Training participants—especially those new to CLASS—can seem overwhelming at first. Luckily, are plenty of strategies to help clarify difficult concepts portrayed in the exemplar videos that work to ensure that your trainees walk away confidently prepared to pass their reliability test!
Let's begin with three concepts that are important to introduce before you begin reviewing dimensions and showing video exemplars:
Remember that exemplars are not meant to demonstrate any particular score on the CLASS tool.
Participants will see many of the behaviors highlighted in video exemplars later on during full-length training videos, and may be tempted to think, “Aha! I saw that behavior in an exemplar clip, so this video must score in the high range!” We need to see more footage than an exemplar clip before deciding on a score, because there are three variables we need to take into account when coding:
Because we take these three variables into account when coding, we need to complete a full observation of 15-20 minutes in order to assign scores.
Recognize the complexity of the CLASS tool.
The fact that we’re balancing evidence across these three variables (balancing evidence across children in the classroom, across time, and making judgments about quality) makes the CLASS tool complex and challenging for new observers. The CLASS manual uses intentionally vague language such as, “sometimes,” “frequently,” or “consistently.” A new CLASS observer will likely find herself wondering, “How many is some? How often is occasionally?” Because we balance evidence across the above three variables to determine scores, there is almost never a hard, mathematical answer to these questions. The fact that a teacher asked 8 questions during a reading activity tells an observer something about her evidence for Concept Development (the evidence occurred repeatedly), but the observer must also ask- were those 8 questions all directed at one child of the 12 children present? Were those 8 questions rattled off rapid fire before beginning the reading activity, followed by a complete lack of questioning for the remainder of the activity? And finally, were those 8 questions deep, insightful questions that prompted analysis and reasoning, or were they rote recall questions based on a book the children read previously? The answers to these questions will tell the true story of the quality of the interactions that were observed, and thus, the appropriate CLASS score.
Introducing the concepts (complexity and flexibility of the CLASS tool, balancing evidence across multiple variables, and the lack of hard mathematical guidance in scoring) early during day 1 goes a long way towards making life easier for both trainer and participants. Participants now have a better idea of what’s expected of them as observers, and misconceptions about the tool (i.e., “it’s just a check list with some frequency counting, right?”) have been addressed. This will lead to far less frustration, defensiveness, and argumentation later on as observers get the chance to practice coding.
Recognize that video exemplars are an excellent time to start practicing notetaking.Video exemplars are an excellent time to start practicing note taking. At the end of day 1, participants will be asked to take notes for all of the 10-12 dimensions simultaneously as they watch their first full-length training video. Having just learned all of the dimensions, with their myriad of indicators and behavioral markers, this will be an incredibly challenging exercise in attention and memory. Observers will do their best to sort observed evidence into the appropriate dimension as they see it happen, without missing evidence as the video continues to play. This will be overwhelming initially, especially if it is the observers first attempt at capturing evidence on paper. Having participants take notes on exemplar videos gives them a much more manageable introduction to the idea of taking efficient, detailed notes, a skill that will be invaluable to them in their future observations.
When I first learned about CLASS Group Coaching—a training for early childhood professionals about building relationships with children—I was more than a little interested. This, I thought. This is what teaching is all about. It seems to be an obvious concept, but once we dig deeper, we are able to identify the whys and hows of our interactions. CLASS Group Coaching allows us to identify the benefits of our classroom relationships with our students and helps us be intentional in our daily practices. It allows us to utilize each moment we have with our students to deepen our understanding of their perspectives and genuinely connect with them as people. It helps us see the world from their view and guide their learning in a way that is relevant to them.
As a CLASS Group Coaching (MMCI) instructor, the sections of any given two-hour session may feel, at times, very goal driven. These sections titled "Know," "See," and "Do” are interconnected. In particular, it is possible to consider "Do" within "Know," and "See." When an instructor supports in-the-moment experiences that connect new knowledge to current practice, they make the CLASS dimensions more relevant to the educators' daily work. But how can we infuse more “Do” into “Know” and “See?” First, let's re-cap what happens in each section.
I have a confession to make. Recently, I used vacation time to stay home and watch Season 6 of The Walking Dead. I know, I know. How could I have let myself miss a whole season? Oh, and I feel a little bad about taking the time off from work too, but this was very nearly an emergency! I mean it was only weeks before Season 7 of the season premiere. I had to do something. Don’t judge.
While I was watching, I had the strangest feeling of deja vu. I felt like I had actually walked through a herd of zombies, but couldn’t quite place why it felt so familiar. Then it hit me—I had unknowingly created zombie-like participants during at least two of my previous CLASS trainings.