Paraeducator Employment and Roles
Abbate-Vaughn, J. (2007). Paraprofessionals left behind? Urban paraprofessionals’ beliefs about their work in the midst of NCLB. Journal of Poverty, 11(4),k 143-164.
Paraprofessionals are often overlooked but key participants in the optimal functioning of schools. In light of the pending changes and increasing demands regarding paraprofessional qualifications stipulated by the No Child Left Behind Act, this pilot study focuses on paraprofessionals’ beliefs about their work in a diverse urban setting. The participants cite their own experiences with motherhood and insiders’ understanding of diverse communities as the most compelling skills they bring to their jobs. Implications for policy-making that address the worth of “life experiences” and cultural diversity as an asset for those who work in urban, highly diverse school settings are offered.
Allen M., & Ashbaker, B. Y. (2004). Strengthening schools: Involving paraprofessionals in crisis prevention and intervention. Intervention in School and Clinic, 39(3), 139-146.
Two important questions arise when creating a school crisis plan: (a) Who should be trained as part of the crisis team? and (b) What type of training will be the most effective and practical? The authors suggest that paraprofessionals are a valuable resource to consider for assisting with crisis prevention and intervention. Practical suggestions are made for preparing paraprofessionals to assist in this role.
Appl, D. (2006). First-year early childhood special education teachers and their assistants: “Teaching along with her.” Teaching Exceptional Children. 38, 34-40.
Ashbaker, B. Y., & Morgan J. (2006). Paraprofessionals in the classroom. Boston: Pearson/Allyn and Bacon.
Ashbaker B. & Morgan, J. (2000, January). Bilingual paraeducators: What we can learn from Rosa. NASSP Bulletin, 84(612), 53-56.
Hiring increasing numbers of paraeducators can provide additional learning support and a linguistic/cultural link to the community. However, such personnel may have frenetic schedules, responsibilities divided among several schools, and inadequate supervision and communication links. Recommendations for principals, teachers, and bilingual coordinators are provided. (MLH)
Ashbaker B.Y., & Morgan, J. (2001). Growing roles for teachers’ aides. Education Digest, 66(7), 60-65.
This article describes the development of and directions for using a 16-item screening tool designed to assist crossstakeholder school teams in determining the extent to Which they may be overreliant on special education paraprofessionals or using them inappropriately. The content of the tool is based on contemporary, descriptive research regarding paraprofessionals in inclusive schools. Additionally, the article describes the field-testing of the screening tool in 27 schools (Grades K—12) in six states. Findings suggest that all 16 screening items represent substantial concerns that interfere With the delivery of high-quality inclusive schooling. Implications for practice are discussed.
Bennett, M., Ng-Knight, T., Hayes, B. (2016). Autonomy-supportive teaching and its antecedents: differences between teachers and teaching assistants and the predictive role of perceived competence, European Journal of Psychology of Education, DOI 10.1007/s10212-016-0321-x.
Research predicated on self-determination theory (SDT) has established a positive relationship between autonomy-supportive teaching and a range of desired student outcomes. Therefore, the enhancement of autonomy-supportive teaching is a legitimate focus of efforts to improve student outcomes. In this study, we compared self-reported levels of autonomy-supportive teaching amongst different educational professionals and explored the relationships between four hypothesised antecedents of autonomy support: constraints at work, perceived competence for teaching, perceptions of students’ autonomous motivation towards school and autonomous motivation for teaching. Questionnaire data from 429 teachers and teaching assistants (TAs) working in schools in the United Kingdom (UK) revealed that teachers report significantly more autonomy-supportive teaching than do TAs. Structural equation modelling indicated that the more teachers feel competent, the more their teaching is autonomy-supportive. Amongst a range of other significant findings, teachers, but not TAs, who experience fewer constraints at work are more autonomously motivated towards teaching. The findings suggest that differences in autonomy-supportive teaching may account, at least in part, for the differential impact of teachers and TAs on academic progress as revealed by recent large-scale research in the UK. Furthermore, they identify social-contextual variables that should be considered when attempting to promote autonomy-supportive teaching and educators’ motivation towards teaching.
