Collecting observation data is critical, but it’s only one piece of the puzzle! Data collection only yields numbers—and numbers, alone, don’t yield improvement. If the goal of CLASS is to improve outcomes for children, then CLASS observation data must be coupled with coaching and professional development. Effective teachers are the key ingredients in successful classrooms, and those teachers must be supported through individualized efforts built on observation data.
Not true! The CLASS tool is not just for preschool, anyway. It is validated for six age levels ranging from infant all the way up to secondary—and trainings are available for you to become certified on all of them!
Nope. At first glance, this assumption makes sense: someone observing classrooms should understand what goes on in classrooms. However, because the CLASS tool is an objective measure, the most critical requirement for any observer is the ability to put past experiences and biases aside—using only one’s objective notes and the CLASS manual to determine scores. Believe it or not, sometimes the most reliable observers are the ones who arrive to observation training with no education background!
Not true! Young children are naturally thinkers, explorers, and scientists. Let’s give them the credit—and opportunities to think—that they deserve. Still not convinced? Then ask yourself this: How many times have you heard a child ask, “Why?” If you have ever spent time with a young child, then you know this question all too well. When children ask big questions, it stems from genuine curiosity and an urge to explore and think deeply about the world around them. The CLASS tool simply gives teachers strategies to stimulate and facilitate this kind of thinking
When a teacher receives a score of 7 on any dimension of the CLASS tool, it’s fantastic, but not necessarily perfect. Why? Because perfection doesn’t exist! Here’s an example: Mrs. Washington has warm relationships with children, smiles often, offers verbal affection, and shows respect. Every indicator of this dimension fits the high range and she scores a 7 on Positive Climate. Although the observer noticed a lack of social conversation during the observation, that’s okay, because classrooms don’t have to be perfect for a score of 7—and even the best of us can find room for improvement.
If measuring the quality of human interactions was as simple as completing a checklist, the world would be a much different place. It would mean interactions are simple. It might even mean an end to political strife and global conflict! But, alas, interactions are complex. It’s pretty darn amazing to have a validated tool that can measure teacher-child interactions; but make no mistake, the CLASS measure is complex—and needs to be, in order to accurately capture the depth, duration, and frequency of teacher-child interactions.
Editors Note: This blog was originally published on September 30, 2014, but has been revamped to keep the content accurate and interesting.
Being an instructional coach or mentor is difficult. Sometimes it may feel like you don't have any support—especially when it comes to providing effective feedback to the teachers you work with. Have you, as a coach, ever asked yourself any of the following questions?
The CLASS measure allows us to quantify the quality of teacher-child interactions—and that is a powerful thing. But collecting observation data, alone, does nothing to impact students. Improving child outcomes takes more than just data collection; it’s what you do with the data that really matters.
CLASS Specialists are always thinking about the complexity of the CLASS tool as we prepare for our trainings. As a trained CLASS observer, I am comfortable observing and recognizing quality interactions that fit in the tool. But I needed a strategy to convey this information to those who may not be as familiar with the tool.
As it turns out, using an analogy is a perfect way to make the complex relatable, less overwhelming, and more familiar to our participants.