Paraeducators and Collaboration

Biggs E. E., Gilson, C. B., & Carter, E. W. (2016). Accomplishing more together: Influences to the quality of professional relationships between special educators and paraprofessionals, Research and Practice for Persons with Severe Disabilities, 41(4), 256-272.

Fostering and maintaining strong collaborative relationships are critically important for paraprofessionals and special education teachers working together to provide a high-quality education for students with severe disabilities. Through in-depth interviews with 22 teachers and paraprofessionals comprising nine educational teams, we examined educator perspectives on what influences the quality of their professional relationships, as well as how their perspectives on these influences converged or diverged. Teachers and paraprofessionals identified five themes of influences to the quality of their relationships: teacher influences, paraprofessional influences, shared influences (i.e., related to the collective efforts of teachers and paraprofessionals), administrative influences (i.e., related to school and district leaders), and underlying influences (i.e., related to contextual or other factors). The findings highlight the complex nature of these relationships and emphasize the importance of supporting teachers and paraprofessionals as they work together to meet the needs of students with severe disabilities. We offer recommendations for future research and practice aimed at strengthening the quality and impact of special educator–paraprofessional collaborations.

Blalock G. (1991). Paraprofessionals: Critical team members in our special education programs. Intervention in School and Clinic, 26(4), 200-214.

The article reviews the use of paraprofessionals in special education programs and offers specific guidance on hiring (including preemployment orientation, vocational assessment, and interviewing); training and supervision (including roles and responsibilities, the importance of regular cooperative planning, and enhancing job status); and resources for training. (DB)

Cremin, H., Thomas, G., & Vincett, K. (2005). Working with teaching assistants: Three models evaluated. Research Papers in Education, 20(4), 413-432.

Questions about how best to deploy teaching assistants (TAs) are particularly opposite given the greatly increasing numbers of TAs in British schools and given findings about the difficulty effecting adult teamwork in classrooms. In six classrooms, three models of team organization and planning for the work of teaching assistants – “room management”, “zoning” and “reflective teamwork” – were evaluated using a repeated measures design for their effects on children’s engagement. Detailed interview feedback was also gained from participating teachers and assistants about the perceived benefits of each model and possible adaptations to the models for future classroom use. All three models were found to effect significant improvements in engagement in all of the classrooms, and each was evaluated positively by participants, with useful commentary concerning adaptation.

Daniels V.I. & McBride, A. (2001). Paraeducators as critical team members: Redefining roles and responsibilities. NASSP Bulletin (85) 623, 66-74.

This article is a review of literature the literature on paraeducators as team members and teacher-paraeducator collaboration. It is written from the perspective of what principals need to know about paraeducators as team members.

Demchak M. A. & Morgan, C.R. (1998). Effective collaboration between professionals and paraprofessionals. Rural Special Education Quarterly, 17 (1), 10-15.

This article provides information about the roles of team members. It provides a table that differentiates between the duties and responsibilities of general education teachers, special education teachers and paraeducators who work together in teams to serve the needs of children with disabilities.

Devecchi C. & Rouse, M. (2010). An exploration of the features of effective collaboration between teachers and teaching assistants in secondary schools. Support for Learning, 25(2), 91-99.

This article explores notions of support and collaboration between teachers and teaching assistants (TAs) in two secondary schools in England. In particular it reviews how team members created opportunities and established collaborative practices aimed at including each other in the task of providing support for children who are described as having difficulties in learning. The data from the ethnographic study, which were collected through a variety of methods and were generated with the support and participation of teachers, heads of departments, special educational needs co-ordinators (SENCOs) and teaching assistants, suggest that the successful inclusion of students is dependent on how schools as organisations and communities are able to support the inclusion of adults as well.

Hauge, J.M. & Babkie, A.M. (2006). Develop collaborative special educator-paraprofessional teams: One paraeducator’s view. Intervention in School and Clinic, 42 (1), 51-53.

Special educators and the paraprofessionals with whom they work need to establish and maintain a collaborative relationship to better serve the children assigned to them. In this article, one paraprofessional recommends what special educators can do to make the most of these working relationships. The ideas reflect her experience working as a one-on-one and a general inclusion para in resource and inclusive settings.

Logan A. (2001). Collaboration between teachers and special needs assistants in mainstream primary schools. REACH Journal of Special Needs Education in Ireland, 15(1), 33-42.

The author describes a trend that has emerged in Ireland following the enactment of their 1998 Education Act, namely an increase in the number of resource teachers and the number of special needs assistants. She reports that, “ in March 2001, the Minister for Education and Science announced that over the previous two years the number of resource teachers has risen from less than 300 to 750 and that the number of special needs assistants had increased from 299 to 1750” (p. 33). Due to the lack of research data in Ireland about these issues she discusses research from Britain. The remainder of the article address: (1) changing roles (from care and housekeeping to instruction); (2) supporting the pupil, teacher and school; (3) working collaboratively; (4) communication; (5) joint planning and evaluation, (6) clarity in role definition, (7) management implications, and (8) joint training.

McGrath, M.Z., Johns, B.H., & Mathur, S.R. (2010). Empowered or overpowered? Strategies for working effectively with paraprofessionals. Beyond Behavior, 19(2), 2-6.

Across the nation, special educators are the most thinly stretched professional educators, and they do need carefully designed support from paraprofessionals. Giangreco and Broer (2009) reported that assigning paraprofessionals either to classrooms or to individual children with disabilities has become a growing model of providing services to students with disabilities. Although the paraprofessional is defined as an individual who assists with the delivery of services and acts under the direction of licensed staff, interestingly, research indicates that paraprofessionals report that they have more responsibility than is appropriate and that they do not receive adequate guidance. When faced with challenges from paraprofessionals in communication, student and parent relationships, and program operation, special educators may be at a loss as to what to say or do. In this article, the authors present 10 questions that teachers working with paraprofessionals may ask. Since capable teachers experience challenges of various kinds when working with various paraprofessionals, the authors offer supportive suggestions for dealing with any of the 10 “how” and “what” questions. They also present a chart that summarizes the 10 challenges special education teachers face in working with paraprofessionals and possible solutions to those challenges.

Morgan J., & Ashbaker, B.Y. (2001). 20 ways to work more effectively with your paraeducator. Intervention in School and Clinic, 36(4), 230-231.

Miramontes O. B. (1990). Organizing for effective paraprofessional services in special education: A multilingual / multiethnic instructional service team model. Remedial and Special Education, 12(1), 29-36.

The author recommends joint training for MMIS team members specifically on issues of 2nd language acquisition and its affect on learning, how to interpret and administer tests that are written in one language and translated to another, and information on how to strengthen school-community relations. The article emphasizes team collaboration to solve many problems associated with translators and second language programming for students.

Palma G. M. (1994). Toward a positive and effective teacher and paraprofessional relationship. Rural Special Education Quarterly, 13(4), 46-48.

Discusses importance of paraprofessionals in rural special education. Suggests that positive teacher-paraprofessional relationships are obtained through valuing each other’s respective roles; giving credit where due; involving paraprofessionals in planning and decision making; showing paraprofessionals the why as well as the how of lessons; providing instructions using we and us, instead of you; providing verbal and nonverbal feedback.