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.
Knowing that approximately 25% of children under 5 come from homes where Spanish is the predominant language spoken, we were pleased that Lisa White, a researcher at American Institutes for Research, was willing to speak with us about her study that compared the CLASS with the CASEBA, a tool designed to assess quality in classrooms serving dual language learners. To learn more, read on!
The time has come for hard conversations.
That’s the feedback we have been receiving from educators across the country. There are plenty of tough conversations educators are trained, taught, or feel equipped to handle with children and families - gently bringing up a developmental concern, facilitating a disagreement between students, or explaining what happened with the classroom goldfish are all part of a day in the life. But in the last year, since the killing of George Floyd and other Black people at the hands of police, educators are increasingly asking for help in communicating more comfortably with young children about diversity and difference.
We’re still soaking up the wisdom shared by our many, many excellent speakers at the spring 2021 InterAct Summit. From its inception, Teachstone has been an organization based in research. Because the CLASS is reliable and valid, teachers and programs trust it to give meaningful, accurate, and actionable information. To learn more about the current work being done in the field, we invited co-founder Bob Pianta to give an update on new research findings.
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.