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What’s the Minimum Number of Children Needed for a CLASS Observation?

25 Oct 2016 by Emily Doyle

You’re a CLASS observer. You arrive to a classroom to conduct an observation but you quickly realize that there are multiple absent children. You wonder: What’s the minimum number of children that need to be present in order for this data to be valid?

This is a common CLASS conundrum; and unfortunately, there is no magic number of children that makes it “okay” to conduct a CLASS observation. The answer to this question can be addressed by considering another question: Does this represent a typical day in this classroom?

A valid CLASS observation measures the typical experience of the average child in the classroom. Therefore, if there is something significantly atypical (for example, there is a substitute teacher in the room or fewer than half the total children are present), then you may consider rescheduling your observation, depending on the goals of your data.

Be wary of getting too carried away by this notion; however, since classrooms are highly variable places and no two days are ever exactly the same. But if you notice something particularly atypical, then you should think twice about conducting your observation.

Reminder 1

Valid CLASS observations represent the average experience of the average child in the classroom. If you are concerned that your data might be comprised by a truly atypical factor, talk to your local CLASS leader or email a reliablity expert at Teachstone for guidance.

Reminder 2

If you’re not sure whether there are enough children, a good rule of thumb is to observe if at least half of the expected children are present. If you did not receive a classroom roster before your visit, then simply ask the teacher how many children are typically expected. If fewer than half the expected children are present, then you should probably reschedule your observation. This rule extends to Family Child Care providers (FCCs) as well, which typically care for fewer children. If only two children are present, but only two are expected each day, then it is okay to move forward with the observation. 

Reminder 3

Just because CLASS seeks to capture “typical experiences,” that does not mean that every cycle should look exactly the same for the same classrooms. Humans are highly variable and therefore your observation will be too. It is very normal for classrooms to score differently from cycle to cycle because interactions can look really different at different times—consider lunchtime versus centers versus circle time.

Reminder 4

Use your CLASS manual! Chapter Two of the manual includes a wealth of information on recommended procedures for conducting observations. Although you won’t find explicit “child minimums,” a close reading will validate that the CLASS dimensions are intended to reflect the value of the classroom environment for the typical child in the class.

Reminder 5

Learn your local CLASS protocol. Programs often establish their own procedures for conducting live or video observations, adapting recommendations in the CLASS manual to fit individual projects or needs. If you are the CLASS leader for your organization and wish to establish a local CLASS protocol, then reach out to Teachstone for guidance.

We hope these handy reminders are helpful in your work to ensure valid data collection. If we missed something, let us know in the comments! Happy coding!


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