So, your program is using the CLASS observation tool in pre-K classrooms. That’s wonderful! Here are a few things to think about as you consider transitioning to include use of the CLASS at the infant and toddler age levels as well.
Before looking at the benefits of implementing CLASS in earlier age levels, it’s important to first look at how the tool varies. Because children learn differently as they grow, the CLASS has varying domains and dimensions at six age levels.
Take a look at the chart below to see how the tool is broken up at the first three age levels—from a single domain at the infant level, to the three domains in pre-K classrooms.
Infant and toddler teachers can feel isolated from their teaching peers because their daily routines are so different. They tend to be perceived as something between caregiver and teacher—or worse, a babysitter.
It’s vital for the professional development of these teachers (because they are teachers) to ensure they join the larger conversation of early childhood education. CLASS provides a common language among all teachers. After all, quality interactions with teachers are critical for every child, from newborns through 12th grade! CLASS can become your teachers’ universal language for how to interact with children.
Infants are growing through their interactions with teachers. They’re learning to trust, to communicate, and to navigate the world for the first time. For that reason alone, you can begin to understand why implementing CLASS as early as possible can be vital to the outcomes of these children.
Imagine an experience where 3-month-old Liam is enrolled in a child care center. His teacher, Miss Mary-Ellen, understands the need to learn his unique needs, discover what interests him, and encourage Liam as he learns new skills. During his time in the infant classroom, his relationship with his teacher strengthens. As the time nears for him to transition to the toddler classroom, Miss Mary-Ellen can prepare her colleagues to welcome Liam. She can help to ensure a smooth transition by sharing about the interactions that she’s found helpful in working with Liam. His new teacher, Miss Jasmine, can then focus her attention to support his emotional and behavioral growth as well as engaging him in learning.
Before Liam starts preschool, he has had four years of quality interactions with teachers. He has built up trust in teachers to provide him with warm, safe, and nurturing experiences. He’s been challenged to become more autonomous and explore his natural curiosity about life. He is more prepared to try new things, excited to build friendships, and motivated to learn.
Once teachers in your organization are using CLASS at every age level, you don’t have to shop around for support. Teachstone can help teachers grow no matter what age they teach.
If you have questions about using the CLASS tool at the infant age level, consider Learn About Infant CLASS Dimensions. You’ll be introduced to the four dimensions that make up the tool in four 15-minute online courses.
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.
Young infants develop a unique relationship—known as attachment—with their caregivers. To develop secure bonds, infants need to know that at least one person really cares about them. Caregivers provide that comfort by helping infants regulate needs and emotions, such as hunger and sadness. With healthy attachments, infants develop a sense of safety and trust.
Infants need to be held, to have face-to-face interactions, to feel another human heartbeat. By meeting these needs, caregivers foster attachment. Plan how you will meet these essential needs—while keeping yourself and infants safe.
Children need to feel safe before they can explore their surroundings. While curiosity and exploration help awaken children’s talents, teachers help reinforce their learning through guidance and repetition. All children benefit from intentional interactions that inspire them through new experiences—and some children need additional or individualized support.
Given the natural need to be around others, children might have a hard time with social distancing. Organize materials in spaces where two friends can explore together. Make yourself available to facilitate their exploration while ensuring safety.
Toddlers reinforce their trust in caregivers while venturing into the world on their own. Along with stable relationships and independence, they need frequent reminders of behavioral expectations to keep themselves and their peers safe. With support and regulation, educators can help buffer the effects of stress or trauma and promote healthy child development.
Children learn best in a warm, safe environment. While positive interactions strengthen a classroom community, clear safety expectations promote healthiness. Remind children that these measures are in place because you care about them.