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Unique Aspects of Secondary Observation Training

15 Jul 2015 by Campbell Buie

A teacher interacting with students in a secondary classroom

As the Production Specialist on Teachstone’s Content Innovation Team, one of my job responsibilities is to decide how we use the classroom footage we film throughout the country in our online programs and observer certification testing. I’ve been certified on Infant, Toddler, and Pre-K for awhile, since most of Teachstone’s current products are aimed at birth-to-five users.

However, I’ve been very curious about our K-12 CLASS tools. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to participate in Secondary Observation Training at Teachstone’s June Chicago Super Regional. During this training, I learned how to use the Secondary CLASS tool to code interactions in 7th-12th grade classrooms. 

When I arrived at the training, I knew very little about the differences between the Secondary CLASS tool and our early childhood tools. I was excited to discover many more similarities than differences! Secondary CLASS has the same domains as Pre-K: Emotional Support, Classroom Organization, and Instructional Support. Many of the dimensions have similar names too. I discovered I could code the dimensions in the Emotional Support and Classroom Organization domain fairly reliably right away based on my pre-existing knowledge of Infant, Toddler, and Pre-K.

Instructional Support was more challenging. Secondary has five dimensions for Instructional Support: Instructional Learning Formats (found in Classroom Organization for Pre-K), Content Understanding, Analysis and Inquiry, Quality of Feedback, and Instructional Dialogue. I discovered that one of the challenges of learning to use the Secondary tool is learning to evaluate classroom interactions important for the Instructional Support dimensions across Secondary subject areas. The same types of interactions are relevant to assessing Quality of Feedback in an art class and a calculus class despite the differences in how art and calculus classrooms tend to look and feel.

Prior to Secondary training, I never thought about differences in the live coding experience for older age levels. Four cycles in a Pre-K classroom typically feature the same group of children doing very different activities, while four cycles in a Secondary classroom typically feature several different groups of students doing the same activities.

A really fun aspect of training was getting to meet my fellow trainees. My job rarely allows me to meet our users, and it was interesting to meet the teachers, administrators, and academic researchers learning Secondary alongside me. I enjoyed learning how they are using CLASS at their schools and in their research and hearing their perspectives on how CLASS compared to other assessment tools they were already familiar with. A number of other participants in the training were in the position of evaluating other teachers at their school, and it was interesting to discover how closely their challenges and concerns mirrored those experienced by early childhood coaches.

Thank you to Staff Trainer Daniel Lacava for your insightful presentation of the Secondary CLASS tool and to my fellow trainees for your insights about secondary education and the unique challenges of evaluating secondary classrooms.


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