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Volume XI, Number 4, Winter 2005/2006
Issue Topic: Professional Development
Robert Pianta from the University of Virginia describes a classroom assessment scoring system that measures teacher–child interactions and serves as the basis for individualized professional development to strengthen teachers' classroom practice.
At the Center for Advanced Study of Teaching and Learning at the University of Virginia, we are developing and evaluating a system of preser-vice and in-service professional development and support called MyTeachingPartner (MTP). MTP has its basis in the Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS)¹—an across-grade/age system for observing classroom and teacher quality. Since its creation in 2000, the CLASS has been used in hundreds of classrooms from pre-K through eighth grade and included in efforts by teacher training institutions and state depart-ments of education to evaluate teacher quality. It relies on a large body of research that demonstrates the added value of various dimensions of teaching and classroom processes in improving child outcomes and on measurement, logistic, and psychometric analyses that address the use of observation in large-scale applications across multiple states and districts.
The CLASS focuses on the interactions of teachers and children in the classroom and assesses the quality of teachers' implementation and use of a curriculum, their social and instructional interactions with children, and the intentionality and productivity evident in the classroom setting. In the CLASS-based MTP approach to professional development, the focus is on what teachers do with the materials they have and on their interactions with children as they implement a curriculum.
Observation and Measurement
Using the CLASS involves observing the interactions of teachers and children for cycles of up to 30 minutes and then rating what was observed on a number of dimensions codified in seven-point rating scales. At the broadest level, the CLASS measures classroom and teacher quality using a set of 10 dimensions that load on two broad factors—emotional quality (positive and negative emotional climate, teacher sensitivity, regard for students' perspectives, and effective behavior management) and instructional quality (productive use of time, concept development, instructional learning formats, quality of feedback, and language modeling).
Evidence from several studies indicates that higher ratings on the dimensions assessed by the CLASS predict higher performance by children on standardized assessments of academic achievement and better social adjustment in the early grades of school. In a new effort, we at the Center for Advanced Study of Teaching and Learning are expanding the CLASS to secondary settings and focusing on a small set of additional scales to explore the evidence that the CLASS measures aspects of teacher–child interaction that predict children's success later in school.
The MTP Approach
In the MTP conceptualization of professional development, teachers' training leads to improved child outcomes as a consequence of more effective teacher–child interactions. MTP's work with teachers focuses on using the CLASS-based observation of teachers' instructional, social, and management interactions with children to raise the level of resources in a classroom.
The MTP approach is not course or workshop based. Instead, MTP professional development resources offer individualized feedback and support to teachers focused on observation and analysis of each teacher's own classroom practices and interactions with children. In this approach, the CLASS observations provide a standard way of measuring and noting teachers' strengths and weaknesses and form the basis from which professional development can support teachers' high quality implementation and improve teacher–child interactions.
MTP provides professional development resources at a distance via the Internet without requiring evaluators to meet with teachers in person or visit classrooms. Instead, the MTP website offers a detailed description of each of the CLASS dimensions, specific examples of classroom practices, hundreds of video examples of high quality teaching based on the CLASS, and interactive activities that provide teachers with a way to analyze their own and others' practice using the CLASS scales. MTP consultants, who possess with expertise in the CLASS, observe teachers' classroom interactions via videotape and give teachers feedback and support via the Internet.
The CLASS and MTP are parts of a systematic and standardized observation of real classroom practice, in which professional development resources are targeted to those observations, that is currently being tested in several preservice and in-service evaluation and training initiatives across the country. In its most basic form, this approach is based on accumulated evidence indicating that teacher and classroom quality is embedded not only in credentials or in coursework but in what teachers do in classrooms with children.
¹ Pianta, R. C., La Paro, K. M., & Hamre, B. (2004). Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS). Unpublished.
Robert C. Pianta
Novartis Professor of Education
Curry School of Education
University of Virginia
P.O. Box 800784
Charlottesville VA 22908-0784