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How Can I Prepare My Staff for CLASS Observations?

03 Oct 2017 by Meghan Cornwell

Is this your program’s first year conducting CLASS observations? Do you have new teachers who have never been observed? Implementing any kind of change in an organization can be challenging, so it’s important to provide many opportunities to discuss the factors behind the change and allow your staff to engage in open-ended discussions.

Here are some conversation points to help your team feel at ease before CLASS observations begin.

Explain: what

Before you can go into the details of observations, it’s important to help your team understand the importance of teacher-child interactions. Everyone at your organization should be able to describe high-quality interactions—from open-ended questions to providing a warm, caring climate—using the same vocabulary.

Once everyone understands the importance of interactions, then you can dig into the more specific reasons for incorporating CLASS in your program.

Explain: why

There are many reasons that your organization may have decided to implement the CLASS tool. Whichever of these is your reasons for implementing the tool, take the time to fully explain your organization’s goals.

  • You’re implementing a bigger professional development initiative. About 60% of programs use CLASS to provide an aligned professional development program. If that’s your goal, then explain to your staff how the data collected during observations will inform their PD.
  • You’re aiming for a higher quality level in your state QRIS. Close to 30 states currently use CLASS in their Quality Rating and Improvement Systems. Many of them, like Maryland, require programs to conduct CLASS observations at a specific level of quality in order to receive incentives (funding, subsidies, etc.). Remind your staff that by incorporating CLASS, you are raising the bar for quality in your program.
  • You’re being mandated to use the tool. Maybe you’re only “doing CLASS” because you’re program is being required to use it. Even if that’s the case, try to stay focused on the research that shows that when children are surrounded by high-quality interactions, they will have better outcomes for the rest of their lives.

Most importantly, explain to your teachers that you aren’t conducting CLASS observations to take punitive measures against them. After all, CLASS is a tool; not a weapon. It should always be framed in a way that empowers teachers to improve interactions, and not as a “gotcha” tool.

Explain: who

As a teacher, it can be hard to know that someone is observing your every interaction with a student and not feel as though you’re being judged unfairly. But keep in mind that  CLASS observers aren’t just random people subjectively taking notes on what’s happening in the classroom.

Certified observers have gone through 12+ hours of training and passed a reliability test specific to the age level that they’re observing. They must retake the test every year to ensure that they remain reliable and their scores remain objective.

Explain: how

After you’ve explained why you’re beginning CLASS observations, talk through the entire process from start to finish. Observations are only one piece of the puzzle.

  1. Observations require planning.  Decide how many observations you will be doing and the frequency of those observations throughout the year.  Remind teachers that observers should be in the classroom to see what happens on a normal day (avoid planned fire drills, testing days, the day before vacation, etc.).
  2. As mentioned above, the CLASS observation process starts with observers attending a training and passing a test to become certified.When it comes time for observations, let teachers know what to expect. Observers will be in the classroom for a minimum of a couple hours. They will observe in 20-minute cycles taking 10-minute breaks to jot down their notes and assign scores.
  3. Once CLASS observations have been completed, talk through what you’re doing with the data collected. How long after observations before teachers can expect to hear feedback? With whom is the data shared? Who will provide the feedback? These are all questions that you should address when talking through the entire process.

What other tips do you have for introducing the CLASS to your staff? Did you set up small groups to gather feedback and answer questions? Did you set your teachers up with Introduction to the CLASS Tool trainings? We’d love to hear! Share them in the comments below. 

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