ArticlePDF Available

The quality of an expert teacher's and a student teacher's pedagogical interactions in early childhood education and care examined through the CLASS lens

Article

The quality of an expert teacher's and a student teacher's pedagogical interactions in early childhood education and care examined through the CLASS lens

Abstract and Figures

High-quality interactions between teachers and children in early childhood education and care (ECEC) are at the heart of supporting children's development, well-being, and learning. The aim of the study was to examine the quality of an experienced ECEC teacher's and an ECEC student teacher's teacher-child interactions using the Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS). Furthermore, the study explored the participants' reflections on their pedagogical interactions and the extent to which they aligned with the CLASS framework. The data consisted of video recordings, written observation notes, and stimulated recall interview (SRI) transcripts. The videos were rated according to the CLASS manual, and the data were analysed using qualitative thematic analysis. The results suggested that participants' teacher-child interactions were of relatively high quality, although instructional support was an area for development. However, the interactions of the student teacher varied across observation cycles. In the SRIs, both participants emphasised the importance of emotional support and supporting children's language skills. Differences arose in the participants' positioning toward teacher identity: the ECEC teacher as expert and the student teacher as developing a professional identity. The results provide novel qualitative insights into teacher-child interactions and using CLASS tool in combination to teachers’ self-reflections regarding their interactions with the children.
Content may be subject to copyright.
Journal of Early Childhood Education Research
Volume 11, Issue 1, 2022, 123150
© 2022 Merja Koivula, Jenni Salminen, Erja Rautamies, and Niina Rutanen. Peer-review under
responsibility of the editorial board of the journal. Publication of the article in accordance with the Creative
Commons Non-Commercial license. ISSN 2323-7414; ISSN-L 2323-7414 online. Early Childhood Education
Association Finland.
The quality of an expert teachers
and a student teachers pedagogical
interactions in early childhood education
and care examined through the CLASS lens
Merja Koivulaa, Jenni Salminenb, Erja Rautamiesc & Niina Rutanend
a University of Jyväskylä, Finland, corresponding author, e-mail: merja.e.koivula@jyu.fi,
https://orcid.org/0000-0002-2980-0031
b University of Jyväskylä, Finland, https://orcid.org/0000-0003-4534-6462
c University of Jyväskylä, Finland, https://orcid.org/0000-0002-8024-6267
d University of Jyväskylä, Finland, https://orcid.org/0000-0002-9713-3680
ABSTRACT: High-quality interactions between teachers and children in early
childhood education and care (ECEC) are at the heart of supporting childrens
development, well-being, and learning. The aim of the study was to examine the
quality of an experienced ECEC teachers and an ECEC student teachers teacherchild
interactions using the Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS). Furthermore,
the study explored the participants reflections on their pedagogical interactions and
the extent to which they aligned with the CLASS framework. The data consisted of
video recordings, written observation notes, and stimulated recall interview (SRI)
transcripts. The videos were rated according to the CLASS manual, and the data were
analysed using qualitative thematic analysis. The results suggested that participants
teacherchild interactions were of relatively high quality, although instructional
support was an area for development. However, the interactions of the student
teacher varied across observation cycles. In the SRIs, both participants emphasised
the importance of emotional support and supporting childrens language skills.
Differences arose in the participants positioning toward teacher identity: the ECEC
teacher as expert and the student teacher as developing a professional identity. The
results provide novel qualitative insights into teacherchild interactions and using
124
Koivula, Salminen, Rautamies & Rutanen.
Journal of Early Childhood Education Research 11(1) 2022, 123150. http://jecer.org
CLASS tool in combination to teachers’ self-reflections regarding their interactions
with the children.
Keywords: quality of interactions, ECEC teacher, ECEC student teacher, pedagogy,
reflection
Introduction
Early childhood education and care (ECEC) is a significant out-of-home context in which
many children below the age of seven years spend time daily (European
Commission/EACEA/Eurydice, 2019). The features of high-quality early childhood
education have interested researchers in recent decades (Burchinal et al., 2008; Cadima
et al., 2010; Hamre, 2014; Pianta et al., 2005; von Suchodoletz et al., 2014), and
strengthening the quality of ECEC has been prioritised (see European Commission, 2019).
ECEC quality has been conceptualised as comprising the structural and process features
(European Commission, 2014) that together influence childrens well-being and other
outcomesin particular, the quality of teacherchild interactions (Burchinal et al., 2008;
Curby et al., 2009; Mashburn et al., 2008; Perlman et al., 2016). Teachers,
1
play a key role
in engaging children in meaningful interactions in ECEC, consequently supporting their
well-being, development, and learning (McNally & Slutsky, 2018). In Finland, ECEC
depends heavily on teachers professionalism (Act on Early Childhood Education and
Care, 540/2018; Karila, 2008), and supporting teachers pedagogical interactions with
groups of children has been identified as an important way to enhance the quality of ECEC
(Vlasov et al., 2019).
The Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS; Pianta et al., 2008) is a well-
established tool for researching group-level teacherchild interactions across a variety of
countries and cultural contexts (see Cadima et al., 2010; Mashburn et al., 2008). Research
has increasingly shown that CLASS is a valid and reliable tool for analysing teacherchild
interactions in Finnish pre-primary (Pakarinen et al., 2010) and toddler classrooms
(Salminen et al., 2021), but that the quality of teacherchild interactions varies across
teachers and ECEC classrooms (e.g., Salminen et al., 2012). Prior studies in the Finnish
context have further shown that teacher characteristics, such as advanced teacher
1
In Finnish ECEC, professionals working with children have either vocational school training
(ECEC childcarer), a degree from a polytechnic/university of applied sciences (social pedagogue
in ECEC), or a Bachelors’ or Masters’ degree from a university (ECEC teacher). In this paper, we
focus on a teacher with a university degree and a student teacher in a university teacher training
programme, using the terms ‘teacher’ and ‘student teacher’ throughout the paper.
125
Koivula, Salminen, Rautamies & Rutanen.
Journal of Early Childhood Education Research 11(1) 2022, 123150. http://jecer.org
qualifications and extensive work experience, are associated with high-quality teacher
child interactions (Salminen et al., 2012; Slot, Lerkkanen et al., 2015).
Using the CLASS tool to bolster high-quality pedagogical interactions between teachers
and children has been recognised as an important way to support teachers
professionalism during in-service training (Early et al., 2017; Pianta et al., 2008). These
studies have shown that high-quality ECEC can be safeguarded by increasing teachers
awareness of the key processes of teacherchild interaction. Providing feedback on
CLASS-coded video recordings for teachers and using video clips to support consultation
are particularly effective ways to accomplish this (Mashburn et al., 2008; Pianta et al.,
2014). However, most studies considering the quality of teacherchild interactions
through a CLASS lens have usually examined the interactions from an objective outsiders
or consultants perspective, using mean-level scores, to improve teacherchild interaction
quality. Fewer studies have examined teachers own reflections on their video-recorded
practice as a subjective, contextual, and situated experience that steers their interaction
quality and pedagogical work (Schachter, 2017). To our knowledge, no studies have
reported the use of CLASS for such reflection purposes. This study therefore provides new
insights into the nuances and in-depth features of teacherchild interactions by
supplementing the traditional numeric CLASS scoring with qualitatively analysed
teachers self-reflections regarding their interactions in video-recorded situations.
The CLASS research supporting teachers professionalism has largely focused on
supporting teachers already working in ECEC or other educational contexts. Although
studies have successfully explored the characteristics of both experienced and (less
experienced teachers teacherchild interactions (Cortina et al., 2016), they have hardly
considered ECEC student teachers who are currently in training and engaging in teaching
practice with children during their studies. Research has shown that student teachers are
in the process of developing their professional identities (Happo et al., 2012) and are
therefore likely to benefit from self-reflection on their interactions with children during
teacher training. Consequently, the current study provides an important and novel
understanding of ECEC teachers professionalism by using CLASS research to examine
differences in teacherchild interaction quality between an expert teacher and an ECEC
student teacher and their reflections on their interactions with the same group of
children.
Teacherchild interaction quality
For the present study, CLASS (CLASS Pre-K; Pianta et al., 2008) was used as a tool to
measure the quality of teacherchild interactions in ECEC. CLASS is an observational tool
based on the teaching-through-interactions (TTI) framework (Hamre et al., 2013), which
divides teacherchild interactions into three theoretical domains: emotional support,
126
Koivula, Salminen, Rautamies & Rutanen.
Journal of Early Childhood Education Research 11(1) 2022, 123150. http://jecer.org
classroom organisation, and instructional support. Emotional support comprises positive,
warm interactions and a teachers sensitivity and support for childrens autonomy, which
ultimately provide children with individual acknowledgement and care (Curby et al.,
2013), fostering their willingness to explore and participate in classroom activities (Early
et al., 2007; Hamre & Pianta, 2005). Classroom organisation refers to the predictability
and structure of the learning environment (Pianta et al., 2008). Teachers use of proactive
guidance and maximisation of instructional time enhance learning opportunities, orient
children towards activities, and prevent behavioural problems (Curby et al., 2009).
