Alberta Loosle is the education manager for Centro de la Familia de Utah. Centro de la Familia de Utah is a non-profit agency supporting the under-served community in Utah. I talked to Alberta about her work with the program and about using CLASS in DLL settings.
How are you using CLASS in your programs?
We manage the Migrant and Seasonal Head Start Program and support over 640 infants, toddlers, and preschoolers across the state. We’ve been using CLASS for our pre-K classrooms for a while now.
Last year, we started building up our cohort of reliable observers and started a dual coding process. We now have over 10 bilingual coders who travel all over the state to observe our classrooms. Every classroom is coded three times a year and we dual code every preschool classroom. When we dual code, we complete two observation cycles instead of four. Our coders go into a classroom together and conduct their observations. We rotate who codes together to keep it fun and fresh. At the end of the coding cycles, our observers discuss their observation together, fill out our teacher feedback form, and highlight two strengths and two areas to work on per teacher.
If it’s possible, we go over the scores and feedback with the teacher immediately following the observation so that they can connect the feedback to the moment. It’s not always possible, though, so we at least provide feedback in the same day.
We also don’t always have dual coders available, so when only one observer is in a classroom, they'll complete three cycles.
This whole dual coding process is new for us since I became the education manager last April. I think our observers get nervous sometimes wondering if they scored too high or too low. Dual coding has helped them feel more confident in their scores. Ninety-five percent of the time, they are reliable with each other. When there are differences in scores, it’s usually because one observer is focused on one teacher in the room while the other is focusing on another.
Since starting this process, we've gotten positive feedback from our teachers and observers.
How do you provide feedback to your teachers?
We provide a feedback form. It’s similar to an observation sheet, but instead of scores, we provide a low, mid, or high mark. I’m thinking about revising the feedback forms to remove the low, mid, or high mark as well and just focus on the notes.
I think scores and ranges can be helpful, but they can also be very distracting. Our teachers tend to focus in on the number or the range. My goal is to help teachers think about improving regardless of their scores. A seven doesn’t mean perfection—it means we saw great interactions. The goal is to provide these high-quality interactions as much as possible and to continually strive for more improvements.
It’s also important that our observers assign a score based on what they’re actually seeing. If that’s a seven, great! We want our teachers to know where they are doing well and where there is room for improvement.
Another area I’ve started looking at is not just the scores for our individual teachers, but the scores based on format (circle time, meal time, etc.). I’ve been running an analysis to see if we’re noticing lower scores or higher scores during certain times of the day. Teachers think about areas to improve based on how they schedule their day.
Have you noticed any trends so far?
In one center, I noticed lower scores during meal time. There’s so much opportunity for rich interaction during meals. So, I did a training for that center focused on Instructional Support opportunities during meal time. The teachers really understood CLASS concepts; it made more sense to them by looking at interactions from one part of their day.
I haven’t had a chance to compare the scores from one observation to the next but that’s something I want to focus on.
I really like CLASS. I want our teachers to be better at building those relationships and asking rich questions. I think as a nation, we’re all working toward better Instructional Support interactions.
What is something you’ve learned by using CLASS in DLL?
I think it’s harder for our Spanish dominant staff to understand the tool and what it really gets at. So that’s part of why I have focused on the format in addition to breaking it down in terms of dimensions. We are fortunate enough to have bilingual observers and education specialists, and that helps.
I want to make sure my education specialists have the same vision and understanding of the CLASS tool and really understand why interactions matter.
I think, regardless of language, it's helpful to give teachers strategies based on how they structure the day as well as focusing on the broad dimension.
What advice would you have for others in your role?
Focus on why you’re using the tool. Get away from the number and focus on the strategies that CLASS looks for. Those are strategies that I look for in my program. That’s my big takeaway lately. I can worry about the numbers, but I want our teachers to focus on the strategies CLASS identifies as indicators of quality teacher-child interactions.
I think because CLASS is a mandated instrument used as part of the system for designation renewal, programs have focused on the negative consequences of not meeting the minimum threshold or being in the bottom ten percent. However, CLASS can be a useful tool when programs shift their focus to improve the interactions that support children’s learning and development.
Editor's Note: As I hear from more organizations about their experience with CLASS, I learn more and more about how people are implementing the tool in their programs—how many observations they conduct, when they conduct observations, how people provide feedback. We love learning about how programs are making CLASS work for them and are always available to provide guidance and suggestions on implementation so you get the most out of your investment. Reach out to talk about your CLASS implementation or submit your CLASS story.
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