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Having Serious Fun with the Parallel Process

16 May 2017 by Curry Ander

Recently, at the InterAct conference in Austin, we presented the parallel process of CLASS in 50 incredibly fast minutes. We had fun putting together a presentation that was interactive and that modeled as many of the dimensions, indicators, and behavioral markers as we could. In fact, we gave the participants a score sheet so they could rate us—a take off on the CLASS score sheet.  

It was fun, but we were also serious about the effect that it has had on our lives. The complexity of the CLASS tool that we use to observe teachers is a standard for us to live by in our own work, and has even infiltrated our personal lives. 

What is Parallel Process?

The parallel process is modeling the CLASS indicators and behavioral markers while training, coaching, or using CLASS in other ways. It's not just looking for CLASS evidence in others, but also in ourselves. 

Here are two blog posts that help explain the parallel process. You can find more by doing a search on parallel process on the Teachstone website.

So, how can you use the parallel process in your trainings and coaching sessions? It all involves taking those same behavior markers and applying them to what you're doing. Here are a few examples:

  • Let your colleagues know they are free to stand up during the meeting if they prefer. This demonstrates lack of restriction of movement.
  • Tell everyone at the beginning of your time together that you're going to model what they’ll be learning about, and ask them to identify when they ‘catch you’ doing it. This is an advanced organizer and also a way of piquing student interest and expanding their involvement.

5 Stages of Understanding the Parallel Process (from a Trainer's Perspective)

1. No Parallel Process Yet

You're a new trainer/coach/observer and you're in a survival state, trying hard to get in all the content, and remember the three Domains, 10 Dimensions, 42 Indicators, and 123 Behavioral Markers! 

2. Dawning of Awareness

You've survived the first few trainings/coaching events, are feeling pretty good, and starting to see that there is more to CLASS than meets the eye. But what and how? 

3. Excitement

You realize incorporating all the indicators and behavioral markers is a lot for teachers to accomplish, but so important for children. If you think about it, they are the same things WE should be doing as trainers and coaches! 

4. Practicing What We Preach

You figure out trying new skills is easier at some times than at others (just like for teachers). For example: time constraints for how interactive we can be hamper our ability to have a high regard for student perspectives. Sometimes there simply isn't time. This is humbling, and helps our empathy and effectiveness with teachers.

5. The Parallel Process is a Lifetime Acheivement

You know the struggle to be highly engaging in a way that enhances the learning experience for others is an ongoing trial and error process. Some days it’s amazing how much better we are at our jobs and other days you are discouraged. Even on the hard days, you find that you have a newly defined quality standard, and it’s about interactions with others. It’s not so much the “what,” it’s more about the “how.”

Now that you have a better sense as to what we mean when we talk about the parallel process, can you think of ways to incorporate the indicators of CLASS into your daily routine? How would you use it as a coach? How about if you’re a parent? A partner? A sibling? You get the picture—share your thoughts in the comments below. 


Curry Ander has a hand in many aspects of the CLASS system, as one of the original Staff Trainers and a Coach Specialist for the MyTeachingPartner coaching project. Along with Double Coding and support, the occasional blog post, a trip out to the Navajo Reservation to meet her coaches, and an edit here and there, Curry keeps going and learning, and learning and going.

Ellen Cairns is a Pre-K Assessment Coordinator for the Vermont Agency of Education. One of her roles is expanding the use of the CLASS in Vermont. She is also a recent Teachstone Affiliate Trainer for Pre-K and K-3, and a former elementary school teacher. She is excited to be back supporting teachers’ professional development for the state of Vermont and helping improve outcomes for children.

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