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Exploring the Upper Elementary and Secondary School Levels

30 Jul 2014 by Joe Pierce

UE? CLASS-S? You may not be aware that there are CLASS observation tools and supports for use at the Upper Elementary and Secondary School levels. I’ve facilitated quite a few trainings at these levels and am excited to see them being used more widely. Most people I meet in the process find the upper-level tools aligned with school-wide initiatives, best practices, and their own sense of what good teaching looks like.

One of the powerful things about the CLASS system is its impact across the continuum of ages and stages. With the recent introduction of the infant observation tool, the CLASS continuum now goes from birth through high school. We’ve probably all had situations where we hoped for better communication among colleagues and across agencies at all levels. Systemic use of CLASS promotes this. The CLASS focus is always on effective classroom interactions, but the specific “look-fors” vary by developmental level.

The Upper Elementary and Secondary CLASS frameworks share the pre-K and K-3 domains, but there are differences in dimensions, indicators, and behavioral markers. Of particular note, Instructional Support dimensions are more differentiated and tailored to older students. Dimensions such as Content Understanding, Analysis & Inquiry and Instructional Dialogue increase cognitive demand. Another difference at the upper levels is the dimension of Student Engagement. It stands alone—not categorized under one of the three domains. There are a dozen dimensions in all.

We often talk about parallel process in terms of how CLASS relates to our own work with adults—as a trainer or coach. The upper level CLASS dimensions and descriptions really hit home when it comes to thinking about our own practice. It’s not a huge leap from UE and Secondary CLASS concepts to our interactions with colleagues. More than a few college professors at the observation trainings have reported back about their own heightened awareness of effective interactions with their adult students.

As a growing number of schools use the UE and Secondary CLASS, don’t be surprised to hear more educators talking about the CLASS tool—and talking to each other across ages and stages about interactions that matter.


Learn how CLASS works in Kindergarten through 12th grade