I’ll admit it: CLASS terms can be a little confusing. For example, problem solving in Concept Development sounds a lot like resolving problems in Teacher Sensitivity. So, what’s the difference?

When I get stuck on a term, I always try to “bring it back to the dimension level” and think about how the term relates to the overall purpose of the dimension. Here, I’d look at Teacher Sensitivity and Concept Development as a whole, and then how resolving problems and problem solving fits into each.
  • Teacher Sensitivity describes how aware of and responsive to children’s needs teachers are. One way teachers address children’s concerns is by helping to solve their problems, from tying a shoe to locating art supplies to helping a child find a book to read. Resolving children’s problems helps them work comfortably and freely in the classroom.
  • Concept Development focuses on how teachers develop and support children’s thinking skills, and so talks about a different kind of problem solving. When you ask children, "How do you think we can make our tower stronger?" or "What can we do to fix the marble run?" you're giving them opportunities to think through solutions. It's a great way to promote analysis and reasoning skills!

Say you have two children squabbling over who gets to build a puzzle. Your immediate goal as you respond might be to address the problem and get the children engaged cooperatively in the puzzle. You might demonstrate great Teacher Sensitivity by being aware of the situation and responding quickly to help them resolve the issue: “I see you’re frustrated because you both want to build the same puzzle. How about you take turns putting in the pieces?” This is important—we want children’s problems quickly resolved so that they can feel comfortable and participate in activities.

But to “count” as Concept Development, we’d need to look at your goal in the interaction. If it’s to take advantage of an opportunity for children to think through how to resolve the problem, then you’ll interact to promote children’s higher-order thinking skills. You might ask the children arguing over the puzzle, “How can we work this out?” and encourage them to generate and consider strategies (such as turn-taking, working on separate areas and then joining the puzzle, working on different puzzles side-by-side, etc.) to solve the problem. In this case, you might both resolve the problem and engage the children in problem solving at the same time!

Clear as mud? Feel free to ask more about confusing CLASS tool terms!

Editor's Note: This blog was originally published June 13, 2014 but has since been updated to keep the content relevant and accurate. 
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