* Related guidance for teachers will be forthcoming. 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 be sharing guidance on the use of CLASS in virtual teaching as a separate resource.
During these stressful times, children need supportive interactions more than ever, and teachers will benefit greatly from helpful feedback around those interactions. If children are attending school in person, Teachstone recommends the continued use of CLASS to understand the quality of classroom interactions and to support educators in their professional development.
The decision of when to observe in person will depend on many factors, including the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the given community. For example:
Additionally, the impact of the virus goes far beyond physical illness. Even communities without confirmed cases have 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 conditions 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 not be conducted in the first few weeks of school, in order to give teachers and children an opportunity to adjust to the classroom setting. While this advice remains valid, we also recognize that some schools and programs may need an even longer time to adjust, depending on how much classroom settings have changed since 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.
Just as decisions about whether or not to observe will depend on a community’s experience with the pandemic, decisions about comparing new data with data collected before the pandemic 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 considering these factors, in addition to others specific to each school/program, when determining whether/how to compare CLASS data:
Whenever observers are entering a new setting, it can be helpful to speak to the school/program and teachers ahead of time to gather information about the classroom. This is especially true at this time, when enrollment and health and safety practices may be changing from week to week. When preparing for in-person observations, observers should
Schools/programs that wish to avoid bringing outside observers into the classroom may consider using video observations. CLASS has been 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.
Whether observers are entering classrooms in person or observing video footage, the classrooms they see may look very different this fall. Conditions will vary based on state and local guidance on re-opening, and some states and districts will have more stringent requirements than others. We expect to see use of the following precautions, in various combinations, in many schools/programs:
While preparation is key to a successful observation at all times, this is even more true during a pandemic. Observers should take time to prepare mentally for how these observations may be different from those in their previous experiences. For instance:
Some observers may be nervous about how their ability to see and hear will be affected by COVID-related precautions in place in the classroom. Observers should recall that interactions are multi-faceted. The observer does not capture the fullness of everything communicated verbally and nonverbally between teachers and children during the observation period for any CLASS observation, even one conducted under normal circumstances. The observer is limited by the amount that they can see, hear, and note at once—there is always more happening than can be captured. All observers have been in classrooms where it is difficult to see or hear certain interactions due to the classroom layout, the general level of noise when young children are in a small space, or a particularly soft-spoken teacher. In these cases, observers must focus on what they can see and hear, which is typically sufficient to assess all CLASS dimensions.
We've outlined at the dimension and indicator level how the changes to classroom settings described above may impact the evidence for each CLASS dimension. The button below will open our full guidance for Infant/Toddler - K-3. Or, click the following links to access age-specific in-classroom guidance for: Infant, Toddler, or Pre-K - K-3.
We hope this guidance is helpful in answering some of your most important questions, but we recognize that circumstances differ across the education landscape. 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.