CLASS observer drift is a simple concept. It is a term we use to describe what happens when an observer becomes less reliable. The more an observer drifts, the less likely the CLASS data he or she collects will be valid.
Contrary to some beliefs, conducting reliable CLASS observations is not like riding a bike. It is a skill that must be practiced, just like playing a sport or musical instrument. Let’s say you tried out for the tennis team and made it (congratulations)! Then you found out your first match is in six weeks. Would you wait around until the match to pick up a racket? Of course you wouldn’t—you’d be out on the courts perfecting your serve and practicing your backhand every day! You can apply this analogy to CLASS observer certification. You may have completed the training and passed the test (congratulations!), but you still need to practice to keep your skills on point for the big match (in this case, a high stakes CLASS observation).
There are many strategies for overcoming drift such as setting up regular CLASS calibrations, creating opportunities for double coding, and monitoring data for red flags. But how does drift happen in the first place?
Back in April, I had the pleasure of delivering a presentation on this very topic at the InterAct CLASS Summit in Austin, TX. The presentation focused on high-stakes CLASS data collection and strategies for keeping standards of reliability high. I can’t take all the credit—my co-presenter, Susan McGraw, was responsible for the concept and lives the challenges of CLASS observer drift every day as she coordinates and conducts assessments in California and beyond. You can check out a recording of our presentation here!
As the Community Manager with Teachstone, I have been able to talk to many observers, trainers, coaches, and general CLASS lovers. I have found a common thread among these groups: a desire to connect with other CLASS users and put their CLASS knowledge to use.
We often hear from CLASS Observers that are interested in observing more classrooms. Meanwhile, many organizations—particularly smaller organizations or those doing research studies—don’t have Certified CLASS Observers and are in search of observers in their area.
If you're a CLASS observer, you've probably found yourself in a situation where you have to make inferences or rely on contextual evidence when assigning scores. However, it should always be your goal to minimize subjectivity and assumptions. You have to prevent your emotions, opinions, and ideas that are not a part of the CLASS tool from influencing scoring. Achieving an emotionless state of objectivity while observing can be incredibly challenging. It takes practice to recognize when objectivity is threatened and respond accordingly.
Exciting news, you can now purchase Individual CLASS Calibrations directly from the Teachstone Store! They're available for Certified CLASS observers at all 6 CLASS levels. When you purchase an individual calibration, you’ll receive a video to watch and code on your myTeachstone dashboard. After submitting your codes, you’ll get an automated score report and a prerecorded webinar discussing the master codes.
Have you ever meditated? One of the most challenging aspects of this practice is clearing your mind from day-to-day thoughts that pop into your head. If you meditate, you know that trying to push those thoughts away doesn’t work—in order to free your mind you must first acknowledge those distracting thoughts before you can return to your “moment of zen.”