Across the country and around the globe, schools/programs will soon reopen after extended closures due to COVID-19. Those that have remained open are instituting new health and safety practices.. Localities will determine whether to provide in-person, online, or hybrid teaching. Regardless of the model that schools/programs adopt, classrooms will look different now and for the foreseeable future.
This document provides guidance for how to safely and effectively collect CLASS data in schools/programs with in-person teaching during the time of COVID-19. We also recognize the interest from the field in using CLASS® to assess and improve virtual teaching and are working with organizations that are piloting this work. We will share guidance on the use of CLASS in virtual teaching as soon as possible.
Classrooms will look very different this fall and conditions will vary based on state and local guidance on re-opening. Some states and districts will have more stringent requirements than others. We expect to see the use of these precautions in many schools/programs:
Interactions matter, now more than ever. Teachstone recommends the continued use of CLASS to ensure the quality of classroom interactions and to support educators in their professional development. During these stressful times, children need supportive interactions, and teachers will benefit greatly from helpful feedback around those interactions.
The decision of when to observe in-person will depend on many factors including the impact of the illness rate on a given community. For example:
Additionally, the impact of the virus goes far beyond the physical illness itself. Even those communities that did not have any confirmed cases suffered from the stress and tension of school closings, the inequitable impact of the pandemic due to systemic racism, and the economic impact of the virus.
These events may affect the transition back to school, and a waiting period may be needed before observations begin. Because circumstances vary by locality, we recommend that wait times be decided at the local level. We typically recommend that formal CLASS observations are not conducted in the first few weeks of school, giving teachers and children an opportunity to adjust to the classroom setting. This advice remains, but we recognize that the length of adjustment time may be longer for some schools/programs depending on how different the classroom settings are from the time prior to the pandemic. In-person CLASS observations may simply not be possible in some localities for longer periods of time as programs work to limit exposure.
If in-person observations are not possible, video observation is an option that schools/programs may consider to reduce having an additional outside observer in the school setting. CLASS was validated for use in coding videotape of classrooms (Mashburn, Hamre, Downer, & Pianta, 2007), and this method has been widely used in a large number of research studies. Provided that teachers can capture and transfer video footage, coding via videotape is acceptable. Chapter 2 of the CLASS manual includes recommendations for obtaining high-quality video footage. In addition, Teachstone has guidance on how to do this work.
When observations will take place in the classroom, observers should:
While preparation is key to a successful observation at all times, this is even more true during a pandemic. Here are suggestions to prioritize health and safety while maintaining the reliability of the CLASS observations.
For example, observers may not see physical proximity under the indicator of relationships or physical affection under the indicator of positive communication in Positive Climate. They may not see a teacher smile or hug a child, but instead they may observe the emotional connection between the teacher and the children when the teacher intently listens to what a child says, as evidenced by looking at the child and nodding her head.
Just as the decision about whether or not to observe will depend on a community’s experience with the pandemic, the decision about comparing pre (before the COVID-19 pandemic) and post (during the COVID-19 pandemic) data will depend on the circumstances. It may be necessary to suspend comparison of data in an area that was greatly impacted by the virus, as teachers and children may need more time to readjust to school. For example, teachers may need to spend a significant amount of time providing emotional support and establishing classroom organization, and spend less time on instructional support.
We recommend consideration of these factors, in addition to others specific to each school/program, in determining if/how to compare CLASS data:
We hope this guidance is helpful in answering some of your most important questions, but we recognize circumstances differ across the education landscape. We have more guidance to come, particularly to address the specific ways CLASS interactions may look different in classrooms across the age levels, and we will post that as soon as it is completed.
In the meantime, please use the CLASS Learning Community as a way to get feedback and dialogue with others about their approaches in this COVID-19 world. If you have thoughts you’d like to share or would like to consult directly with us, we’d love to hear from you. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here are some resources for childcare programs and schools reopening during the pandemic:
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Can we talk about structure? When CLASS® entered my life, I was 20 years into my career in the field of early childhood education. What I remember most about that initial training, besides the nervousness about an impending reliability test, was a sense of relief. Structure, including state and program standards, curriculum, materials in the classroom, and approaches to childcare and pedagogy, had dominated my working hours. CLASS was a lot to learn, but for me, it was a breath of fresh air. Observing with CLASS meant I could set aside my obsession with all things structural, which encompassed my thoughts every time I walked into an early childhood classroom.
Originally published December 22, 2016
Regard for Student Perspectives as defined by CLASS® is“the degree to which the teacher’s interactions with students and classroom activities place an emphasis on students’ interests, motivations, and points of view and encourage student responsibility and autonomy.” This often looks like following children's lead so that you can anticipate their needs during an activity.
Understanding how to effectively employ CLASS's Regard for Student Perspectives while maintaining a constructive learning environment can be challenging. In the following paragraphs the fictional preschool professional, Mrs. Jones, will illustrate the indicators of Regard for Student Perspectives at circle time. I’ll then discuss her exemplary examples:
The CLASS® tool’s Instructional Learning Format (ILF) dimension refers to the ways educators enhance engagement. We all know students who are engaged in school regardless of who their teacher is just simply because that is who they are. But, this dimension examines the ways in which educators expand involvement by using a variety of modalities, strategies, and providing hands-on opportunities. This dimension is not about the actual learning that may or may not take place, but rather the “hooks” and methods an educator uses to “set the stage” for learning.