Specialists at Teachstone all take turns providing reliability support to anxious testers. We often see the same mistakes and misconceptions over and over again about how the CLASS works, and as my story below will share, how the behavioral markers fit into the coding process.
Let’s make this right.
I don’t understand how many times I need to see evidence for a behavioral marker to score high. One observer shared with me that she expects at least five instances for each behavioral marker within an indicator. I did the math, and that would require at least 190 examples for a 7 score! Another observer scored differently; if she sees each behavioral marker at least one time, she scores a 7. I’m confused!
It’s no wonder she’s confused! To clear this up, I like to be clear about what the coding process is and isn’t.
2 Ways to Code Incorrectly
2 Ways to Code Correctly
Let’s be clear: There is no set number of times you need to see evidence of a behavioral marker. In fact, it's a misconception to score behavioral markers at all. Don’t do it!
Page 15 of the Pre-K CLASS manual states: "CLASS is not a checklist and observers should view the dimensions as holistic descriptions of classrooms that fall in the low, middle or high range. In many cases, it is not necessary to see indicators of all markers presented in the description of a given range to assign a score in that range."
We never recommend a certain number of examples (such as five feedback loops in Quality of Feedback) to lead to a conclusive score. Rather than counting back-and-forth exchanges, consider: “Did the child engage with the teacher and learn as a result of this interaction?” Remember, in assigning ranges we must consider depth, frequency, and duration of interactions.
Page 14 of the Pre-K CLASS Manual reads: "The high-end [behavioral] markers for each dimension reflect good teaching practice; however to score in the high range a classroom does not have to be perfect. There may be one or two things that are less than ideal in a given observation, but if the overall classroom experience is characterized by the markers at the high end, the classroom should be scored that way."
I can hear you thinking, “But how many times do we need to see something to call it “consistent?” If you’ve read this far, you know the answer already: there is no set number of times!
What to do instead of “counting.”
Like a broken record, you will hear CLASS specialists say, “CLASS is not a checklist.” Resist the human urge to turn it into a checklist and treat it like the complex, holistic tool that it is. If CLASS observations were as easy as counting behaviors, they wouldn’t capture the complexity of classrooms in all their infinite glory!
When I first learned about CLASS Group Coaching—a training for early childhood professionals about building relationships with children—I was more than a little interested. This, I thought. This is what teaching is all about. It seems to be an obvious concept, but once we dig deeper, we are able to identify the whys and hows of our interactions. CLASS Group Coaching allows us to identify the benefits of our classroom relationships with our students and helps us be intentional in our daily practices. It allows us to utilize each moment we have with our students to deepen our understanding of their perspectives and genuinely connect with them as people. It helps us see the world from their view and guide their learning in a way that is relevant to them.
As the Community Manager with Teachstone, I have been able to talk to many observers, trainers, coaches, and general CLASS lovers. I have found a common thread among these groups: a desire to connect with other CLASS users and put their CLASS knowledge to use.
We often hear from CLASS Observers that are interested in observing more classrooms. Meanwhile, many organizations—particularly smaller organizations or those doing research studies—don’t have Certified CLASS Observers and are in search of observers in their area.
If you're a CLASS observer, you've probably found yourself in a situation where you have to make inferences or rely on contextual evidence when assigning scores. However, it should always be your goal to minimize subjectivity and assumptions. You have to prevent your emotions, opinions, and ideas that are not a part of the CLASS tool from influencing scoring. Achieving an emotionless state of objectivity while observing can be incredibly challenging. It takes practice to recognize when objectivity is threatened and respond accordingly.
As a CLASS Group Coaching (MMCI) instructor, the sections of any given two-hour session may feel, at times, very goal driven. These sections titled "Know," "See," and "Do” are interconnected. In particular, it is possible to consider "Do" within "Know," and "See." When an instructor supports in-the-moment experiences that connect new knowledge to current practice, they make the CLASS dimensions more relevant to the educators' daily work. But how can we infuse more “Do” into “Know” and “See?” First, let's re-cap what happens in each section.