I once gave a cohort of student teachers each a magic wand as they approached their graduation. My colleague Maggie and I told the soon-to-be-teachers that their wand wasn’t a tool for summoning a fairy godmother to their respective new classrooms (although they were instructed to keep in touch). The wand was intended to serve as a reminder that there is no magic formula in teaching; however, there is a sound, scientific recipe for success, which they had already become very familiar with: the CLASS tool.
Over the past several years, much of my work around teaching and learning at the University of Missouri-Kansas City has had something to do with CLASS. Whether it was teaching a science methods or infant and toddler development course to pre-service teachers, conducting a research study measuring teacher-student interactions, or providing professional development to in-service teachers on effective teaching practices, you could bet that in one of my many bags you would be able to reach in and find a CLASS manual (or two—okay, three).
I consider CLASS to be a revolutionizing tool within the teacher education classroom. While using the CLASS Dimensions Guide as a supplementary course reading, the CLASS manual as a textbook, or an individual domain or dimension as a classroom observation look-for, I have observed beginning and graduate level teachers uncover the complex life and layers of the classroom. Discussions of theories—that have been central to teacher education—have come alive through analysis with CLASS as the inquiry tool. On-line discussion boards have been transformed to a place where students share observations, while using a common lens and vocabulary. Activity and lesson plans have become a template for prioritizing instructional support goals and pre-planning critical teaching practices to be enacted. This practice-based teaching approach (Vartuli, Snider and Holley, 2015) has fostered teacher development and centralized CLASS as a vehicle for both teacher-learning and learning-to-teach.
CLASS is also a revolutionizing tool within the practicing teacher’s classroom. I now spend the majority of my time with in-service teachers in preschool through fifth grade classrooms. The consistency, yet specialty, of CLASS across ages and grade levels provides a common coaching framework. Several of the research projects conducted within our community (Rohs, Vartuli, & Kindle, 2014; Snider, 2015; Vartuli, Bolz & Wilson, 2014) have revealed that CLASS is an effective tool for improved teaching. As a researcher and coach, I have found that teachers are receptive to a coaching process with CLASS, as teachers are able to really see their teaching and in turn identify the teaching practices they want to intensify and master. For program leaders, they see the research-related benefits of CLASS scores in student outcomes.
From time to time, I still encounter that question, “Karrie, can’t you just tell me how to fix ___________ in my classroom?” (You fill in the blank.) Teachers don’t fix—we work diligently and relentlessly as inquirers—always striving to give the best support to students and each other. And still sometimes, in some moments we are searching for that one thing to be the magic wand. For coaches, researchers, and teacher educators, let’s continue to offer CLASS as the recipe towards revolutionary success.
Rohs, J., Vartuli, S., & Kindle, K. (2014). Teacher preparation with CLASS: Measuring candidates across levels. Federation of North Texas Universities Early Childhood Education Monograph, p. 1-8.
Snider, K. A. (2015). The relationship between in-service teachers’ culturally responsive self-efficacy beliefs and outcome expectancy belies, instructional practices (CLASS), and student outcomes in the urban school setting (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from Proquest. (3701209).
Vartuli, S., Snider, K., & Holley, M. (2015). Making it real: Practice-based early childhood teacher education program. Early Childhood Education Journal, 43(5), 1-14. DOI: 10.1007/s10643-015-0733-2.
Vartuli, S., Bolz, C., & Wilson, C. (2014). A learning combination: Coaching with CLASS and the project approach. Early Childhood Research and Practice, 16(1&2). Retrieved from http://ecrp.uiuc.edu/v16n1/vartuli.html.
Karrie Snider, Ph.D., is a Research Associate for the University of Missouri-Kansas City Institute for Human Development where she enjoys supporting early childhood and youth program development, technical assistance, and evaluation. She has spent the past twenty years in the field of early childhood and elementary education as a classroom teacher, school administrator, teacher educator and researcher. Karrie is also an Affiliate Pre-K and K-3 CLASS Trainer.
How have children’s social and emotional needs changed this year?
That’s one of the major concerns Teachstone has been hearing from leaders and educators across the country. Even before the pandemic, teachers in early childhood settings, elementary school, and beyond had increasingly been paying attention to children’s self-regulation, social skills, and other emotional needs. With so much turmoil and loss, what has shifted? How can educators prepare to support children? And...how can leaders prepare to support their teaching staff?
To tackle these questions, we brought together Amanda Alexander, VP of Policy and Partnership Development at Teachstone; Bridget Hamre, Co-Founder and CEO at Teachstone; Gene Pinkard, Aspen Institute Director of Practice and Leadership; and Bloodine Barthelus, Director of Practice Innovations at CASEL. Our experts shared the principles they think are most important for social-emotional learning, the challenges they’re anticipating, and how thoughtful instructional leaders are rolling out new social-emotional initiatives.
I was supposed to be an architect, instead I was a teacher of young children; it felt like my calling.
When I started my coursework, they tasked me with visiting multiple classrooms. It overwhelmed me when in some classrooms, children were crying, teachers were frustrated, and no one seemed to enjoy the day. I thought I had made a mistake. Thankfully, I had a professor who inspired me to continue. Instead of feeling overwhelmed by the behaviors I observed in both children and teachers, the professor charged me to uncover the root of those behaviors.
And so, my journey to support social-emotional development began.
To those in the education world, it’s not news that our schools, our systems, and our students are struggling. For nearly 40 years, since the publication of A Nation At Risk, we’ve recognized as a country that something isn’t working.
For more than a century after the United States’ colonization, school was intended for children who were overwhelmingly wealthy, white, male, and English-speaking - those demographics are no longer the case. Students today are representative of all our nation’s families, but our history means there’s a mismatch between what education has done up to this point and what children really need. What’s more, advances in science - psychology, medicine,
neuroscience, economics, and more - have shown us that to give children the greatest opportunity we must change what we’re doing. We can’t let another 40 years pass while we figure it out.
Since 2018, over 10,000 educators and counting have enrolled in a CDA with CLASS® program. That’s a milestone in and of itself. But when you zoom out, it means that tens of thousands of children are now cared for by these professionals. And, when you think of the number of meaningful, high-quality interactions that happen each and every day? It’s not unreasonable to think that there are a hundred thousand or more brain-building moments that happen daily because learners have enrolled in a CDA with CLASS program.