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.
How do you make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich? I posed that question to a random selection of contacts via text message. What did I discover? Everyone in my sample group spreads on the PB first, then the J. There are a variety of ways though to apply the jelly, but in my random group, the jelly always comes second.
Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches make me think about Behavior Guidance, a dimension in the CLASS® toddler observation tool. Especially the first two indicators of behavior guidance: proactive and supporting positive behavior. Proactive is the peanut butter! It goes first. That layer of peanut butter is the base for the jelly, which promotes positive behavior.
“What I think I’m most proud of as a professional in the field is our ability to show up, our ability to still do it, to still roll with the changes… We have to adjust. That is what educators did the entire year. We show up. We have a strong why. We love what we do.” This is a quote from Colleen Schmit from our recent webinar, Celebrating Great Teaching. She’s talking about how hard the last couple of school years have been for teachers. Teachers faced a similar difficulty 20 years ago when the United States faced a national tragedy.
When COVID-19 hit and schools shut down, many of us were certain that it would not impact the 2020-21 school year. But after more than 18 months, it’s clear that the pandemic is still with us. The length of the pandemic has only heightened concern about COVID related learning loss - especially among underserved populations.
Whether you’re going back to school virtually or in person, making the most of each learning moment is always the goal. Engaging children requires you to make many plans and decisions based on your teaching knowledge. Ideally, you help children meet individual needs while still reaching goals. With strong relationships as a foundation, clear expectations and consistency will help children listen, participate, and learn. That said, building that foundation and keeping students engaged in virtual or hybrid settings can feel more challenging.
Here are some takeaways that we've heard from the last year that can help you adjust to the needs of each child in online settings, just as you would in person.