Finally, instructional support captures the extent to which a teacher uses instructional
discussions and activities that effectively challenge and support childrens academic
learning (Howes et al., 2008; Mashburn et al., 2008; Pianta & Hamre, 2009) and higher-
order thinking skills (Pianta et al., 2008). CLASS was developed in the United States, but
has since been translated into several languages and has been widely and reliably used in
several other countries, including Portugal (Cadima et al., 2010), the Netherlands (Slot,
Leseman et al., 2015), and Germany (von Suchodoletz et al., 2014). These studies have
revealed country-specific nuances, but also striking consistency in general patterns of
teacherchild interactions across countries. Emotional support and classroom
organisation tend to be of higher quality across samples, whereas the quality of
instructional support is lower (La Paro et al., 2009).
Over the past decade, a line of research focusing on the use of CLASS ratings and video
recordings in professional development programmes (PD) has emerged (Pianta et al.,
2008). The results of these PD programmes have emphasised that consultative support
and watching video recordings influences teachers practices and interaction with
children (Early et al., 2017). Particularly, the ability to identify effective interactions from
video recordings has been identified as an important phase in teachers improving their
own interactions (Wiens et al., 2020). Although not using CLASS, the powerful experience
of seeing and reflecting on ones own practices and work has proved valuable in PD
research (Ryan & Cooper, 2004; Schachter, 2017). Teachers who reflect on their everyday
pedagogical interactions are better able to articulate their professional knowledge and
obtain a deeper understanding of their pedagogical practice (Wood & Bennet, 2000).
Expertise of an ECEC teacher and an ECEC student teacher
Research on teachers professionalism in ECEC has often focused on experts and novices
or non-experts (Happo & Määttä, 2011). Expertise is conceptualised as comprising
appropriate education/qualifications, recognised skills, knowledge in a particular field,
and the ability to use professional abilities in practice (Happo et al., 2012; Selinger &
Crease, 2006; Woods & Bennett, 2000). Expertise is often associated with extensive work
experience and is considered to develop gradually throughout a persons career (Happo
127
Koivula, Salminen, Rautamies & Rutanen.
Journal of Early Childhood Education Research 11(1) 2022, 123150. http://jecer.org
et al., 2012; Tynjälä et al., 2006). A novice can be considered a person who is still in the
initial phase of acquiring these skills and competencies and gradually gaining expertise
through work experience. Novices have only recently started their careers and have not
yet solidified their know-how and pedagogical practices (Cortina et al., 2016).
For this study, we investigated a research case with two participants who had different
positions in the ECEC field: one (considered an expert) had a bachelors degree in ECEC
and years of experience as an ECEC teacher; the other was a student teacher, mid-way
through her three-year bachelors degree in ECEC but with years of experience as an ECEC
childcarer,
2
and she was not therefore considered a novice. In the current study, the
distinction between expert and novice was, at least to a degree, based on the perceived
professional role and growing professional agency of ECEC teachers (Ukkonen-Mikkola,
2018). Students can, in fact, have an extensive amount of expertise, but not in the
professional role of ECEC teacher.
Becoming an expert in ECEC means becoming aware of the values and goals of education
along with concepts of learning and the meaning of supporting interaction (Happo &
Määttä, 2011). Studies have suggested that engaging in reflective thinking is beneficial in
the early work years and should continue throughout a persons career (Costigan &
Crocco, 2004). Extending such reflection to ECEC teacher training was seen as a
worthwhile endeavour.
Teacherchild interactions and professionalism as the core of pedagogical
practice in Finnish ECEC
In Finland, ECEC refers to systematic and goal-oriented upbringing, education, and care
that particularly emphasises pedagogy (Act on Early Childhood Education and Care,
540/2018; Finnish National Agency for Education [EDUFI], 2018). In ECEC, pedagogy
consists of intertwined goals, practices, and professionalism (Alila & Ukkonen-Mikkola,
2018). Pedagogical goals are directed mainly towards supporting childrens development,
learning, and well-being, as well as families and society. Pedagogical practices are child-
centred (based on seeing and acknowledging a child as an active participating agent) and
actualised in teacherchild interactions. Teacherchild interactions are characterised by
reciprocity and purposefulness, with the teacher having the ultimate pedagogical
responsibility. Pedagogical practice includes teachers ability to utilise content, methods,
and the environment in a purposeful manner; thus, teachers reflections on their
2
The ECEC student teacher had obtained a childcare qualification from a vocational school
after 2.5 years of training.
128
Koivula, Salminen, Rautamies & Rutanen.
Journal of Early Childhood Education Research 11(1) 2022, 123150. http://jecer.org
pedagogical practices can reveal their professional learning. Finally, ECEC pedagogy
depends on professionalism. Legislation sets out clear requirements for staff
qualifications, and the work in day-care centres involves multi-professional teams of
teachers, social pedagogues, and childcarers (see Karila, 2008).
Aims
The aim of the present study was to explore the quality of pedagogical interactions of an
expert ECEC teacher and an ECEC student teacher with the same child group.
Furthermore, the study aimed to explore ways in which the expert ECEC teacher and ECEC
student teacher reflected on their pedagogical interactions. The objective was to produce
knowledge on how they positioned themselves as professionals with different
experiences, identities, and perspectives and how they reflected on their pedagogical
interactions with children. The research questions were as follows:
1. How is the quality of the teacherchild interactions (emotional support, classroom
organisation, and instructional support) of an ECEC teacher and an ECEC student
teacher with a child group assessed using the CLASS?
2. How do the ECEC teacher and ECEC student teacher reflect on their pedagogical
practices, and to what extent do their reflections align with the CLASS framework?
Methods
Participants and the research context
The study participants -were an experienced ECEC teacher (with over 20 years work
experience) and an ECEC student teacher (with 19 years work experience as a
childcarer). We refer to the participants as a teacher and student teacher for clarity.
Additionally, seven children (aged 36 years) with multicultural backgrounds in a typical
municipal day-care centre participated in this study. In this day-care centre, the teacher
and student teacher conducted pedagogical activities with childrenthe teacher as part
of her work and the student teacher as a part of her studies. The pedagogical activities
included drawing and painting, circle-time activities (e.g., group discussions), learning
activities (e.g., naming and concepts), and adult-guided imaginary play activities.
129
Koivula, Salminen, Rautamies & Rutanen.
Journal of Early Childhood Education Research 11(1) 2022, 123150. http://jecer.org
The data and data collection
The study data were part of the Jump along- project (collaboration between University of
Turku, as coordinator, and University of Jyväskylä), funded by Finnish Ministry of
Education and Culture. The data were collected by first video-recording the teacher
(spring 2019) and later, the student teacher (autumn 2019), to observe the quality of
teacher-child interactions during teacher-led activities. The data comprised eight videos
of comparable pedagogical learning activities with similar activities and interactions: four
videos of the teacher and four videos of the student teacher. Most of the videos were taken
for the same child group, except for one video of the student teacher. The videos were
collected over seven days. The videotaped activities each lasted an average of 2060
minutes (285 minutes in total). For the current study, a sample of interactions was
selected and coded numerically using CLASS, and the CLASS scores were supplemented
with written justifications for the scores. The basis for selecting the video sequences for
analysis was that they were approximately 15 minutes in length and the lessons involved
extensive teacherchild interaction. A certified Pre-K CLASS observer (the second author
of this study) performed the coding according to the CLASS Pre-K manual (Pianta et al.,
2008). A score was assigned for each of the 10 CLASS dimensions (positive climate (PC),
negative climate (NC), teacher sensitivity (TS), regard for students’ perspectives (RSP),
behaviour management (BM), productivity (PD), instructional learning formats (ILF),
concept development (CD), quality of feedback (QF), and language modelling (LM)) using
a 7-point scale (1 and 2 = low quality; 3, 4, and 5 = medium quality; 6 and 7 = high quality).
Raw CLASS scores for all four cycles across the ten CLASS dimensions are displayed later
in Figures 1 and 2 separately for teacher and student teacher.
Finally, both participants were interviewed individually in autumn 2020, with the first
and third authors of the study using stimulated-recall interviews (SRIs; Vesterinen et al.,
2010). Both interviews lasted about 1 hour and 40 minutes. The participants were told at
the beginning of the SRIs that videos would be selected based on high-quality interactions
and high CLASS scores, but CLASS scores were not revealed to them until later because
they could have influenced the reflections. The selection of high-quality situations for
reflection accorded with previous CLASS studies (e.g., Downer et al., 2011; Pianta et al.,
2008), which claimed that using examples of objectively defined high-quality practices
results in improvements in instructional quality (Pianta et al., 2008). Furthermore, using
high-quality examples seemed an ethical decision in terms of the two participants
reflecting on their own pedagogical practices during the SRIs in view of their different
qualifications and experience.
The SRI instructions asked participants to watch and reflect on the videos, to stop the
videos when they wanted, and to freely comment on their actions and thinking.
Specifically, they were asked to speak about pedagogical activities and interactions with
130
Koivula, Salminen, Rautamies & Rutanen.
Journal of Early Childhood Education Research 11(1) 2022, 123150. http://jecer.org
the children, their personal experiences, and their learning objectives for activities.
Supplementary questions (e.g., What kinds of pedagogical goals did you have?, What
would you have done differently?) encouraged teacher reflection. No definition of
pedagogy was given, since the interviews sought to elicit participants views on their
approaches to pedagogy. However, the student teacher had received a short introduction
to the CLASS framework during her studies and therefore knew that CLASS was a tool for
assessing the quality of teacherchild interactions.
Data analysis
The video recordings were first analysed by calculating the mean scores for the observed
CLASS dimensions (Pianta et al., 2008) across all observed cycles. This was done by
summing the dimension score for each cycle and then dividing it by the number of cycles.
