We were really happy to receive an article examining the use of CLASS in American Indian and Alaska Native Head Start Programs. And we were equally happy when lead author, Jessica Barnes-Najor, a researcher at Michigan State University, agreed to speak with us. In conjunction with her work at MSU, Jessica is a co-investigator for The Tribal Early Childhood Research Center (TRC). Read below to learn more about this important research.
In our study, we surveyed Region XI Head Start administrators and asked them to reflect on the cultural fit of the CLASS in their communities. Participants identified aspects of the CLASS that either aligned or were misaligned with their culture.
Essentially, we found that the domain of Emotional Support and the dimensions and indicators within Emotional Support tended to align with our respondents’ culture. However, at the level of the behavioral markers, there were some areas of misalignment. Because of the high specificity at the behavioral marker level, it was more likely for behaviors to either be inappropriate or easily misconstrued/misinterpreted due to cultural differences. Also, some important behavioral markers might not be present. The same finding was true for the domain of Classroom Organization.
In addition to the potential misalignment at the behavioral marker level, we found some caution regarding the fact that Instructional Support might look markedly different in many Native communities. In some communities, a heavy use of non-verbal gestures and high levels of collaboration, combined with a strong sense of community are very important. For these communities, we often see children learning through cycles of observation, quiet reflection, and then engaging in community activities, actively working together to create something or accomplish a common goal. The way adults support learning through these cycles often looks significantly different when compared to a western educational setting.
Well, we often talk about the difference between “culturally responsive” and “culturally grounded.” Both are good (and needed), but the distinction between the two is important. Culturally responsive interactions are those that are inclusive of the child’s culture. If a child is from a culture for which direct eye contact is a sign of disrespect (or confrontation), then a teacher who is understanding and respectful of this cultural norm in the classroom would be exhibiting culturally responsive interactions. Culturally grounded practices, however, are those practices that are rooted in the culture. For many Native communities, intentionally incorporating non-verbal communication, high levels of collaboration among students, and an emphasis on “pitching in” together as a classroom community as a learning strategy would be considered culturally grounded.
If possible, participate in trainings to help you understand the specific community’s unique cultural context. Work with others who are from the community or have worked in the community to understand the context. Read as much as you can about the community’s history (as written by those from the community). Also, learn more about the broader community (in this case, understand more about Indigenous communities from the North American continent).
Yes, we do! We are hoping to gather data to help us begin to answer questions about the psychometric structure of the CLASS in Native classrooms and the predictive validity of the CLASS for Native children’s outcomes. Essentially, we want to have data to help us understand if the CLASS works as it should in Native classrooms. We also will be gathering data on culturally grounded interactions in the classroom to see how these data relate to overall classroom quality and children’s outcomes.
Citation: Barnes-Najor, J. V.,Thompson, N.L., Cameron, A.F., .Smith, T.M., Calac Verdugo, M., Brown, P.L. & Sarche, M.C. (2020): Cultural and Practice Perspectives on the Classroom Assessment Scoring System: Voices From American Indian and Alaska Native Head Start Programs, Journal of Research in Childhood Education, DOI: 10.1080/02568543.2020.1723749
Want to hear more on this topic? Jessica is co-presenting, “Examining the Use of CLASS in Unique Cultural Contexts: Example from work in American Indian and Alaska Native Head Start programs” at the upcoming InterAct Now: CLASS Summit March 23-25, 2021.
As you jump in to help your teacher, working side by side as a collaborator, everything seems clear at the beginning. There are some obvious areas to address and both you and your teacher have tons of energy, ready to change the world. After a few visits, however, an unsettling feeling begins to creep up on you.
Do you have fond childhood memories of sitting with a special adult and listening to them read one of your favorite stories? I vividly remember my dad reading The Elephant’s Child by Rudyard Kipling to me and how we laughed together at the funny voices he used. As an educator, you know how important those moments are for building warm connections, enjoying time together, and learning about many things. So, even if you missed out on those moments as a child, you want to create those moments for the children in your classroom. With careful planning, you can be confident that your read-alouds will be exciting, effective learning opportunities.
As part of our Teacher Spotlight series, we recently asked the CLASS Community to nominate a teacher whose high-quality classroom interactions are making a difference for their dual language learners. Our winner, Kim Schoell, has been teaching for 20 years and is currently a Pre-K teacher in Frederick County, VA. 67% of her students are Hispanic and many of the children are dual language learners.
At Teachstone, we know that our work only succeeds if it is in partnership with you. So as we reflect on the significant challenges of 2020 and early 2021, we want to pause and celebrate the numerous ways in which you, and educators across this country, focused on what matters most – supporting students through meaningful interactions.