What does the color green have to do with assigning Low, Mid, and High ranges to CLASS indicators?
Well, in all honesty, not much, but I’m hoping an analogy inspired by St. Patrick's Day can help you explain to your observers-in-training why it is a mistake to try to assign numerical values to indicators (and why assigning Low, Mid, and High ranges is a much better bet).
I returned home from a training and was rehashing a common CLASS coding question with my artist husband (I’ll call him Patty because he’s a saint for letting me talk his ear off). My trainees really wanted to know why we can't just assign numbers at the indicator level and average those to get to our CLASS score for each dimension. They argued, "We're balancing Low, Mid, and High ranges anyway to get to a number--why not start with numbers at the indicator level?" As hard as I tried to explain it, the mathematicians in my group weren’t fully convinced. So I figured if I could explain it to my non-CLASS-immersed hubby, I could explain it better in future trainings.
When I got home, I explained it all to poor Patty. I even dragged out the Pre-K CLASS manual and pointed out the bolded sentence on page 17: "Because of the highly inferential nature of the CLASS, scores should never be given without referring to the manual." Since each indicator describes three levels (High, Mid, and Low), observers have to match what they see during each cycle to one of those three levels. The manual does not offer seven levels of descriptions that align the numerical codes.
I went on to explain that we observers must make holistic, yet systematic, judgements--and any errors in our inferences are made based on our judgments of those three levels (High, Mid, Low). Potential variances/errors are accounted for at the very end of the coding process, given that reliable scores may be plus or minus one value from the master code scores. (I spared him by not mentioning that assigning numbers earlier on also increases the desire to treat CLASS like a checklist--and that CLASS is way too complex to be a checklist! See page 15 in the PreK manual.)
Patty didn’t skip a beat. His reply? "That’s a lot like painting."
I was totally taken off guard: "How so?!"
Patty explained: "If you have three colors, the last thing you want to do is start mixing them too early or you’ll lose the crisp color and make the whole thing muddy. Let’s say you mixed yellow and blue to get your perfect green. You now have three clear colors: yellow, green, and blue. You want to wait until the last possible moment to mix those colors together on your canvas or everything will turn into a murky brown. It sounds like the Highs, Mids, and Lows are a lot like that: You want to wait before mixing or you’ll end up with something that’s not very sharp or clear."
Works for me, and I have zero artistic skills. With a little luck, this imagery can be added to your toolkit next time you have to tackle this tricky question in a training!
What other analogies do you use to explain the coding process to your participants?
When I first learned about CLASS Group Coaching—a training for early childhood professionals about building relationships with children—I was more than a little interested. This, I thought. This is what teaching is all about. It seems to be an obvious concept, but once we dig deeper, we are able to identify the whys and hows of our interactions. CLASS Group Coaching allows us to identify the benefits of our classroom relationships with our students and helps us be intentional in our daily practices. It allows us to utilize each moment we have with our students to deepen our understanding of their perspectives and genuinely connect with them as people. It helps us see the world from their view and guide their learning in a way that is relevant to them.
As the Community Manager with Teachstone, I have been able to talk to many observers, trainers, coaches, and general CLASS lovers. I have found a common thread among these groups: a desire to connect with other CLASS users and put their CLASS knowledge to use.
We often hear from CLASS Observers that are interested in observing more classrooms. Meanwhile, many organizations—particularly smaller organizations or those doing research studies—don’t have Certified CLASS Observers and are in search of observers in their area.
If you're a CLASS observer, you've probably found yourself in a situation where you have to make inferences or rely on contextual evidence when assigning scores. However, it should always be your goal to minimize subjectivity and assumptions. You have to prevent your emotions, opinions, and ideas that are not a part of the CLASS tool from influencing scoring. Achieving an emotionless state of objectivity while observing can be incredibly challenging. It takes practice to recognize when objectivity is threatened and respond accordingly.
As a CLASS Group Coaching (MMCI) instructor, the sections of any given two-hour session may feel, at times, very goal driven. These sections titled "Know," "See," and "Do” are interconnected. In particular, it is possible to consider "Do" within "Know," and "See." When an instructor supports in-the-moment experiences that connect new knowledge to current practice, they make the CLASS dimensions more relevant to the educators' daily work. But how can we infuse more “Do” into “Know” and “See?” First, let's re-cap what happens in each section.