These means for the 10 CLASS dimensions are displayed in Figure 3, side-by-side for
teacher and student teacher. Furthermore, dimension and domain means across all
observed cycles and across both teachers are available in Appendix 1. Next, descriptive
observation notes for each video, based on the CLASS framework and the transcribed
SRIs, were analysed using qualitative thematic content analysis (Braun & Clarke, 2006).
First, the data were studied, and initial codes were assigned. The unit of analysis was a
meaningful thematic comment, usually of several sentences. Next, the codes were
reviewed and analysed, and initial themes were formulated, which included the method
of instruction, the well-being of the child, features of interaction, and the role of the
teacher. The next step was to refine and name the themes and analyse their hierarchy,
which resulted in the main themes and subthemes. The main themes aligned with the
CLASS framework and were labelled accordingly (i.e., emotional support, classroom
organisation, and instructional support). The subthemes included, for example, mutual
interactions, planning, participation, and the well-being of the child. The final step of the
analysis compared the similarities and differences between the themes derived from the
expert teachers and student teachers interviews (see Table 1). Although the data mostly
accorded with the CLASS framework, some subthemes were added (e.g., teamwork,
collaboration with families, and assessment) according to the Finnish ECEC curriculum,
and were included in the results.
Ethical considerations
This study applied the ethical principles for research with human participants (Finnish
National Board on Research Integrity [TENK], 2019). An ethical pre-review was
conducted, and the study was approved by the Ethical Committee of University of
Jyväskylä. The teacher and student teacher were informed about the research objectives
and process and gave their informed consent to participate. The childrens guardians
were also informed in detail about the study and asked for their consent for the video
131
Koivula, Salminen, Rautamies & Rutanen.
Journal of Early Childhood Education Research 11(1) 2022, 123150. http://jecer.org
recording of the pedagogical learning situations with the children. The children were told
that their activities were being video recorded. In this ECEC centre, it was common to have
student teachers in child groups, and videos and pictures were regularly used to
document everyday activities and pedagogical practices; thus, from the childrens
perspective, the data collection method was not unusual. Childrens agreement to
participate in the recordings was captured in the situation (see Rutanen et al., 2021).
From an ethical perspective, we pondered whether it was fair to compare the
interactions of participants, due to the disparities in their qualifications and experience,
despite their consent and awareness of the nature of the CLASS framework and ratings.
We grounded the SRIs on both participants enthusiasm for reflecting on and developing
their professionalism and interactions with children and, since both had long experience
in ECEC, we considered that this evened out the differences. Before the video recordings,
the ECEC student teacher also had the opportunity to familiarise herself with the child
group. Our objective was not to assess the performance of the ECEC teacher and student
teacher, but to study differences in their levels of interaction. In the SRIs, we discussed
with the teacher and student teacher their strengths in interaction beyond the CLASS
scores, appreciating their own reflections. We thereby acknowledged the situatedness
and variation of the observed scenarios and the case study nature of the research. In
reporting the results, we paid particular attention to protecting the anonymity of the
research participants, the children, and the centre.
Findings
Pedagogical interactions of the teacher assessed with the CLASS
The findings showed that the teachers interactions with children were consistently
highly scored for the domains of emotional support (dimensions: PC, NC, TS, and RSP) and
classroom organisation (dimensions: BM, PD, and ILF), but mid-range for the instructional
support domain (dimensions: CD, QF, and LM). The scores ranged from one to seven (see
Figure 1).
132
Koivula, Salminen, Rautamies & Rutanen.
Journal of Early Childhood Education Research 11(1) 2022, 123150. http://jecer.org
FIGURE 1 Teachers CLASS scores from four cycles
As Figure 1 shows, the teachers pedagogical interactions were consistent across different
observation cycles. Only in the domain of instructional support (CD, QF, and LM) was
there more variation between cycles, with scores ranging from high- to mid-range. These
findings indicated that the teacher was able to systematically use high-quality pedagogical
interactions in different situations.
A closer look at the interactions revealed that in the emotional support domain (PC, NC
3
,
TS, and RSP), the quality of pedagogical interactions was consistently high. The teacher
focused on maintaining a positive climate in the child group. Closeness, warmth, calmness,
respectful interaction, smiles, and physical proximity characterised her interactions with
the children. The teacher consistently considered the childrens perspectives, encouraged
them, and supported their mutual interactions and peer learning. She paid close attention
to childrens needs, frequently asking whether anyone needed help or support, noticing
childrens small gestures, and acting accordingly. The children made interactional moves
towards the teacher and shared their ideas and opinions, to which the teacher responded.
No negative climate features were observed. The teacher had planned activities for the
children, but she also considered the childrens opinions and perspectives and adapted
the activities accordingly. Furthermore, the teacher encouraged children to share their
3
Note: the score for NC was reversed (i.e., a score of 1 indicated that there was no negative
climate).
0
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
PC NC TS RSP BM PD ILF CD QF LM
Emotional Support Classroom Organization Instructional support
Cycle 1 Cycle 2 Cycle 3 Cycle 4
133
Koivula, Salminen, Rautamies & Rutanen.
Journal of Early Childhood Education Research 11(1) 2022, 123150. http://jecer.org
opinions and supported their autonomy. The following examples illustrate these
interactions.
T: Do you want to tell us something about Japan, because you have the flag of Japan with
you today? … Can you tell us the names of colours in Japanese?
T: Can you ask who has yellow [paint]? Can you please help Tony, because Tony cannot
reach up there?
T: In our group, we usually ask: What [thoughts] do you have in your heart? If you feel
that you would like to say something to your friends, please raise your hand.
Since the children were multilingual, the teacher considered childrens first languages
during pedagogical activities (e.g., by suggesting that children count the dots on a ladybird
in their native languages).
For the classroom organisation domain (BM, PD, and ILF), the teacher had established
clear classroom rules and expectations. She frequently used small hints, gestures, or
requests to guide children (e.g., whispering additional instructions or gently touching a
childs shoulder), and these small gestures and hints were enough to draw the childs
attention back to the task. The teachers instruction was proactive, which efficiently
prevented behavioural difficulties, and no disruptive behaviours were observed. The
children actively participated in pedagogical activities, and the teacher frequently
supported childrens participation with questions, comments, and advice. The teacher
used various materials and methods to sustain childrens interest in the activity, which
resulted in children being enthusiastic and involved. The following excerpts describe
these practices.
T: I will tell you [the instruction] again, because it was a bit complex. We will do three
tasks today (shows three fingers) First, we will read a story about spring and
afterwards we will head out to play.
T: Please listen, carefully, to what we are about to do Are you all listening now? … I
will ask you to get one piece of white paper. Can you find white paper somewhere in this
room? … Tell me what colour you found?
In the instructional support domain (CD, QF, and LM), the teachers interactions had
consistent mid-range CLASS scores. The teacher and the children interacted constantly in
the classroom, and the teacher promoted these interactions by asking both closed and
open-ended questions. She sometimes supported childrens abilities to analyse, deduce,
and solve problems. During discussions, the teacher tried to connect abstract concepts
and ideas with childrens lives and experiences and expanded their thinking by asking
additional questions and sharing knowledge. However, the teacher only infrequently
provided children with detailed feedback, which could have further promoted their
learning. In summary, the teacher constantly interacted with the children. She promoted
their language abilities through questions, repeating, and expanding on childrens
134
Koivula, Salminen, Rautamies & Rutanen.
Journal of Early Childhood Education Research 11(1) 2022, 123150. http://jecer.org
answers, but she also verbally explained her own actions. Overall, the language use in the
classroom was rich and varied, and childrens native languages were considered. The
following examples illustrate the instructional support domain:
T: What do you need with you when you sail at sea? Where does the boat go? … Why did
the cuddly toy not go with you on the trip? This is such a big ship that it should have
fitted ... There is a cabin for the cuddly toys. Keiko, show us where to find the cabin. Look,
I have travelled so many times that I have seen there are nice cabins for pets Would
you need any food on the ship, if you had a long journey? How would you get food? Lets
go hunting! Thats a good idea.
Child 1: It rains and …. Child 2: Then flowers grow. T: Flowers grow and? ... Child 1:
There are puddles. T: What do you need for the puddles? Child 2: Rubber boots. T: Yes,
lovely springtime weather!
The examples show the interactions between teacher and the children, and how she asked
questions to support childrens thinking and advance their knowledge. The last excerpt
illustrates how the children and teacher created shared knowledge through discussion.
Next, we will similarly consider the interactions of the student teacher.
The pedagogical interactions of the student teacher assessed with the CLASS
The findings showed that the student teachers interactions with children were mostly
high range in the domains of emotional support (dimensions: PC, NC, TS, and RSP) and
classroom organisation (dimensions: BM, PD, and ILF), but mid-range in the instructional
support domain (dimensions: CD, QF, and LM); however, the scores for different cycles
varied (Figure 2).
FIGURE 2 Student teachers CLASS scores from four cycles
0
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
PC NC TS RSP BM PD ILF CD QF LM
Emotional Support Classroom Organization Instructional support
Cycle 1 Cycle 2 Cycle 3 Cycle 4
135
Koivula, Salminen, Rautamies & Rutanen.
