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Enhance Your Training Skills #2: Insist on Detailed Justifications and Specific Observations

17 May 2016 by Sarah Hadden

Today's post is the second in our "Tips for Enhancing Your Training Skills" blog series. In these posts, we will delve deeply into the fundamentals of essential training skills. This blog series, filled with tips from our training team’s collective years of experience delivering CLASS observation trainings to diverse audiences from around the country and the globe, will provide you with tangible ideas about how to be a more successful trainer. 

You know the drill. You’ve stated the Master Code, determined which participants were within one and asked those who were within one to share their observations with the group. And you get dead silence. What do you do next? Well, in a non-CLASS way, I’m going to tell you what not to do:

  • Don’t get flustered and start to tell your participants the answers. While it fills the air space during the uncomfortable silence, it does nothing to help your participants increase their CLASS knowledge.
  • Don’t go through the list of indicators and say, “Did anyone see any evidence of Relationships? What about Positive Affect, did you see anything there?”
  • Don’t ask about the presence or absence of each behavioral marker.

 There are three reasons why this is a bad idea:

  1. Participants are still learning about the CLASS and often times, they are glad that they wrote something down and sorted it into the right dimension. Asking them to provide evidence about each indicator may be more than they are ready to do – especially for the first couple of training videos. As the training goes on, you may be able to do that, but in the beginning, it’s better for us to listen to their evidence and do the sorting for them (e.g., “Yes, the teacher was sitting on the floor with the students. This is a great example of close physical proximity, which is a behavioral maker under Relationships in Positive Climate.” As the training goes on and participants start to put things together, you may ask them to tell you where an observation fits or send them to the manual to look things up.
  2. We do not always see evidence of each indicator and asking participants to review indicator by indicator could be confusing. In addition, it’s time-consuming and we all know that a CLASS Observation training is jam-packed.
  3. Behavioral markers are meant to illustrate the types of interactions we see for specific indicators. An observer does not need to see evidence of each behavioral marker. Asking participants to look for each marker may inadvertently lead them to think that they should code at the behavioral marker level. 

Here’s what to do instead:

  1. Ask great open-ended questions, “What did you see? What observations did you make? What did you jot down in your notes?” This strategy allows participants to share their observations freely without the fear of being wrong. Initially, you will sort their observations with them (and ideally do some great repetition and extensions too; e.g., “You’re right. When the teacher asked the children to determine which container held more liquid, she was asking them to compare, which is something we look for in Analysis and Reasoning in Concept Development”). As your participants gain confidence, they will correctly sort their observations on their own.
  2. Don’t forget to insist on specific observations. If someone says, “ The children are comfortable,” ask them how they know that – what did they see?
Accurate coding with the CLASS requires that observers make specific and objective observations; start to build this skill early by asking these types of questions and insisting on detailed notes!

Next up, we will talk about defending the master code-- stay tuned! In the meanwhile, please share your experiences in encouraging trainees to provide detailed justifications and specific observations with us in the CLASS Learning Community!

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