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Busting 3 CLASS-Coding Myths

09 Dec 2015 by Sherilyn Crump

We Teachstone trainers often have participants in our trainings that have previously attended a CLASS Observation training. Some participants are returning to become reliable observers in another age group, while others have, at some time in the past, let their certification expire. No matter the reason a trainee is attending another CLASS observation training, someone will express sincere surprise during the portion of training that covers the CLASS coding process. We have heard comments such as, “I’ve never heard CLASS scoring trained like this before!” or “Thank you, this makes so much more sense, I can’t wait to try out coding in my classrooms now!”


Sometimes, we hear comments such as “There’s a table on page 17? I didn’t know that!” Other times though, we are told stories of how different programs are coding out in the field, and how it is not at all like they are learning here at this CLASS training. So, let us bust a few of these common CLASS coding myths. 

Myth #1

There is a mathematical formula for coding with CLASS.

While CLASS is a 7-point rating scale, there is not a mathematical formula to arrive at a CLASS score for a dimension. Now, don't relegate that calculator app to the cloud just yet—you will do a little math when domain averages are calculated. But as far as dimensions go, there is not a complicated mathematical formula for arriving at a score.

Myth #2

Indicators are awarded a number of 1-7, then I add those up, and divide them by how many indicators there are, and whatever that number is, I award it to the dimension.

Is your head spinning? See Myth #1. Here is the truth about indicators—they are given ranges only. That could be a range of low, or mid, or high, or—for those seasoned coders out there, there may be more subtle ranges, such as lower mid, or a higher low. Some observers may use a + or – sign next to their range choice, but rest assured, indicators always get a range, never a number.

Myth #3

Behavioral markers are a checklist. I can just use my handy-dandy “tri-fold” that came with my manual, and check off each behavioral marker as I see it, and if I have observed them all, I can award a high score.

The strength of CLASS is that it is not a checklist. Our manual guides us to “view the dimensions as holistic descriptions of classrooms that fall in the low, middle, or high range” (pg. 15). It is also not necessary to see every Behavioral Marker present to consider an Indicator in the high range, making a checklist system for behavioral markers an incorrect way of coding classrooms.

So what is the coding process for CLASS, you ask? Here are some helpful steps, especially if after reading this blog post you are feeling like your CLASS coding needs a little updating:

  • Observe and take notes, sorting those into their correct dimensions and indicators.
  • Consult each face page, and, indicator by indicator, decide what range fits best (low, or mid, or high, or a more subtle range).
  • Turn to the descriptive pages in the longer Indicator paragraphs and read your range choice (just give it a quick skim). Ask yourself if this is a good match for the classroom. If it seems too harsh, read up a paragraph; if it seems too generous, read down a paragraph. Firm up your range choices.
  • Turn to Table 2.1. In the Pre-K CLASS Manual, this will be on page 17. Use the table to assist you in assigning the number code (1-7) to the dimension.

Now, there is much more to say about the coding process than there is time for here in a blog post. Coding with CLASS is a learned skill, as there are many variables to balance when deciding a code, such as the number of adults in the room and the need to average interactions across an observation cycle of 15-20 minutes. Attending a CLASS observation training is essential and necessary for conducting reliable observations in early childhood classrooms. In addition to learning the coding process, knowledgeable trainers guide participants intentionally through the tool, and after training all participants take a reliability test to assure fair and accurate data collection out in the field.

All the guidance you need to be an accomplished CLASS coder is in chapter 2 in your manuals. Be sure you always use your manual (and not your tri-fold) during the scoring process, and, in the spirit of the movie season: May the coding force be with you!


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