Measuring Quality: Interactions

At the heart of every classroom lies the strength of a teacher’s interactions with students.

Female preschool teacher reading a story to children while an observer watches.

Measuring the Quality of Teacher-Child Interactions

Children who experience high-quality teacher-child interactions show higher levels of social-emotional and academic development. With this in mind, AEII aims to observe and understand the effectiveness of interactions in each publicly funded birth-to-five classroom, using a standardized, research-based observation protocol called the Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS®).

Observing Classrooms with CLASS®

The CLASS® is an observational tool designed to measure teacher-student interactions. It has been validated in thousands of classrooms, and is widely used around the state of Virginia, the US, and other parts of the world. Because the CLASS® offers a valid, reliable window into the critical interactions children experience within preschool classrooms, these observations are central to the quality improvement efforts in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Using the CLASS®, AEII is able to assess three key domains of teacher-child interactions – Emotional Support, Classroom Organization, and Instructional Support.

CLASS dimensions appear as hexagons in honeycomb-like arrangement


Three Key Domains

Emotional Support

How teachers help children develop positive relationships, enjoyment of learning, comfort in the classroom, and appropriate levels of independence.

Classroom Organization

How teachers help children develop skills to regulate their own behavior, get the most learning out of each school day, and maintain interest in learning activities.

Instructional Support

How teachers promote children’s thinking and problem solving, use feedback to deepen understanding of content, and help children develop more complex language skills.

The Observation Process

As part of the new unified measurement and improvement system, or VQB5, all publicly funded early childhood classrooms are observed twice a year by a local observer using the Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS®). AEII will conduct external CLASS® observations in a subset of these classrooms each year. The external observations provide additional feedback to teachers, as well as information for leaders to evaluate the local observation scores. Within each CLASS® domain, teacher-child interactions are rated on a series of dimensions, such as positive climate. Each dimension is rated on a 1-7 scale, with higher scores reflecting higher quality interactions. The 7-point scale translates into three categories of quality (low, mid, and high), and scores are reported at the dimension and the broader domain level.


The Classroom Observers

External classroom observations are conducted by a certified CLASS® observer who is external to the program and has no relationship to the school or classroom of focus. This ensures the observer’s ability to remain objective during the observation and rating process. In addition, external observers participate in regular trainings to maintain their observation skills. These requirements ensure external classroom observations are standardized and conducted with high-quality data integrity.

Tools and Resource Quick Links

For Conducting CLASS Observations

Helpful resources to understand CLASS® and engage in local and external observations

For Providing Effective Feedback

Ways to provide feedback that supports teacher engagement and reflection

Related Webinars

Check out our AEII webinar session focused on the CLASS® observation and feedback process