Benshoff J.J., Eckert, J.M., Riggar, T.F., & Taylor, D.W. (1995). Parameters of paraprofessionalism: Exploring the myths and realities associated with paraprofessionals in rehabilitation settings. Journal of Rehabilitation Administration, 19, 133-143.
Benshoff and others explore misconceptions about the inservice training needs, continuing education, supervision, and evaluation of rehabilitation paraprofessionals. A response by Emener draws distinctions between professionals and paraprofessionals. (SK)
Bernstorf, E. D. (2001). Paraprofessionals in music settings. Music Educators Journal, 87 (4), 36-40.
Focuses on using paraprofessionals to work with special needs students within the music education classroom. Discusses the types of paraprofessionals, ways of using paraprofessionals in a music setting, and how to include the paraprofessional by highlighting roles they can fill. (CMK)
Black S. (2002, May). Not just helping hands. American School Board Journal, 189(5), 42-44.
Based on recent research and data on paraprofessionals, this article describes the roles paraprofessionals play in schools and builds an argument for career ladders that help them become teachers. The number of paraprofessionals in public schools has grown faster than the number of teachers. When properly trained, supervised, and supported paraprofessionals can successfully contribute to student achievement and their work is an excellent training ground for future teachers. In fact many of them do want to become teachers but need support to enter school and complete their degrees. Research is cited that indicates paraprofessional career ladder programs are a good investment for schools districts and that paraprofessionals could help ease the current teacher shortage.
Blodgett E. G. & Miller, J.M. (1996). Speech-language paraprofessionals working in Kentucky Schools. Journal of Children’s Communication Development, 18(1), 65-79.
The roles of SLPs associated with a medical model have now shifted to a role more tailored for the educational model.
Brown, T. S. & Stanton-Chapman, T. L. (2014). Experiences of paraprofessionals in US preschool special education and general education classrooms. Journal of Research in Special Educational Needs, 17(1), 18-30.
A substantial challenge confronting public education systems across the world is the employment and retention of high-quality paraprofessionals (also known as teaching assistants and educational assistants). The current study expands upon previous research by employing a mixed methods design to examine the relationship between paraprofessionals’ perceptions of their responsibilities and the corresponding satisfaction and issues relating to their job in the USA. Analytic induction through the generation of themes was used to analyse the qualitative data and revealed that paraprofessionals perceive or demonstrate issues relating to three primary domains: confusion of responsibilities in different contexts, relational power dynamics between paraprofessionals and teachers, and satisfaction based on both monetary compensation and recognition. In addition to the qualitative findings, researchers designed the paraprofessional perception survey, a quantitative survey measuring the concept of paraprofessional perceptions relating to their job. Results from the survey analysis revealed similar findings across domains. Additional results, practice implications and directions for future research are discussed.
Brown L., Farrington, K., Ziegler, M., Knight, T., & Ross, C. (1999). Fewer paraprofessionals and more teachers and therapists in educational programs for students with significant disabilities. Journal of the Association for Persons with Severe Handicaps, 24(4), 249-252.
This article describes what other studies have found to be problems with the employment of paraeducators in educational settings. It also makes recommendations for eleven specific things that can be accomplished by paraeducators and recommends that we need to increase the number of paraeducators working in schools, not decrease them.
Bryan, R. B., McCubbin, J., & van der Mars, H. (2013). The ambiguous role of the paraeducator in the general physical education environment. Adapted Physical Activity Quarterly, 29, 164-183.
