Personal biases can challenge observers assessing the quality of teacher-child interactions with the Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS). In Assessment in Early Childhood, author Sue Wortham (2005) states that “one cause of observer bias is differences in value systems. It is easy to apply one’s own value system when observing in a school” (pg.114).
When we, as observers, step into classrooms, we are carrying along with us our own value systems, our programs approach systems, and our own hard-earned knowledge gained through experience in the field. Over time these things become our many “lenses” we rely on to assess quality in early childhood classrooms. Occasionally, those very lenses can keep us from being a reliable observer when using the CLASS measure.
Wortham goes on to note that “the observers reaction to the site can distort his or her use of observational data. Each observer has a perception of the characteristics of a “good” school or center” (pg. 114). During CLASS observation trainings, participants sometimes struggle with their own value systems while observing and measuring quality in videos of classroom interactions. If a potential observer is having an emotional reaction to a training video, such as a strong liking of the teacher’s style or dislike of the activity the children are involved in, the trainee may be challenged to accurately code those classroom interactions. Being an objective observer, and using the CLASS lens as our guide, is essential to producing reliable classroom data.
For example, after viewing a training video, a participant states, “I felt like the children were comfortable in the classroom.” As a CLASS trainer, I press the group to think about the evidence for student comfort, rather than relying on feelings. Using CLASS, we can move beyond feelings and instead look for markers that point to the children's comfort in the classroom.
Chapter 2 of the CLASS manual addresses challenges for the observer, including remaining objective. By basing scores on the written descriptions of the CLASS dimensions and keeping ideas that are not part of the CLASS lens out of your observation, you can better ensure an objective and reliable outcome.
It is reassuring to know that the CLASS measure is grounded in child development as it captures the complexity of classrooms. As an observer, you can trust that the tool will appropriately capture the strengths in the classroom, as well as the concerns you may have. The exciting (and supportive) thing about CLASS is that the measure complements a variety of structures, approaches, and curriculums used out in the field.
We early childhood education professionals are passionate about our work, and CLASS, when used objectively, will support observers who are focused on what truly impacts student outcomes: quality teacher-child interactions as defined by CLASS!
Wortham, S. 2005. Assessment in Early Childhood Education. Upper Saddle River,
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So, you’re dual-certified on the Infant and Toddler CLASS® tools. Congrats! Not only can you observe in Infant classrooms (birth to 18 months) and Toddler classrooms (15 to 36 months), but you can also observe in classrooms that contain a mix of the two age levels. If you are observing in a classroom with three age levels, as there often are in Family Day Homes, check out this guidance.
Observing in mixed age classrooms may seem daunting, but it’s completely doable. If you’re preparing to do Infant/Toddler CLASS observations, read on to get solutions to three of the most common challenges when observing in a mixed-age setting.
There is always an opportunity for interaction. Some opportunities are easily recognizable: times of play, free choice, centers, small group. We often see teachers engaged in activities alongside children during these times or hear questions being asked. Other opportunities might be a little less obvious. These are the times of your day that you might see as mundane moments that merely require your supervision or monitoring. The times where you’re going through the motions. “I’m doing this thing so I can move on to the next thing.”
In a previous blog, colleague and early childhood environment extraordinaire, Heather Sason, discussed how your classroom environment can help promote effective teacher-child interactions. In this blog, I propose we explore some of the often overlooked times in your day that are ripe for interactions with children and that do promote exploration, learning, and development!
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:
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.