CLASS® behavioral markers (those bulleted lists of observable behaviors under each indicator on your dimension face pages) are both friends and, if you can believe this, well, at times—foes.

As friends, when educators engage in behavioral marker-based interactions in their classrooms, the quality of children’s experiences improves. As foes, behavioral markers can become checklists during CLASS observations, something our manuals in all age groups advise against doing.

Some behavioral markers may also be challenging to define and, as a result, may be subject to an individual rather than CLASS-based interpretation. These interpretations occur when a marker is taken directly off any given dimension face page without context from the range description paragraphs. With these challenges in mind, welcome to our brief series addressing some of the more commonly misunderstood behavioral markers!

Let’s begin our series in Negative Climate, with the often misunderstood behavioral marker of “Disconnected or escalating negativity." This behavioral marker is located under the indicator of “Negative affect” in our Pre-K through Secondary tools and mentioned in the Toddler tool within the “Negative affect” descriptive paragraphs. It shares the indicator with other more straightforward behavioral markers, such as Irritability, Anger, Harsh voice, and Peer aggression.

What “Disconnected Negativity” Isn’t

It’s that time in your training when you are reviewing the Master Code Justifications. As you ask for evidence in the dimension of Negative Climate you hear, “The teacher was obviously disconnected from the students! She’s ignoring them. It’s clear she doesn’t want to be there.”

While that evidence may indeed be present, that description does not fit "Disconnected negativity." A better fit for that observation might be in the dimension of Teacher Sensitivity, as the teacher is less aware and responsive. Other dimensions too may be a fit, such as a lack of evidence in Relationships, within the dimension of Positive Climate.

What “Disconnected Negativity” Is

It helps to think in reverse here. When negativity is “connected” to something that has just occurred, it is negativity (irritation or anger). It is tied to a specific situation. For example, an older toddler may purposefully push all of the toys off of a shelf. The teacher, irritated, says in a raised voice, “Brian! Why did you do that?” She then walks over to Brian and begins to help him clean up. In this case, the teacher is irritated, and the reason why she is irritated is clear to us.

When negativity (irritation or anger) is disconnected to a specific event, it is unclear to the observer why the teacher is irritated or mad. The teacher may express anger or irritation to specific students, such as “You know what, that’s just about enough time standing around at the computers!” without a precipitating reason for her frustration. Or, the teacher may appear annoyed, tossing items onto students desks as she walks to the front of the room, and beginning to give directives in an angry tone. The key here is, the observed negativity seems to be without an observable cause.

Clearing Up The Misconception

During a CLASS Observation or an MMCI training, it helps to be proactive about potentially confusing behavioral markers. Prepare ahead of time a relevant example to use during the dimension introduction such as the Toddler pushing toys off the shelf example above. Consider pointing out where the descriptive paragraph defines a behavioral marker like “Disconnected negativity” and suggest the participants highlight that section. You may find this simple and quick pre-loading of information makes easier work of subsequent training video discussions!

How do you describe “Disconnected negativity” in your trainings? What other behavioral markers would you like us to address in this series?

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