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The CLASS Tool in Higher Education

19 Jun 2014 by Sedra Spano

I was happy to have the opportunity recently to speak with close to 100 ACCESS group members at the NAEYC PDI conference in Minneapolis on June 9th. The Associate Degree Early Childhood Teacher Educators–ACCESS to Shared Knowledge and Practice, known as ACCESS, is a national, non-profit group whose purpose is to support and advocate for associate degree programs in the preparation of early childhood professionals.

I learned about the group through two contacts in my home state of North Carolina: Brenda Blackburn at Blue Ridge Community College and Sharon Carter at Davidson Community College, both leaders in their field and in ACCESS. Brenda and Sharon are also advocates for the use of the Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS) in higher education. I was pleasantly surprised by how many college instructors in the room already knew about the CLASS and how many had been through Pre-K Observation training!

Teachstone has also been exploring how to use the CLASS tool and other CLASS-based products in teacher education programs and recently created “student bundles” of Dimensions Guides and Video Library accounts with discounted prices for students. While this is a good start, we wanted to hear more from Early Childhood instructors in the field about what they need from us.

At the ACCESS meeting, we discussed the importance of educating student teachers about effective teacher-child interactions and how they impact children’s learning and development. We are all committed to starting new teachers out in their careers with knowledge of the most current research and effective practices for success. This knowledge can be embedded in existing curriculum and field experiences for student teachers. Three ways this can be done are by providing:

  • Information (reading the Dimensions Guide),
  • Instruction (watching and discussing videos from the Teachstone Video Library and students’ own videos, along with the Dimensions Guide), or
  • Integrated approach (observing practicum students using the CLASS and providing feedback based on their scores, in addition to use of the Video Library and Dimensions Guide)

Instructors attending the session also gave Teachstone much to think about with their suggestions to provide additional videos for student use showing less effective moments or non-examples along with exemplars. Students can learn a lot by noting and discussing missed opportunities as well as stellar interactions. Others suggested creating a Student Manual with more detail about each dimension and more examples of how to integrate effective interactions around each dimension into their classrooms.

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