The use of paraeducators has increased as a main mechanism to include more students with disabilities in the public schools in the U.S. Although the utilization of paraeducators is intended to be a supportive service delivery option, many concerns and challenges have resulted. The purpose of this study was to examine the role of the paraeducator in the general physical education environment from the perspectives of special education, physical education, and adapted physical education teachers and paraeducators. Data were collected from a phenomenological approach using questionnaires, interviews, and observations. Results indicate concerns about the clarity of the role of the paraeducator in physical education. Emerging themes include elastic definitions of student protection and teacher backup, contradictory expectations and mixed acceptance, and paraeducators’ role ambiguity. Findings regarding the role of the paraeducator are essential in determining both best practice and legal policy for the appropriate utilization of paraeducators in physical education.
Butt, R. (2016). Employment procedures and practices challenge teacher assistants in mainstream schools. School Leadership & Management, 36(1), 63-79.
Reliance on teacher assistants (TAs) in mainstream schools to support students with disability and learning difficulties is an increasing trend in Australia. In 2011, over 80,000 TAs were employed costing approximately $3billion per annum [DEEWR. 2012. Job Outlook. Accessed June 2013. http://joboutlook.gov.au/default.aspx]. This paper reports on the employment procedures and practices that affect TAs working in four mainstream schools in Australia. Using data gathered from a qualitative case study conducted over three years, the study found that TAs and teachers have minimal understanding of the TA role. In addition, TAs have limited understanding of employer expectations, education department system policies, the TA career structure and school policies. Existing procedures and practices, both at the education department system level and at the individual school level, exclude TAs from accessing information afforded to other school staff. As a result, TAs work alone and often fail to provide effective support to both students and teachers. It is recommended that school leaders improve employment conditions for TAs at both system and school levels to ensure that students and teachers receive maximum benefit from employing TAs.
Butt, R. (2016). Teacher assistant support and deployment in mainstream schools. International Journal of Inclusive Education, 20(9), 995-1007.
Models of support for students with disability and learning difficulties in mainstream classes in Australia rely extensively on teacher assistants (TAs). Current models, however, inadvertently perpetuate low expectations because providing TA support can be one of the most restrictive supports offered in a school [Giangreco, M. F. 2010a. “One-to-One Paraprofessionals for Students with Disabilities in Inclusive Classrooms: Is Conventional Wisdom Wrong?” Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities 48 (1): 1–13; Etscheidt, S. 2005. “Paraprofessional Services for Students with Disabilities: A Legal Analysis of Issues.” Research and Practice for Persons with Severe Disabilities 30(2): 60–80]. In addition, the increasing instructional role of TAs in the classroom is concerning. Negative outcomes for students where TAs provide support have been noted [Giangreco, M. F., J. C. Suter, and M. B. Doyle. 2010. “Paraprofessionals in Inclusive Schools: A Review of Recent Research.” Journal of Educational and Psychological Consultation 20: 41–57; Webster, R., P. Blatchford, and A. Russell. 2010. “Should Teaching Assistants Have a Pedagogical Role? Lessons Following the DISS Project.” Paper Presented at the BERA annual conference, September 1–4, University of Warwick, UK]. A qualitative case study was conducted in an Australia city over three years across four primary school sites to identify the issues and propose possible solutions. The study identified five different models of TA support and deployment. It was found support models used in mainstream schools were generally inequitable – if students did not have a disability or learning difficulty they received instruction primarily from a qualified teacher, but if students had a disability or learning difficulty, they received instruction from a TA who may have had no qualifications, no involvement in planning, limited supervision and unclear reporting; and no clear duty statement requirements. A more inclusive and more equitable model of TA support is discussed.
Carter E. W., Sisco, L. G., & Lane, K. L. (2011). Paraprofessional perspectives on promoting self-determination among elementary and secondary students with severe disabilities. Research & Practice for Persons with Severe Disabilities, 36(1-2), 1-10.