Journal of Early Childhood Education Research 11(1) 2022, 123150. http://jecer.org
Figure 2 illustrates the variation in the pedagogical interactions of the student teacher
across observation cycles: from high- to mid-range for the emotional support and
classroom organisation domains, and from mid- to low-range for the instructional support
domain, indicating a lack of consistency across cycles.
For the emotional support domain (PC, NC, TS, and RSP), the interactions of the student
teacher were characterised by physical proximity, some touches, and warmth, calmness,
and respectfulness in interactions with children. The child groups were not familiar to the
student teacher, which may partly explain why there was a lack of high-range positive
expectations of children and support for childrens mutual interactions, and only some
encouragement for children. There were no signs of a negative climate. The student
teacher gave attention and individualised support to the children, and noticed the
childrens needs promptly. Occasionally, childrens initiative or shared ideas were
ignored, and during the third video, the student teacher seemed somewhat absent-
minded. In general, the student teacher paid close attention to the childrens wishes and
initiative during the planned activities, but the children lacked opportunities to transform
the activities. Support for childrens autonomy was not systematic; however, the student
teacher frequently encouraged children to express their opinions and ideas. The children
would have benefitted from more frequent positive feedback from the student teacher.
The following examples illustrate these interactions in practice.
Child 2 tells ST about his toy, which makes sounds. ST: [smiles] Do you want to show
us, now, what kinds of sounds [the toy] makes? Are the sounds loud? Child 2: They are
not very loud ... You dont have to close your ears. Its not a very loud sound. [Child 2
demonstrates the sound functions of his toy]. ST: Thank you, Thomas.
ST: Now lets divide you into two [groups]. Now think, how do you want to count? In
which language? Child 2: Now, how should I do this? [talks quietly without addressing
his words to ST]. ST: Do you need some help, Thomas?
As the examples show, the student teacher was attuned to the needs of the children and
frequently supported them in sharing ideas and opinions. These interactional exchanges
promoted a positive atmosphere and created opportunities for children to actively
participate.
For the classroom organisation domain (BM, P, and ILF), the pedagogical interactions of
the student teacher were mainly in the high range, despite the third observation cycle
being mid-range. Disruptive behaviour was observed only briefly during the third
observation cycle; otherwise, the children behaved well, and the student teacher used
proactive instruction. The children were actively involved in the activities, and only
during the third cycle some children were also wandering around. At times their interest
waned, perhaps because the goals of the activity and the instructions were rather unclear.
The student teacher supported the childrens participation in activities through her own
136
Koivula, Salminen, Rautamies & Rutanen.
Journal of Early Childhood Education Research 11(1) 2022, 123150. http://jecer.org
participation and by posing questions. The materials and methods were varied, and the
children had opportunities for hands-on engagement, which supported their interest and
involvement in the activities. The following examples illustrate these interactions.
ST: Then I have ... Child 2 and Child 4: An iPad. ST: iPad, yes. Remember, last time we
took some photographs? I will take now some, and then you can take photographs
yourselves.
ST: [Sandra had her hand up, indicating that she wanted to speak]. Lets go through a
quick round. First Sandra and then Simon can say [what they have on their minds] and
after that we will get going with todays programme … We will have to divide you into
two groups. The first group will bake, and the other group will make a magazine. How
can we divide you into two groups?
The previous examples show how the student teacher supported childrens interest and
motivation towards the activity by giving them proactive instructions, offering them
opportunities to participate in the activity using devices like iPads, and enabling children
to participate and express their thoughts.
The instructional support scores (CD, QF, and LM) were mid-range for the student teacher;
however, low-range scores were also observed in some cycles. The interactions of the
student teacher with the children were characterised by discussions, closed and open-
ended questions, and mutual exploration. The student teacher encouraged children to
think analytically but did not connect concepts with the life experiences of the children.
Furthermore, the use and explanation of concepts were not systematic. Many questions
posed by the student teacher only elicited short answers. Additionally, feedback for the
children was general and rather infrequent; more detailed feedback would have
supported the development of childrens thinking skills. The children were minimally
encouraged to share knowledge, and their responses were only sometimes expanded on.
Although there were frequent discussions between the student teacher and the children,
they were not prolonged exchanges. The student teacher sometimes repeated the
childrens answers and sometimes extended their responses, but rarely explained her
own actions. The language use was moderately rich and varied. The following example
illustrates these practices.
ST: Im sure you want to take your treasures home, but how could we keep them here in
the day-care centre? Can someone think how we could keep them here? Child 2: We
could put them into our lockers, and no one would take them ... ST: [takes iPad in her
hands]. Child 2: … and then we must take the camera, so that no one will take it. ST: You
said camera ... What do you think the camera can do to help us somehow record
something about your treasure for the day-care centre?
In the example, the student teacher encouraged children to think about solutions, and by
posing questions and giving feedback, she tried to promote childrens language
production.
137
Koivula, Salminen, Rautamies & Rutanen.
Journal of Early Childhood Education Research 11(1) 2022, 123150. http://jecer.org
In summary, the results suggested that the quality of the teachers and the student
teachers interactions were rather high quality. Figure 3 illustrates the mean CLASS scores
for four cycles for both participants. It is noteworthy that teacher’s CLASS dimension
means were similar or higher than sample mean for all CLASS dimensions, whereas for
student teacher, this was true for fewer dimensions (see Appendix 1).
FIGURE 3 Mean CLASS scores for the teacher and the student teacher across cycles
As Figure 3 suggests, the quality of interactions of the teacher and student teacher were
rather similar for the dimensions of PC, NC, TS, BM, and PD; however, a closer look at the
interactions revealed that both participants had common strengths and development
needs, despite the variation in the quality of their interactions. As Figure 3 shows, RSP
was the biggest difference between the two. A plausible explanation is that the expert
teacher was familiar with the children, since she had worked extensively with them. She
knew the children, their competencies, preferences, and ways of behaving, and this
enabled the teacher to consider the childrens perspectives; however, the children were
unfamiliar to the student teacher. Moreover, the student teacher was introducing
pedagogical activities according to a pre-prepared plan and had to follow the plan
carefully, since other students were interacting with other children in the same space and
the students had coordinated the activities. Still, within the planned activities, there were
opportunities for children to adapt the activities. The student teacher could have
supported childrens autonomy more systematically, which was a development need
according to her CLASS scores.
0
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
PC NC TS RSP BM PD ILF CD QF LM
Emotional Support Classroom Organization Instructional support
Teacher Teacher Student
138
Koivula, Salminen, Rautamies & Rutanen.
Journal of Early Childhood Education Research 11(1) 2022, 123150. http://jecer.org
Teachers and student teachers reflections on their pedagogical practices
using the CLASS framework
The findings showed that both the teacher and student teacher reflected on their
pedagogical and interactional practices. Table 1 illustrates the similarities and differences
in their reflections. Separate cells in each row indicate the differences, and shared cells
show the similarities.
TABLE 1 Overview of the participants reflections on their pedagogical practices
As Table 1 shows, the teacher and student teacher shared many similarities in their
pedagogical reflections (e.g., valuing child-centredness, emphasizing the importance of
small group activities, highlighting play and learning, and the importance of mutual
interactions, and supporting children in language use). However, there were differences
between the two teachers. The biggest was how they positioned themselves regarding the
activities. The teacher reflected on, explained, and justified her actions, usually based on
her long work experience and development of pedagogy, but she occasionally pondered
how she could have handled the situation better. Her position was distinctly that of an
expert and a formally qualified ECEC teacher, and her work experience was linked to her
position and responsibilities in the professional team.
139
Koivula, Salminen, Rautamies & Rutanen.
Journal of Early Childhood Education Research 11(1) 2022, 123150. http://jecer.org
The student teacher, however, frequently reflected on her development needs as an ECEC
teacher. She compared her past ways of working as a childcarer to the current situation
and reflected on her learning through teacher training. The student teacher’s position was
that of a skilled but transforming practitioner with a changing professional identity, which
was supported by her practical and theoretical understanding of how to plan, guide, and
assess pedagogical practices. The student teacher highlighted her extensive work
experience, but simultaneously mentioned her transformation into an ECEC teacher
through her studies, and thus, her construction of a professional identity. The following
examples illustrate these differences in how ECEC teacher and ECEC student teacher
reflect on their pedagogy.
T: [pedagogically] you need courage to try out different things. There’s no need to be
afraid or anxious, like that did not work well. It's important to try out and after that, we
are much wiser as we assess [our pedagogy]. (…) I always think that your role is to
initiate and give [the child] some impetus (…) and you will trust that it [learning] begins
from there. But also that you don’t expect too much [from the child] (…) One colleague
once told me beautifully, which has been my motto that “Hey, I believe in that child”, (…)
and if you tell the child, “Hey, I believe in you”, it moves mountains in that moment.
ST: I have perhaps not been the typical childcarer. I have had quite strongly the role of
the teacher, and I have pursued it. I have enjoyed a lot to guide and to plan for children
and to be involved in the whole [pedagogical] process in the team However, I have
thought about it consciously that you need to have certain change [in your role as ECEC
teacher]. As a childcarer I have been able to sort of leave the responsibility for the
teacher. Even though I participate and bring forth my opinion and expertise…I always
have acknowledged that the final responsibility lies within the ECEC teacher. Taking the
responsibility of the ECEC teacher…that perhaps is the challenge.
As the examples illustrate, in the ECEC teacher’s reflections, her courage and trust
towards herself as a teacher and her trust towards children as learners are emphasized.
