At some point in every training, someone invariably looks up and says, “So, if I want to be reliable, all I need to do is never score a 1 or a 7, right?”
Wrong! Every time I hear this, I want to scream. However, since it’s poor form for the trainer to scream, I maintain my composure and calmly explain that although I understand the intuitive appeal of what I call “The Numbers Game,” I cannot recommend it for the reasons presented below:
CLASS Specialists at Teachstone all take turns providing reliability support to anxious testers. We often see the same mistakes and misconceptions over and over again about how the CLASS works, and as my story below will share, how the behavioral markers fit into the coding process.
I had the opportunity to interview teacher Dana McDowell, a Pre-K teacher from Lafayette, Louisiana. During the 2016-17 school year Dana participated in the MyTeachingPartner (MTP) professional development program. By collaborating and engaging in the MTP process with her coach Kaly Barlow, Dana was able to set CLASS-related goals and achieve them by the end of the year. Dana gives great insight into what made the MTP process successful for her.
Have you ever wished for a magical power that helped you, and your observers-in-training, take notes super effectively? The kind of magical power that would allow you to capture everything you see and hear without missing a beat? The kind of magical power that paints an exact picture of what happened in the classroom without actually being there? Yeah, me too!
If anyone has ever spent any time in one of the Observation trainings (or TTT programs) that I facilitate, it becomes quite obvious early on that behavioral markers aren’t my go to for helping learners understand coding. You’ll even see me encouraging learners to cover them up when they are considering ranges on their face pages! That being said, they do have their purpose… but before we get to that, here’s why I’m a bit resistant to rely on behavioral markers during training. Markers are great as an introduction to the tool, but not so great for coding! Here’s why.
“WOW! What a great job!” says teacher Mary to Abby, who is building with blocks. Abby just succeeded in balancing a big, long block on top of the walls she built with smaller blocks. Abby has been working hard on this structure for at least 20 minutes, a long time in the life of a 4-year-old.
How do you make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich? I posed that question to a random selection of contacts via text message. What did I discover? One behavior stood out: everyone spreads on the PB first, then the J. There are a variety of ways though to apply the jelly (sometimes on the separate piece of bread, sometimes right on top of the peanut butter; some use the same knife, some use a new knife, etc.), but in my sampling group the jelly always comes second.
I recently completed a Train-The-Trainer program with an enthusiastic and well-prepared group of CLASS observers. Yet, despite their status as certified CLASS observers, several of them were identifying basic conversational exchanges as feedback loops.
Carmen is facilitating a CLASS Observation Training and has made sure to explain, in detail, the definition of each CLASS dimension, along with some examples of what these behaviors might look like in a classroom. Her trainees mostly get it. Behaviors like “setting clear expectations” are familiar. Maybe they didn’t always call it “CLASS,” but they all have seen firsthand how important it is to provide clear behavioral expectations in the classroom.