Your trainees arrive to CLASS Observation Trainings with different backgrounds, perspectives, and biases. They may also come with some misunderstandings about the tool. Confusion before CLASS Observation Training is understandable- after all, they don't know the tool yet, and they're probably afraid of that infamous reliability test. It's important for trainers to be aware of common misconceptions and to respond in ways that actually result in deepening trainees' understanding of CLASS. Here are 6 of the most popular CLASS myths and ways you can respond to them:
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.
Have you heard any other CLASS myths from your trainees? Please share what you've heard and how you responded with your fellow trainers.
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.