In the ECEC student teacher’s reflections, the focus is more on her own agency and
teacherhood.
The findings in Table 1 showed that both participants described the same key themes
according to the CLASS framework (i.e., emotional support, classroom management, and
instructional support), although their wording varied. The main difference was that the
student teacher specifically applied the CLASS framework in reflecting on her
interactions:
ST: In my opinion, this is importantthis instructional support and focusing on that.
[We] give children those tools and guide them to solve the [problems] themselves.
ST: The same thing applies in instructional support as in creating atmosphere … that I
dont laugh boisterously or say all the time how wonderful they [the children] are I
feel that I show this kind of positive feedback and warmth in other ways, like touching
and being close [to the children].
140
Koivula, Salminen, Rautamies & Rutanen.
Journal of Early Childhood Education Research 11(1) 2022, 123150. http://jecer.org
This example illustrates how the student teacher consciously used the CLASS framework
(instructional support in the first example and teacher sensitivity in the second example)
as a basis for reflecting on her own pedagogical practices. The teacher described these
two domains as follows:
T: Well, somehow, they [the children] have the opportunity to understand. I notice that
I intentionally leave the last word out, for example, and wait a little bit for the children
to recognise it. Of course, there are two things: I know the children are continuously
attending and participating in [the activity] and they then get the feeling of succeeding
by themselves, knowing that they can [succeed].
T: I act by praising, not blaming [children]. You can say out loud again and again to the
child: Good!, show a thumbs-up, give a pat on the shoulder. Of course, it is of great
importance that you do this with all children … everyone has something, a strength that
you must notice.
In these examples, the student teachers reflections on the domains of instructional
support and teacher sensitivity were clearly visible. The domain of emotional support was
the domain both spoke most about. Concerning emotional support, both the teacher and
student teacher highlighted the mutuality of interactions with the children:
T: This is popular [in the child group], this What do you have in your heart [i.e., what
do you want to tell others … Everyone has a basic need to be heard and seen … I think it
is imperative that Hey, we listened to you, and now yours and my task is to listen to the
friend as well.
ST: One must deal with every child so that the child is heard and understood and able to
express [his/her thoughts], whether you have a shared language or not.
As the examples show, both participants highlighted the importance of listening to the
child; however, in practice, this was an area of development for the student teacher (see
Figure 2 for the scores for the RSP dimension and Appendix 1). Both also highlighted the
value of observations and detecting even tiny clues from children; as the teacher
explained: You dont have to say every time Now listen; it is enough to put your hand on
the childs shoulder or look at the child or something like that. When teachers act in a child-
centred way, know the children well, and react to their verbal and non-verbal cues, they
facilitate childrens participation in activities. Both the teacher and the student teacher
emphasised the importance of knowing the children; however, in this case, the child group
was not familiar to the student teacher:
ST: Because I did not know the children very well, at first it was [scary] and [I felt] I dont
know or cannot do this … [I had to think] How can I encourage and support him, when
I dont know [the child] and what string to pull? But it went well, and I felt I succeeded
and was able to motivate the child … and was able to support the child’s own active role.
T: You must have a lot of knowledge of the child We have the advantage that we’ve
pretty much had the same children [in the group] for several years.
141
Koivula, Salminen, Rautamies & Rutanen.
Journal of Early Childhood Education Research 11(1) 2022, 123150. http://jecer.org
In this example, the student teacher acknowledged the unfamiliarity of the children and
that she felt unsure about how to best support the child and help him accomplish the task.
However, she utilised her work experience and, despite initial doubts, was able to act in a
manner that motivated the child, which was a rewarding experience. The teacher,
however, knew the children well. Both the teacher and the student teacher highlighted
the importance of supporting the children pedagogically, giving them positive feedback,
noticing their needs, and creating a safe and positive atmosphere in the classroom, which
encouraged children to interact with their peers.
For the classroom organisation domain, both participants talked about the importance of
small group activities, routines, planning, and group management skills. They emphasised
clarity of instructions, which facilitates the desired behaviour of children. The following
examples illustrate these points:
T: MACIC: Motivate, Activate, Concretise, Individualise, and Collaborate This
forms a good structure for my own [pedagogical] activity and this has always
[since qualifying] been with me.
ST: As I have already experienced, if you say or guide the wrong way, for a child
who thinks he cannot do [a task], he can easily stop collaborating … Here [in the
video] you can see the challenges [of the child] I gave him alternatives about
what to do, and the option to do something else, but surprisingly, he decided he
wanted to complete the task. You cannot know beforehand what will happen.
The first example described the key pedagogical principles of the teacher, and in the next
example, the student teacher reflected on her actions in a challenging situation with a
child. Since the child group in question was multilingual, both the teacher and the student
teacher stressed the importance of instructional support and, in particular, language
modelling, as the following examples show:
ST: Encouraging children to express themselves and narrate, I succeeded in that using
a teachers [linguistic] model ... I repeat what the child says and ask further questions.
That is language modelling and instruction, and that comes naturally to me.
T: I think the linguistic identity of the child is important … Your language is just as
important as mine. You can teach me your language, and I’ll teach you mine … Our job
is to support the childs language and identity.
These examples revealed that both participants appreciated language use and strove to
support childrens language development. In addition to previously introduced CLASS-
related themes, the teacher and student teacher brought up subthemes that were not
included in the CLASS framework, emphasising the Finnish National Core Curriculum for
ECEC (EDUFI, 2018, see Table 1). The expert teachers accounts highlighted the
importance of specifically supporting childrens linguistic identities, and also mentioned
professional collaboration, the importance of the national ECEC curriculum (EDUFI,
142
Koivula, Salminen, Rautamies & Rutanen.
Journal of Early Childhood Education Research 11(1) 2022, 123150. http://jecer.org
2018), support for the participation of families, and the importance of assessment. The
student teacher similarly highlighted the importance of professional collaboration,
assessment, and the ECEC curriculum (EDUFI, 2018), but she also discussed her own
teachers role and construction of a professional identity. The following examples briefly
illustrate these subthemes:
T: That girl has a lovely family ... Her family is a great resource for multilingual issues.
They have visited us and told us about their culture. We have asked all families to give
us numbers and concepts in their own languages, and we play with those in our daily
activities.
T: National Core Curriculum is enough. [Following it] is sufficient throughout the whole
day.
T: Assessment is such a big part of this job.
ST: Here I notice an omission ... I had [instructed] the children to go and paint the
luggage bag, but I didnt give any instruction to that child, X. The child just stayed there
wondering whether to do [the task] or not.
ST: We employees, both ECEC teachers and childcarers need to introspect and develop
ourselves in that we understand the objectives in the activity and the pedagogical aims,
which also set a lot of pressure to teacherhood or to childcarer. You must perform high-
quality ECEC all the time.
ST: Our teamwork functioned well all the time. We had a good division of responsibilities
and roles and collaboration.
In the excerpts, the ECEC teacher stressed the importance of family participation, viewing
them as a resource for enriching pedagogy. She also refers to Finnish National Core
Curriculum (EDUFI, 2018) contents and the importance of assessment. The student
teacher reflects upon her pedagogical practices and highlighted the importance of
providing high-quality ECEC and well-functioning teamwork.
Discussion and conclusions
Previous research has highlighted the importance of the quality of teacherchild
interactions in ECEC (Burchinal et al., 2008; Curby et al., 2009; Mashburn et al., 2008;
Perlman et al., 2016). This study contributes to the discussion by analysing the
pedagogical practices and teacherchild interactions of an ECEC teacher and an ECEC
student teacher. Both participants had years of ECEC work experience, but in significantly
different positions due to their different formal qualifications and educational
backgrounds.
The main differences in teacherchild interactions between the teacher and the student
teacher, assessed using CLASS, concerned the consistency of the quality scores across
143
Koivula, Salminen, Rautamies & Rutanen.
Journal of Early Childhood Education Research 11(1) 2022, 123150. http://jecer.org
observation cycles. The teacher had highly consistent interaction quality, whereas the
student teacher had somewhat inconsistent quality. Salminen et al., (2012) found similar
variations in the quality of interactions between teachers. Both participants achieved
relatively high scores for the emotional support and organisational support domains.
Their long work experience may have been a factor contributing to these results, as
previous studies (Salminen et al., 2012; Slot, Lerkkanen et al., 2015) have suggested
associations between extensive work experience and high-quality interactions. However,
variation was also observed for this domain, since the teacher scored systematically
higher on the dimension of regard for students’ perspectives, possibly because the teacher
was more familiar with the children. Both participants had more modest and varied
quality of instructional support across cycles compared to emotional support and
classroom organisation (see also Appendix 1). La Paro et al. (2009) previously observed
this tendency towards lower scores for instructional support.
Enriching the observations and interpretations gained through CLASS with the self-
reflections on pedagogical interactions (Early et al., 2017) proved to be particularly
interesting. In the interview, the student teacher underlined the importance of
considering childrens views and initiatives, in line with the Finnish National Core
Curriculum for Early Childhood Education and Care (EDUFI, 2018). However, its
application proved challenging in actual pedagogical practices with children, which was
reflected in the CLASS scores for RSP. This aspect was therefore a development area and
prompted the student teachers self-reflection while observing her own interactions and
pedagogy during the SRI.
