Much of what I really needed to know about teaching I learned teaching kindergarteners. I needed to learn it all again when I taught adult students in teacher education courses. At every level, the importance of interactions and emotional, organizational, and instructional support made the difference.
Now that I know the CLASS framework, I can identify and describe these interactions far better. I can do it with the added confidence that the research behind CLASS brings. I wish I’d known the CLASS framework when my work focused on teaching education students and observing them in the field. I wish I’d had the language and resources that CLASS offers to guide my thinking and share with my adult students.
As it turns out, I’m not alone in that goal! Over the past several years, I’ve discussed CLASS with teacher educators at colleges and universities around the country and beyond. Those familiar with the CLASS framework want to infuse it into their curriculum. Those new to it want to learn more. All agree that we should be introducing the CLASS measure and related professional development to teachers as early in their careers as possible.
Now we’re seeing more and more instructors embedding CLASS into their courses. Some are simply introducing CLASS concepts, while others are making the system an integral part of their coursework and fieldwork. Some are using Dimensions Guides and Video Library subscriptions as course materials, while others are deepening their own knowledge by attending CLASS trainings. Some are using Making the Most of Classroom Interactions (MMCI) as a course, while others are using CLASS coaching and feedback programs to provide support to teachers during their field experiences. MyTeachstone, the new online subscription service being introduced this fall, holds promise as a comprehensive CLASS resource that may be a good solution for college programs.
In thinking about CLASS in the teacher education context, I often come back to a conversation I had with a university professor well versed in CLASS. She was talking about how the framework helps clarify complex, effective interactions. “The beauty of CLASS is its simplicity and its research base,” she said. That seems like something useful in teacher education programs. And given that the concepts apply across ages and stages, it’s something that can help our education students and inform our own practice.
Editor's Note: This post was originally published April 16, 2014, but has since been rewritten to include updated content.
Many teachers will agree that their first year of teaching can be one of the most grueling, challenging, and stressful experiences for them as they take on the task of educating our youth. In my first year of teaching, I was not familiar with the CLASS tool and its impact in the classroom. I was not aware of the dimensions, indicators, and the tremendous power of interactions. Looking back, I recognize the many ways the CLASS tool was reflected in my classroom, but I also see the value in how familiarity with the CLASS tool could have benefitted my classroom. Although many external forces impacted my role as a high school Spanish teacher, the CLASS tool’s invaluable purpose could have made a profound impact on my first year teaching.
When I first heard that I was going to have to be observed and coached for my job, I was not thrilled by any means. I immediately thought, Great, someone is going to watch me and tell me how terrible I am. I sincerely thought it was going to be nothing but a negative experience.
I’ve been in the field of early childhood education for over 35 years and absolutely LOVE the CLASS tool. I wish I had CLASS during my years as a teacher and director of ECE programs. I am grateful to have the CLASS tool now to express my continual love for ECE and the importance of great teaching in the early years of children's lives.
Just as Alice is about to fall through the looking glass into an unknown world, a new cohort of teachers are about to walk across their academic stage into the unknown world of their own classroom. Is it too late to evaluate their readiness to transform their enthusiasm for education practice and principles to the day-to-day challenges presented by a diverse group of young learners? Or, is it more appropriate to ask, what is needed to move these successful students from the safety and familiar halls of higher education to the unfamiliar classroom in the ever-changing arena of education?