Although paraprofessionals play a prominent role in the education of students with severe disabilities, little is known about the roles these school staff play in fostering self-determination. In this descriptive study, researchers examined the extent to which 347 paraprofessionals employed at 135 randomly selected schools (a) considered each of seven self-determination skills to be important instructional areas for the students with whom they work and (b) reported providing instruction to students in each of these skill areas. Although paraprofessionals generally attached high importance to these elements of self-determination, the extent to which they provided instruction was somewhat variable. Moreover, ratings of some self-determination elements differed based on the school level (i.e., elementary vs. secondary school) and educational setting (e.g., special vs. general education classroom) in which paraprofessionals provided support. Although paraprofessionals reported some familiarity with the overarching construct of self-determination, they infrequently received training on this domain. Recommendations for research and practice aimed at equipping paraprofessionals to support self-determination are provided.
Causton-Theoharis, J., Giangreco, M.F., Doyle, M.B., & Vadasy, P.F.(2007). Paraprofessionals: The “sous chefs” of literacy instruction. Teaching Exceptional Children 40(1), 56-62.
A primary responsibility of general and special educators is to teach students how to read. In inclusive classrooms, paraprofessionals are utilized frequently to support literacy instruction. Paraprofessionals can be employed to help improve reading skills of students with disabilities or those considered at-risk. In this article we outline commonalities from the body of literature where paraprofessionals were used to successfully improve the reading skills of students. These commonalities include: (a) paraprofessionals were used for supplemental, rather than primary instruction; (b) research-based reading approaches were used so that paraprofessionals were not inappropriately asked to make pedagogical decisions, © paraprofessionals were explicitly and extensively trained in the research-based reading approach; (d) paraprofessionals were explicitly trained in behavior management; and (e) teachers and special educators provided paraprofessionals with ongoing monitoring and feedback regarding their instruction. Each of these commonalities is addressed and other practical considerations are also shared and discussed.
Chopra R. V., Sandoval-Lucero, E., Aragon, L., Bernal, C., Berg de Balderas, H., & Carroll, D. The paraprofessional role of connector. Remedial and Special Education, 25(4), 219-231. PDF Document
This study revealed that close relationships between parents and a paraprofessionals and children and paraprofessionals. These relationships provided the basis for the paraprofessionals to act as connectors between parents and teachers, students and teachers, students and their parents, parents and community services. Paraprofessionals shared how they provided connections between the student and curriculum by using specific strategies aimed at helping students learn. The study also uncovered the barriers and factors that hamper or help the paraprofessional role as a connector. The findings present implications for future practice in terms of how schools can support and encourage this role towards improving everyday instructions for all students.
Clarke, E., Visser, J. (2017). How do teaching assistants view their role in managing behaviour and cultivate their learning and understanding in relation to managing behaviour? Teacher Education Advancement Network Journal, 9(1),66-79.
This paper will consider how teaching assistants’ (TAs’) roles are changing from the historical ‘mum’s army’ (Bach Kessler & Heron, 2006) of paint-pot washers, as some considered it pre-national curriculum, to the developing conception of the TA as a ‘paraprofessional’. Contemporary issues arising from the loosely defined current expectations of TAs’ wider pedagogical role will also be discussed. Consideration will be given to how and why managing behaviour has become an expectation and a necessity for TAs in their current deployment in schools, and why learning about managing behaviour differs for TAs and teachers. Additionally, the paper will reflect on the specific challenges facing TAs in managing behaviour. How TAs learn from each other in communities of practice, as well as from teachers and senior leaders, will be explored. Furthermore, how behaviour policies and policy implementation generally can influence TAs’ opportunities to promote their own learning will be reviewed.
Clayton, T. (1993). From domestic helper to “assistant teacher”: the changing role of the British classroom assistant. European Journal of Special Needs Education, 8(1), 32-44.
Since the implementation of the 1981 Education Act,Local Education Authorities (LEAs) in England and Wales have appointed greatly increased numbers of classroom assistants to help mainstream teachers with the education and management of pupils with special educational needs. Traditionally, these assistants undertook care and housekeeping duties but more recently their role has developed to include substantial involvement in the learning process itself, albeit under the supervision of the class teacher. This paper traces this role change, discusses the reasons for it as well as the implications. The need for clear job descriptions as well as adequate preparation, support and training of assistants, is highlighted with reference to recent research.