The student teachers awareness of the CLASS framework, manifested in her use of the
CLASS domain vocabulary, was evident in her accounts of pedagogical interactions. She
observed herself from the position of a student and was clearly developing her
professional identity (Happo et al., 2012), since she acknowledged many pedagogical
development needs. Surprisingly, she did not position herself as a practitioner with strong
practice-based knowledge, even though she had nearly 20 years work experience in
ECEC. During the SRIs, both the teacher and the student teacher broadened their view of
pedagogy to include not only the teacherchild interactions and processes as highlighted
in CLASS but also reflections on the roles of professional collaboration, the learning
environment, and resources, in line with the Finnish Curriculum for Early Childhood
Education and Care (EDUFI, 2018). These reflections mirrored the Nordic holistic view of
pedagogy as a process (Alila & Ukkonen-Mikkola, 2018) covering the full day of a child in
ECEC. Similar findings on how the surrounding cultural context (e.g., values and beliefs,
curriculum) shape teachers’ CLASS reflections have been reported elsewhere (see e.g.,
Slot et al., 2016). Therefore, adopting culturally contextualised approach to CLASS, such
144
Koivula, Salminen, Rautamies & Rutanen.
Journal of Early Childhood Education Research 11(1) 2022, 123150. http://jecer.org
as the one reported in the current study, can also add nuances of Nordic culture and
curriculum to the prevailing CLASS discussion.
Our methodological contribution includes the development of an approach that applies
the well-established CLASS tool for analysing teacherchild interactions (Pianta et al.,
2008) and supplements the structured numeric CLASS scores with more extensive
qualitative evaluation of observed situations, and self-reflections using video recordings.
A particular strength of this approach was that the reflections were stimulated by the
same video-recorded situations that were scored numerically using CLASS. The benefit of
using CLASS as a reflective resource has been previously recognised in an in-service
training context (Early et al., 2017; Pianta et al., 2008), but the approach differed from this
study because the student teacher was undergoing pre-service teacher training, but no
specific in-service training was provided for the teacher. In this study, the use of CLASS,
reflection, and videos not only allowed more qualitatively rich insights into pedagogical
interactions, but also provided reflective support for building professionalism,
particularly for the student teacher. Videos proved to be a powerful, visual tool for
observing interactions with children and learning through reflection.
The limitations of the study are linked to the use of only two, very particular cases since
more cases would have improved the studys generalisability. Future studies should
examine pedagogical practices using a similar research design but including teachers and
students with more varied backgrounds (e.g., students without prior work experience and
recently graduated novice teachers) to provide a more nuanced understanding of their
interactions and reflections on pedagogical interactions. Moreover, although in the
present study the sample choice was made to explore side-by-side the expert ECEC
teacher and ECEC student teacher, it is noteworthy that having a student teacher with
nearly 20 years’ working experience is exceptional. This needs to be considered when
interpreting the results from the perspective of the roles of expert and novice.
The current study underlined the challenges of defining and describing the expertise of
an in-service teacher and a student teacher. As a particular case, the student teacher in
this study had years of experience working in ECEC, but in another professional role and
with different qualifications. However, her practical experience of ECEC settings in
general (as a childcarer in ECEC) and her subsequent studies should not be downplayed.
It is clear that different professional statuses and qualifications also involve different roles
and responsibilities. In Finnish ECEC, ECEC teachers have a formal role in coordinating
and leading pedagogy for child groups (EDUFI, 2018), despite professionals being
expected to collaborate in developing and providing care, education, and instruction;
actual pedagogical practices with children; and cooperation with parents.
145
Koivula, Salminen, Rautamies & Rutanen.
Journal of Early Childhood Education Research 11(1) 2022, 123150. http://jecer.org
To conclude, the present study offers new insights into the use of CLASS and expands our
understanding of the quality of teacherchild interactions by combining CLASS
assessments with teachers own reflections on their pedagogical practices. CLASS scores
relate to various kinds of interactions and pedagogical practices, but the merit of this
study’s approach is in illuminating the pedagogical justifications that facilitate teachers
reflections beyond the numbers. Through reflection, interactions can be revealed to
teachers and students themselves, but also to their team members, facilitating joint
discussion and assessment. Moreover, the CLASS framework enabled the student teacher
to recognise the quality of her interactions and her need for PD based on the high-quality
interaction features of her pedagogical practices.
Previous studies have explored the characteristics of the teacherchild interactions of
expert and novice teachers (Cortina et al., 2016). A research gap, which the present study
partially addressed, is using CLASS during teacher training. Gradually, CLASS has been
adopted for Finnish teacher training as a tool for analytically assessing and reflecting on
teacherchild interactions and concretising pedagogical practices with children. The
results of this small-scale case study point towards the effectiveness of this kind of
approach, suggesting a need for further research in this area. By reflecting on their own
practices through video recordings, teachers can become better observers of teacher
child interactions, thus gaining the capacity to evaluate their own classroom practices and
generate ideas for making changes in their everyday interactions with children (Pianta et
al., 2008). Teachers’ awareness of the features of high-quality interactions and their
ability to critically reflect upon their current practices are crucial in enhancing their PD,
the quality of their pedagogy, and more importantly, the well-being, development, and
learning of children in ECEC.
Acknowledgements
This study was funded by the Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture Jump along-
project (OKM/66/521/2017). Jenni Salminen’s work was funded by Academy of Finland
(Grant no. 308070). We would like to express our gratitude for all participants of the study
and research assistants Mika Haapoja, Pauliina Gummerus, and Miia Hakala.
References
Act on Early Childhood Education and Care. (540/2018).
https://www.finlex.fi/fi/laki/ajantasa/2018/20180540
Alila, K., & Ukkonen-Mikkola, T. (2018). Käsiteanalyysistä varhaiskasvatuksen pedagogiikan
määrittelyyn [From conceptual analysis to defining pedagogy]. Kasvatus, 49(1), 7581.
146
Koivula, Salminen, Rautamies & Rutanen.
Journal of Early Childhood Education Research 11(1) 2022, 123150. http://jecer.org
Braun, V., & Clarke, V. (2006). Using thematic analysis in psychology. Qualitative Research in
Psychology, 3, 77101. https://doi.org/10.1191/1478088706qp063oa
Burchinal, M., Howes, C., Pianta, R., Bryant, D., Early, D., Clifford, R., & Barbarin, O. (2008).
Predicting child outcomes at the end of kindergarten from the quality of pre-
kindergarten teacherchild interactions and instruction. Applied Developmental Science,
12(3), 140153. https://doi.org/10.1080/10888690802199418
Cadima, J., Leal, T., & Burchinal, M. (2010). The quality of teacherstudent interactions:
Associations with first graders' academic and behavioral outcomes. Journal of School
Psychology, 48(6), 457482. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jsp.2010.09.001
Cortina, K. S., Miller, K. F., McKenzie, R., & Epstein, A. (2015). Where low and high inference data
converge: Validation of CLASS assessment of mathematics instruction using mobile eye
tracking with expert and novice teachers. International Journal of Science and
Mathematics Education, 13(2), 389403. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10763-014-9610-5
Costigan, A. T., & Crocco, M. S. (2004). Learning to teach in an age of accountability. Lawrence
Erlbaum Associates.
Curby, T. W., Rimm-Kaufman, S. E., & Ponitz, C. C. (2009). Teacherchild interactions and
children’s achievement trajectories across kindergarten and first grade. Journal of
Educational Psychology, 101(4), 912925. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0016647
Curby, T. W., Brock, L. L., & Hamre, B. K. (2013). Teachers' emotional support consistency
predicts children's achievement gains and social skills. Early Education and Development,
24(3), 292309. https://doi.org/10.1080/10409289.2012.665760
Downer, J. T., Pianta, R. C., Fan, X., Hamre, B. K., Mashburn, A., & Justice, L. (2011). Effects of web-
mediated teacher professional development on the language and literacy skills of
children enrolled in prekindergarten programs. NHSA Dialog, 14(4), 189212.
https://doi.org/10.1080/15240754.2011.613129
Early, D. M., Maxwell, K. L., Burchinal, M., Alva, S., Bender, R. H., Bryant, D., Cai, K., Clifford, R. M.,
Ebanks, C., Griffin, J. A., Henry, G. T., Howes, C., Iriondo‐Perez, J., Jeon, H.-J., Mashburn, A.
J., Peisner‐Feinberg, E., Pianta, R. C., Vandergrift, N., & Zill, N. (2007). Teachers'
education, classroom quality, and young children's academic skills: Results from
seven studies of preschool programs. Child Development, 78(2), 558
80. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-8624.2007.01014.x
Early, D. M., Maxwell, K. L., Ponder, B. D., & Pan, Y. (2017). Improving teacher-child interactions:
A randomized controlled trial of Making the Most of Classroom Interactions and My
Teaching Partner professional development models. Early Childhood Research Quarterly,
38, 5770. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecresq.2016.08.005
European Commission/EACEA/Eurydice. (2019). Key data on early childhood education and
care in Europe. 2019 Edition. Eurydice Report. Publications Office of the European
Union. https://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/documents/3217494/5785249/EC-01-14-484-
EN.PDF/cbdf1804-a139-43a9-b8f1ca5223eea2a1
Finnish National Board on Research Integrity (TENK). (2019). A practical model of the self-
regulation of academic integrity: a Chinese-English edition of the code of conduct
for research integrity in Finland. Publications of the Finnish National Board on Research
Integrity TENK 2/2019. https://tenk.fi/sites/tenk.fi/files/TENK_RCR_chi_eng.pdf
147
Koivula, Salminen, Rautamies & Rutanen.
