I recently had the pleasure of spending a Sunday at the NHSA Fall Leadership Institute conference in Arlington, Virginia. During a full-day session on deepening understanding of the CLASS system, we took a close look at the Instructional Support domain, while considering strategies to help increase the effectiveness of teacher-child interactions.
Toward the end of the day, one participant had an important take-away moment about the CLASS domains:
Although we were reflecting specifically about the inter-relationship between the dimensions as they applied to classrooms, it occurred to me that as we build teacher effectiveness, the construct of the CLASS framework applies to teacher-coach interactions as well.
It's can be challenging to look at our classroom interactions in a new way or make feedback based on CLASS data "real" in our day-to-day professional lives. It can feel like a “gotcha” when what we really intend is “I’ve got you!”—in other words, I'm here to help!
Before a teacher will trust us enough to really hear feedback on what is occurring during those moment-to-moment exchanges that happen throughout the day, that teacher needs to trust us. We do that by establishing relationships, being sensitive to needs, and listening to find out where they are coming from. With this information we can provide feedback that builds on teachers’ strengths, thereby providing emotional support.
Once we build trust, we need to help improve the effectiveness of classroom interactions. Do we provide clear objectives? Do we give examples and activities to engage the teacher in meaningful interchanges that focus on the key elements of each dimension and its impact on a child’s experience? Do we have everything ready, such as the Video Library and discussion questions? If so, we are demonstrating classroom organization.
Finally, do we build knowledge through back-and-forth exchanges and by asking "how" and "why" questions? Do we support and facilitate understanding by developing conceptual knowledge of the CLASS measure? Do we enhance this by providing feedback, information, and specific affirmation of what is being promoted through these conversations? Do we use the common language of the tool to discuss the markers and indicators that build more effective classrooms? If so, we are providing meaningful instructional support.
All of this takes planning, relationships, and intentionality. If you’d like to know more, consider watching our webinar, Using CLASS Data to Provide Effective Feedback.
Editor's note: this post was originally posted in October, 2013.
Many teachers and leaders associate CLASS® with preschool. And we get it! It’s used in early childhood classrooms across the country, including Head Start programs, and it’s been more important than ever for young children as they begin to return to in-person learning.
But the principles of CLASS - Emotional Support, Classroom Organization, Instructional Support - are important for children well beyond Pre-K. The ever-increasing research base shows that interactions matter for children’s social-emotional and academic development. That’s why CLASS is organized to support children from infancy to high school with the developmentally appropriate interactions that drive learning - and why K-12 leaders are embracing CLASS in their schools.
As you jump in to help your teacher, working side by side as a collaborator, everything seems clear at the beginning. There are some obvious areas to address and both you and your teacher have tons of energy, ready to change the world. After a few visits, however, an unsettling feeling begins to creep up on you.
Over the course of nearly a decade, beginning in 2010, the Inter-American Development Bank ran a randomized, longitudinal study in Ecuador called Cerrando Brechas (Closing Gaps), using CLASS to better understand the characteristics or practices of those teachers most successful in closing the achievement gap between the poorest children in their classrooms and their better-off schoolmates (you can read more here).
Closing Gaps found that regardless of a teachers’ age, IQ, or academic or professional credentials, it is teachers’ classroom behaviors and practices – specifically, the way in which teachers interact with students - that is most strongly associated with children’s improved learning outcomes.
Calvary City Academy & Preschool closed on March 13, along with most programs in Florida. While closed, we had much to prepare for reopening. While children were home, we prepared packets to send home, met with children virtually, and even hosted things like field day, spirit week, and graduation virtually! Even with those successes, we were so happy to be able to return to being in-person when we reopened in June. Since June, we’ve learned a lot. Here’s what’s working for us: