We were really happy to receive an article examining the use of CLASS in American Indian and Alaska Native Head Start Programs. And we were equally happy when lead author, Jessica Barnes-Najor, a researcher at Michigan State University, agreed to speak with us. In conjunction with her work at MSU, Jessica is a co-investigator for The Tribal Early Childhood Research Center (TRC). Read below to learn more about this important research.
In our study, we surveyed Region XI Head Start administrators and asked them to reflect on the cultural fit of the CLASS in their communities. Participants identified aspects of the CLASS that either aligned or were misaligned with their culture.
Essentially, we found that the domain of Emotional Support and the dimensions and indicators within Emotional Support tended to align with our respondents’ culture. However, at the level of the behavioral markers, there were some areas of misalignment. Because of the high specificity at the behavioral marker level, it was more likely for behaviors to either be inappropriate or easily misconstrued/misinterpreted due to cultural differences. Also, some important behavioral markers might not be present. The same finding was true for the domain of Classroom Organization.
In addition to the potential misalignment at the behavioral marker level, we found some caution regarding the fact that Instructional Support might look markedly different in many Native communities. In some communities, a heavy use of non-verbal gestures and high levels of collaboration, combined with a strong sense of community are very important. For these communities, we often see children learning through cycles of observation, quiet reflection, and then engaging in community activities, actively working together to create something or accomplish a common goal. The way adults support learning through these cycles often looks significantly different when compared to a western educational setting.
Well, we often talk about the difference between “culturally responsive” and “culturally grounded.” Both are good (and needed), but the distinction between the two is important. Culturally responsive interactions are those that are inclusive of the child’s culture. If a child is from a culture for which direct eye contact is a sign of disrespect (or confrontation), then a teacher who is understanding and respectful of this cultural norm in the classroom would be exhibiting culturally responsive interactions. Culturally grounded practices, however, are those practices that are rooted in the culture. For many Native communities, intentionally incorporating non-verbal communication, high levels of collaboration among students, and an emphasis on “pitching in” together as a classroom community as a learning strategy would be considered culturally grounded.
If possible, participate in trainings to help you understand the specific community’s unique cultural context. Work with others who are from the community or have worked in the community to understand the context. Read as much as you can about the community’s history (as written by those from the community). Also, learn more about the broader community (in this case, understand more about Indigenous communities from the North American continent).
Yes, we do! We are hoping to gather data to help us begin to answer questions about the psychometric structure of the CLASS in Native classrooms and the predictive validity of the CLASS for Native children’s outcomes. Essentially, we want to have data to help us understand if the CLASS works as it should in Native classrooms. We also will be gathering data on culturally grounded interactions in the classroom to see how these data relate to overall classroom quality and children’s outcomes.
Citation: Barnes-Najor, J. V.,Thompson, N.L., Cameron, A.F., .Smith, T.M., Calac Verdugo, M., Brown, P.L. & Sarche, M.C. (2020): Cultural and Practice Perspectives on the Classroom Assessment Scoring System: Voices From American Indian and Alaska Native Head Start Programs, Journal of Research in Childhood Education, DOI: 10.1080/02568543.2020.1723749
Want to hear more on this topic? Jessica is co-presenting, “Examining the Use of CLASS in Unique Cultural Contexts: Example from work in American Indian and Alaska Native Head Start programs” at the upcoming InterAct Now: CLASS Summit March 23-25, 2021.
Given the context of today’s educational landscape, the global pandemic we are still fighting, and the divides our country is facing, strong leadership is essential. There is a clear need to restabilize and improve education for every child, and every educator. But, what does that mean exactly for educational leaders who are leading the way?
Nearly two years ago I joined Teachstone with a deep desire and commitment to support leaders and teachers with real-time, practical, and evidence-based strategies and solutions to address the current needs of children, families, and educators. For the 20 years prior, I led organizations working at the national, state, and local levels focused on addressing the needs of children and families, especially those living in marginalized communities. As a practitioner at heart, my passion has been translating research to practice to drive impact and positive outcomes for children. This passion brought me to Teachstone.
Many teachers and leaders associate CLASS® with preschool. And we get it! It’s used in early childhood classrooms across the country, including Head Start programs, and it’s been more important than ever for young children as they begin to return to in-person learning.
But the principles of CLASS - Emotional Support, Classroom Organization, Instructional Support - are important for children well beyond Pre-K. The ever-increasing research base shows that interactions matter for children’s social-emotional and academic development. That’s why CLASS is organized to support children from infancy to high school with the developmentally appropriate interactions that drive learning - and why K-12 leaders are embracing CLASS in their schools.
We’re closing out our celebration of NAEYC’s Week of the Young Child with Family Friday. We have revamped this post from spring 2020 a little to reflect the changes that have happened since last April, but as many families have learned this year, classic activities are classics for a reason. Please enjoy these ones with your young child, and remember - the love, support, and work you’re putting into them will change the world.