Journal of Early Childhood Education Research 11(1) 2022, 123150. http://jecer.org
Finnish National Agency for Education (EDUFI). (2018). National core curriculum for early
childhood education and care 2018. Regulations and guidelines 2018:3c.
Hamre, B. K. (2014). Teachers' daily interactions with children: An essential ingredient in
effective early childhood programs. Child Development Perspectives, 8(4), 223
230. https://doi.org/10.1111/cdep.12090
Hamre, B. K., Pianta, R. C., Downer, J. T, DeCoster, J., Mashburn, A. J., Jones, S. M., Brown, J. L.,
Cappella, E., Atkins, M., Rivers, S. E., Brackett, M. A., & Hamagami, A. (2013). Teaching
through interactions: Testing a developmental framework of teacher effectiveness in
over 4,000 classrooms. The Elementary School Journal, 113(4), 461487.
https://doi.org/10.1086/669616
Hamre, B. K., & Pianta, R. C. (2005). Can instructional and emotional support in the first‐grade
classroom make a difference for children at risk of school failure? Child Development,
76(5), 949967. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-8624.2005.00889.x
Happo, I., & Määttä, K. (2011). Expertise of early childhood educators. International Education
Studies, 4(3), 9199. https://doi.org/10.5539/ies.v4n3p91
Happo, I., Määttä, K., & Uusiautti, S. (2012). Experts or good educatorsor both? The
development of early childhood educators’ expertise in Finland. Early Child Development
and Care, 182(3-4), 487504. https://doi.org/10.1080/03004430.2011.646719
Horsley, K. (2020). Slowing down: documentary photography in early childhood. International
Journal of Early Years Education, 29(4), 438454.
https://doi.org/10.1080/09669760.2020.1850430
Honkanen, K., Poikolainen, J., & Karlsson, L. (2018). Children and young people as co-
researchers - researching subjective well-being in residential area with visual and verbal
methods Children's Geographies, 16(2), 184195.
https://doi.org/10.1080/14733285.2017.1344769
Kajamies, A., Mattinen, A., Kaurila, M.-L., & Lehtonen, M. (2016). Emotional support constructing
high quality scaffolding in day care. Journal of Early Childhood Education
Research, 5(1), 162188.
Karila K. (2008). A Finnish viewpoint on professionalism in early childhood education. European
Early Childhood Education Research Journal, 16(2), 210
223. https://doi.org/10.1080/13502930802141634
Karila, K., Turtiainen, H., & Ukkonen-Mikkola, T. (2015). Yhteistä tutkivaa toimintaa
yliopistokoulutuksen ja työelämän rajavyöhykkeellä. [Common researching action in the
boundary space between the university and the working life]. Yliopistopedagogiikka, 1,
2022.
La Paro, K. M., Hamre, B. K., Locasale-Crouch, J., Pianta, R. C., Bryant, D., Early, D., Clifford, R.,
Barbarin, O., Howes, C., & Burchinal, M. (2009). Quality in kindergarten classrooms:
Observational evidence for the need to increase children's learning opportunities
in early education classrooms. Early Education and Development, 20(4), 657
692. https://doi.org/10.1080/10409280802541965
Mashburn, A. J., Pianta, R. C., Hamre, B. K., Downer, J. T., Barbarin, O. A., Bryant, D., Burchinal, M.,
Early, D. M., & Howes, C. (2008). Measures of classroom quality in prekindergarten and
children’s development of academic, language, and social skills. Child Development, 79,
732749. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-8624.2008.01154.x
148
Koivula, Salminen, Rautamies & Rutanen.
Journal of Early Childhood Education Research 11(1) 2022, 123150. http://jecer.org
McNally, S., & Slutsky, R. (2018). Teacherchild relationships make all the difference:
Constructing quality interactions in early childhood settings. Early Child Development
and Care, 188(5), 508523. https://doi.org/10.1080/03004430.2017.1417854
Pakarinen, E., Lerkkanen, M. K., Poikkeus, A. M., Kiuru, N., Siekkinen, M., Rasku-Puttonen, H., &
Nurmi, J. E. (2010). A validation of the classroom assessment scoring system in Finnish
kindergartens. Early Education and Development, 21(1), 95
124. https://doi.org/10.1080/10409280902858764
Perlman, M., Falenchuk, O., Fletcher, B., McMullen, E., Beyene, J., & Shah, P. S. (2016). A
systematic review and meta-analysis of a measure of staff/child interaction quality (the
classroom assessment scoring system) in early childhood education and care settings
and child outcomes. PloS one, 11(12),
e0167660. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0167660
Pianta, R. C., Howes, C., Burchinal, M., Bryant, D., Clifford, R., Early, D., & Barbarin, O. (2005).
Features of pre-kindergarten programs, classrooms and teachers: Do they predict
observed classroom quality and child-teacher interactions? Applied Developmental
Science, 9, 144159. https://doi.org/10.1207/s1532480xads0903_2
Pianta, R. C., La Paro, K. M., & Hamre, B. K. (2008). Classroom assessment scoring system.
Manual, pre-K. Paul H. Brookes Publishing Co.
Pianta, R. C., Mashburn, A. J., Downer, J. T., Hamre, B. K., & Justice, L. (2008). Effects of web-
mediated professional development resources on teacherchild interactions in pre-
kindergarten classrooms. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 23(4), 431
451. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecresq.2008.02.001
Rutanen, N., Raittila, R., Harju, K., Lucas Revilla, Y., & Hännikäinen, M. (2021). Negotiating ethics-
in-action in a long-term research relationship with a young child. Human Arenas.
https://doi.org/10.1007/s42087-021-00216-z
Ryan, K., & Cooper, J. M. (2004). Those who can, teach (10th ed.). Houghton Mifflin Company.
Salminen, J., Guedes, C., Lerkkanen, M.-K., Pakarinen, E., & Cadima, J. (2021). Teacher-child
interaction quality and children's self-regulation in toddler classrooms in Finland and
Portugal. Infant and Child Development, e2222. https://doi.org/10.1002/icd.2222
Salminen, J., Lerkkanen, M. K., Poikkeus, A. M., Pakarinen, E., Siekkinen, M., Hännikäinen, M.,
Poikonen, P.-L., & Rasku-Puttonen, H. (2012). Observed classroom quality profiles of
kindergarten classrooms in Finland. Early Education and Development, 23(5), 654
677. https://doi.org/10.1080/10409289.2011.574267
Salminen, J., Hännikäinen, M., Poikonen, P.-L., & Rasku-Puttonen, H. (2013). A descriptive case
analysis of instructional teaching practices in Finnish preschool classrooms. Journal of
Research in Childhood Education, 27(2), 127152.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/02568543.2013.767289
Schachter, R. E. (2017). Early childhood teachers’ pedagogical reasoning about how children
learn during language and literacy instruction. International Journal of Early Childhood,
49(1), 95111. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13158-017-0179-3
Selinger, E., & Crease, R. P. (2006). The philosophy of expertise. Columbia University Press.
Slot, P., Cadima, J., Salminen, J., Pastori, G., & Lerkkanen, M.-K. (2016). Multiple case study in seven
European countries regarding culture-sensitive classroom quality assessment. WP2.3
Curriculum and quality analysis impact review. CARE project. Utrecht University.
149
Koivula, Salminen, Rautamies & Rutanen.
Journal of Early Childhood Education Research 11(1) 2022, 123150. http://jecer.org
Slot, P., Lerkkanen, M.-K., & Leseman, P. P. (2015). The relations between structural quality and
process quality in European early childhood education and care provisions: Secondary
analyses of large scale studies in five countries. WP2.2 Curriculum and quality analysis
impact review. CARE project. Utrecht University.
Slot, P. L., Leseman, P. P., Verhagen, J., & Mulder, H. (2015). Associations between structural
quality aspects and process quality in Dutch early childhood education and care
settings. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 33, 64
76. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecresq.2015.06.001
von Suchodoletz, A., Fäsche, A., Gunzenhauser, C., & Hamre, B. K. (2014). A typical morning in
preschool: Observations of teacher-child interactions in German preschools. Early
Childhood Research Quarterly, 29, 509-
519. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecresq.2014.05.010
Tynjälä, P., Slotte, V., Nieminen, J., Lonka, K., & Olkinuora, E. (2006). From university to working
life: Graduates’ workplace skills in practice. In P. Tynjälä, J. Välimaa & G. Boulton-Lewis
(Eds.), Higher education and working life: Collaborations, confrontations and
challenges (pp. 7388). Elsevier.
Ukkonen-Mikkola, T. (2018). Mature ECEC student teachers’ perceived professional agency
during work placements. International Journal of Learning, Teaching and Educational
Research, 17(7), 5979. https://doi.org/10.26803/ijlter.17.7.4
Vesterinen, O., Toom, A., & Patrikainen, S. (2010). The stimulated recall method and ICTs in the
research on the reasoning of teachers. International Journal of Research & Method in
Education, 33(2), 183197. https://doi.org/10.1080/1743727X.2010.484605
Vlasov, J., Salminen, J., Repo, L., Karila, K., Kinnunen, S., Mattila, V., Nukarinen, T., Parrila, S., &
Sulonen, H. (2019). Guidelines and recommendations for evaluating early childhood
education and care (publications 5:2019). Finnish Education Evaluation Centre.
