We’ve all heard at some time or another: “I’ve done hundreds of observations; I don’t need my manual!”
In a recent training, one of my participants asked if using the manual was necessary if you’ve done many observations throughout the years. My answer was a resounding “YES!!!” It may be tempting to skip the steps necessary to code reliably, but it's not a good idea. No matter how objective we think we might be while coding a classroom, our bias can sneak up on us and cause us to assign codes that don’t fit with the evidence we've collected.
On page 17 of the Pre-K manual, we are reminded (in bolded print): “Because of the highly inferential nature of the CLASS, scores should never be given without referring to the manual.”
At the end of each 20 minute cycle, the coder should reflect upon the duration of the observation and consider the possibility of any bias. Relying on the manual rather than experience ensures an observer won't, for example, inject external explanations for what was observed (see page 12 in the Pre-K manual “Remaining Objective”).
Without the CLASS manual, critical information is no longer at your fingertips. Take, for example, the definition of each dimension. Coders should carefully review the definition for each dimension as they compare their notes to the ranges found on each dimension's face page. This page helps direct you to the range that best describes the data collected as a starting point.
Next up comes an important step (and one that is impossible without your manual)! Turn to the detailed indicator range descriptions that follow each face page. Ask yourself, “Is this representative of what I saw?” Then, to be sure that the coder is assigning the range that best describes the evidence, the next “best fit” should also be considered by reading that description as well. Finally, after assigning a range of Low, Mid, or High to each indicator on the score sheet, the coder makes the final decision by using the scoring rubric (page 17 in the Pre-K CLASS Manual), keeping in mind the holistic definition of the dimension and considering how the indicators work in tandem to help determine a code.
Throughout your trainings, always encourage the use of the manual during CLASS observations. As participants become more familiar with the manual, this will be easier, but these steps are necessary every time a coder conducts an observation, from the newbie to the seasoned CLASS observer! By always relying on the manual, the coding process makes sense and helps us to avoid scoring errors.
What ways do you cover this content in your trainings?
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.