Can we talk about structure? When CLASS entered my life, I was 20 years into my career in the field of early childhood education. What I remember most about that initial training, besides the nervousness about an impending reliability test, was a sense of relief. Structure, including State and program standards, curriculum, materials in the classroom, and approaches to childcare and pedagogy, had dominated my working hours. CLASS was a lot to learn, but for me, it was a breath of fresh air. Observing with CLASS meant I could set aside my obsession with all things structural – which encompassed my thoughts every time I walked into an early childhood classroom.
For me, though, focusing on the process, or what adults do within a program structure as defined by the CLASS dimensions, revealed an all too true reality. The classroom structure present in any given program has a strong influence on adult’s interactions with the children in their care. While a thoughtful program structure may encourage rich adult-child interactions, many approaches to early childhood program delivery hinder an adults’ ability to interact effectively.
We are often stuck with structural issues that are challenging or impossible to change. An example that comes to mind is building structure; the bathrooms, for instance, are down a school hallway. Or, staffing may dictate the need to move the children in large groups. Sometimes, we are convinced it is easier to accomplish a routine with the entire group of toddlers so that the room will all nap or eat or play on the same schedule. It takes creativity, and adult buy-in to make structural changes.
Acknowledging the effect structure is having on the process is a significant first step. Making changes to program structure that support quality teacher-child interactions takes being willing to stick to it for longer than a week, or even two weeks, to see meaningful results. Are you interested in improving the structure of your program? Small steps you can take to affect change in the short term include:
Ready for more long term, meaningful change? Consider professional development opportunities for your classroom staff that blends the process of CLASS-based interactions with appropriate program structure. Check out our new, online program, CDA (Child Development Associate) with CLASS. Basic understanding of the CLASS tool is integrated into course learning experiences, with an emphasis on positive relationships and interactions in early childhood education settings. CDA with CLASS is available at two levels: Pre-K and Infant-Toddler.
Are you heading to InterAct next week? Consider joining me to talk more about structure and process, and CDA with CLASS!
Decades of evidence indicate that high-quality early childhood education positively affects children. Yet studies reveal that too few programs implement high-quality programming. To date, improvement efforts have primarily focused on what occurs within the classroom. The Ounce of Prevention Fund (Ounce), in partnership with the University of Chicago Consortium on School Research (UChicago Consortium), strives to broaden the focus of improvement efforts beyond the classroom to organizational conditions that support teachers and the relationships among staff, children, and families.