Wiens, P. D., LoCasale-Crouch, J., Cash, A. H., & Romo Escudero, F. (2021). Preservice teachers’
skills to identify effective teaching interactions: Does it relate to their ability to
implement them? Journal of Teacher Education, 72(2), 180
194. https://doi.org/10.1177/0022487120910692
Wood, E., & Bennet, N. (2000). Changing theories, changing practice: exploring early
childhood teachers’ professional learning. Teaching and Teacher Education,
16(5-6), 635647. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0742-051X(00)00011-1
150
Koivula, Salminen, Rautamies & Rutanen.
Journal of Early Childhood Education Research 11(1) 2022, 123150. http://jecer.org
APPENDIX 1 Descriptive CLASS statistics, dimension, and domain means
Note. A reversed Negative climate (NC)* score (1 = 7) has been used in calculating the means.
CLASS VARIABLES
N
M
SD
RANGE
TeacherChild Interactions
Across dimensions
Positive climate (PC)
2
6.50
0.71
6.007.00
Negative climate (NC)*
2
7.00
0.00
7.007.00
Teacher sensitivity (TS)
2
6.00
1.06
5.256.75
Regard for student perspectives (RSP)
2
4.88
1.94
3.506.25
Behavior management (BM)
2
6.63
0.53
6.257.00
Productivity (PD)
2
6.75
0.35
6.507.00
Instructional learning formats (ILF)
2
6.00
0.71
5.506.50
Concept development (CD)
2
3.00
0.71
2.503.50
Quality of feedback (QF)
2
2.75
1.41
1.753.75
Language modeling (LM)
2
4.50
1.06
3.755.25
Across domains
Emotional Support
2
6.09
0.93
5.446.75
Classroom organization
2
6.46
0.53
6.086.83
Instructional support
2
3.42
1.06
2.674.17
ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any citations for this publication.
Article
Full-text available
This article continues the discussions of relational ethics put forward in Human Arenas in “Arena of Ethics” (Hilppö et al., 2019). Our aim in this article is to explore and discuss relational ethics, as ethics-in-action, in a long-term research relationship with a child. Our question is: How is ethics-in-action negotiated during critical incidents in the construction of a research space that involves a long-term research relationship with a young child? This article is based on a research project that focused on children’s transitions in early childhood education and care (ECEC). These transitions include the transition from home care to ECEC as well as transitions from child groups or settings to other ECEC groups or settings, and the transition to pre-primary education. We apply a particular lens to the corpus of data, analyzing and reflecting critical incidents vis-à-vis a negotiation of ethics-in-action during the construction of our research space, which involved a long-term research relationship with a child. Our results show that critical incidents in our study’s negotiation of ethics-in-action included (a) the focus child’s spontaneous contributions to the study’s interviews, (b) interdependencies between the child and diverse researchers, and (c) the child’s evolving expertise in data collection, which restructured our study’s research space. We conclude that ethical questions cannot be separated from the mutually constituted relationships or socio-spatial context in where they emerge; thus, they are relationally and spatially embedded.
Article
Full-text available
This study examines the association between teacher–child interaction quality and children's self‐regulation in Finnish and Portuguese toddler classrooms. The participants included 230 Finnish (M = 29; SD = 3 months) and 283 Portuguese (M = 30, SD = 4 months) toddlers and their teachers (n = 43 Finland; n = 29 Portugal). The children's behavioural self‐regulation (attention, working memory, and inhibition control) was individually tested, and the teachers evaluated the children's self‐regulation skills in the classroom. The quality of the teacher–child interactions (i.e., emotional and behavioural support and engaged support for learning) was evaluated using the CLASS‐Toddler observation instrument. The analyses were conducted with path models using a complex option. The results for Finland show that the engaged support for learning was positively associated with children's attention and inhibitory control, and emotional and behavioural support was positively associated with children's inhibitory control. For Portugal, engaged support for learning was positively associated with children's attention. The results aid in recognizing the characteristics of teacher support that is beneficial to the development of children's self‐regulation skills in two sociocultural contexts, hence being of relevance for teacher in‐ and pre‐service training.
Article
Full-text available
Ammatillisessa ja muussa julkisessa keskustelussa puhutaan yhä enemmän varhaiskasvatuksen pedagogiikasta tai varhaispedagogiikasta, mutta sen määrittelyyn on vaikeaa löytää ammatillisesta tai tieteellisestä kirjallisuudesta selkeää ja kokonaisvaltaista jäsennystä. Hirsjärvi, Remes & Sajavaara (2016) toteavat, että määritelmien avulla pyritään sanomaan, mitä käsitteellä tarkoitetaan ja näin rajaamaan ja täsmentämään terminologiaa. Määritelmällä pyritään siis kuvaamaan määriteltävän kohteen olennaisia piirteitä (Haaparanta & Niiniluoto 2016). Tämän kirjoituksen tavoitteena on selvittää, miten varhaiskasvatuksen pedagogiikkaa on määritelty suomalaisissa varhaiskasvatusta ohjaavissa asiakirjoissa sekä tieteellisessä ja ammatillisessa kirjallisuudessa. Lisäksi tavoitteena on muodostaa analyysiin perustuva ehdotus varhaiskasvatuksen pedagogiikan määrittelystä.
Article
Full-text available
This study examines the professional agency (PA) of mature students during accelerated early childhood teacher training at a Finnish university, with a particular focus on how the students perceived PA during work placements. It further examines the supporting and preventing factors affecting the students’ sense of agency. Data were analysed using thematic content analysis. The findings show that PA was perceived to be greater during the third placement than during the first. After the third placement and in the practice at the end of their studies, the mature student teachers perceived PA in terms of daily pedagogical practices, community, and motivation. The factors supporting the mature student teachers’ sense of PA were earlier qualifications and work experience, a confidential relationship with mentors, guidance practices, and reflection. The findings suggest that while work placements are useful learning environments for promoting the students’ sense of PA, universities should nevertheless develop guidance practices and tools for mature students.
Article
Full-text available
The knowledge that teachers hold about children’s learning is important to teachers’ practice. Few studies have examined how early childhood teachers use such knowledge during moment-to-moment instruction for language and literacy learning. This study employed a phenomenological approach to understand the knowledge that eight early childhood teachers used to inform their pedagogical reasoning during language and literacy activities. Stimulated recall interviews about practice were conducted with the prekindergarten teachers. Results indicated that the teachers used multiple sources of knowledge to inform their pedagogical reasoning that included: conceptions about how children learn; knowledge about specific children and the learning goals for these children; factors related to the school context; and ideas about themselves as teachers. The analyses revealed that the teachers’ various sources of knowledge functioned together to influence their enacted practice. Implications for professional learning and policy are discussed.
Article
This study explored nursery practitioners ‘slowed down’ documentary photography in everyday moments. The enquiry draws on Documentary Photography, Visual Sociology and Early Childhood and entails a novel application of the theoretical concept of ‘presence’ (Senge, P., C. O. Scharmer, J. Jaworski, and B. S. Flowers. 2008. Presence: Exploring Profound Change in People, Organizations and Society. Boston: Nicholas Brealey Publishing.). Naturalistic data collection techniques and thematic analysis were employed. An original application of ‘presence’ supported practitioners’ shared language and discursive resource for visual practice that invited questions; supported children’s sensemaking and mediation of relationships. This new theorisation and application of presence offers a ‘holding space’ for these activities and nuanced seeing anew. This creative disruption is significant in speeded-up educational contexts.
Article
Research about in-service teachers has shown that specific skills such as the skill to identify effective teaching interactions in others relates to the teachers’ skill to engage in effective classroom interactions related to student learning. This study aimed to examine the relationship between these skills for 130 preservice teachers in the final year of their program. Findings indicated that preservice teachers’ skill to identify effective teaching interactions in others related to the effectiveness of the emotional support and instructional support exhibited in their observed classroom interactions. In addition, the study investigated the relationship between these skills and the teacher program characteristics. This study provides further evidence that the skill of noticing effective teaching interactions in others is related to implementing one’s own effective classroom interactions. Thus, enhancing preservice teachers’ noticing skills serves as an important target for current and future teacher training.
Article
High-quality teacher–child relationships provide protective and supportive environments that provide social support for children to engage in curriculum and take risks that result in overall school success (Buyse, Verschueren, & Doumen, 2011; Pianta & Stuhlman, 2004). Teachers have the potential to use their relationship as a tool for helping children succeed in school (Birch & Ladd, 1997). Through training and awareness of specific beliefs, teachers would be more informed about what to focus on as they attempt to establish relationships with young children that support cognitive and emotional development, self-regulation, and school adjustment and social skills. Children, especially those at risk for developing poor-quality relationships with teachers, could benefit as teachers become more aware of the important connection between positive emotional climate and academic success.
Article
In this article, we focus on child perspective methodology when co-researching well-being with children and young people. The paper explores how to produce and analyse data produced with children and young people, and how to further develop the method of co-researching with them? We combined visual and verbal methods by using photo elicitation interviews (N = 16) and drawing group discussions (N = 49) to study the subjective well-being of 2–16-year-olds in their residential areas. We found out that by combining two methods it is possible to achieve a wider view of children’s subjective well-being. However, we must be aware that well-being is a complex entity and that there are barriers to use child perspective methods. Co-researching requires situationality, reciprocity and the researcher’s willingness to hear the perspectives of children.