Cockroft C. & Atkinson, C. (2015). Using the wider pedagogical role model to establish learning support assistants’ views about facilitators and barriers to effective practice. Support for Learning, 30(2), 88-104.
This article reports on small-scale research exploring the views of learningsupport assistants (LSAs) about facilitators and barriers to effective prac-tice. A focus group was conveyed involving all the LSAs working in onemainstream primary school in the north-west of England and thematicanalysis was used to interrogate the resultant dataset. The Wider Peda-gogical Role (WPR) model (Webster et al., 2011) was used as a deductiveframework to conceptualise these ﬁndings under the headings of practice,deployment, conditions of employment, preparedness and characteristics.Findings revealed that LSAs could readily identify current facilitators andbarriers under each of the ﬁve components, highlighting the usefulness ofthe WPR model. Possibilities for future research, including the reﬁnementand further development of the WPR, are brieﬂy discussed.
Crosswait-Degen A., Larson, L. L., Marquiss, D., Wragge, M., Christensen, J. E. (1987, Fall). Suggestions regarding the training of speech-language pathologists as supervisors of supportive personnel. Rocky Mountain Journal, 12-15.
This review of the literature addresses the SLP role and the paraeducator’s role. The authors suggest training for SLPs to be supervisors, evaluation of supervisory performance, and minimal educational requirements of assistants.
Ferguson, M. (2014). Teacher aides: The fine art of balance. Kairaranga, 15(2), 56-63.
Teacher aides have been part of New Zealand classrooms for many decades. Initially, they were employed to perform clerical and supervisory duties that required no professional training, such as typing, duplicating and playground supervision. Over the years, however, their role has changed significantly. They now play a pivotal role as a ‘people resource’ in supporting the New Zealand Ministry of Education’s philosophy of inclusion.
Fletcher-Campbell, F. (1992). How can we use an extra pair of hands? British Journal of Special Education, 19(4), 141-143.
Based on research conducted by the National Foundation for Educational Research (United Kingdom), the author describes findings from their study and recommendations for effective practice. Findings reveal a great deal of variability among schools in the hiring, assigning and management of paraprofessionals. Lack of paraprofessional training appears to be the rule rather than the exception. Findings also identify limitations among classroom teachers in knowing how to use and supervise paraprofessionals effectively. Role confusion between classroom teachers and paraprofessionals are reported as a common issue. Recommendations for effective practice outline a variety of strategies to clarify the roles of paraprofessionals and classroom teachers. Training recommendations consider orientation and long- term needs of paraprofessionals. Policy recommendations include the establishment of meaningful school-wide processes to develop a written policy related to the role of paraprofessionals
Fisher M. & Pleasants, S. (2011). Roles, responsibilities, and concerns of paraeducators: Findings from a statewide survey. Remedial and Special Education.
The purpose of this survey study was to obtain descriptive information about job situations of special education paraeducators from paraeducators across one state and determine their perceptions regarding roles, current issues identified in the literature, and other issues of concern. Of particular interest was whether perceptions varied based on (a) paraeducator assignment (one-to-one or group) or (b) time in general education settings. More than 1,800 paraeducators responded. Findings supported previous studies based on smaller samples. Problematic issues previously associated with one-to-one paraeducators in general education settings were reported as concerns by both one-to-one and group paraeducators who spent all or most of their day in self-contained settings. Discussion centers on the importance of “paraeducator voice” in efforts to address broader issues of inclusive schooling, clarification of paraeducators as instructional team members, and better understandings situated in practice of the paraeducator role as an effective intervention alternative sometimes for students with individualized education programs.
French N.K., & Gerlach, K. (1999). Topic #1 Paraeducators: Who are they and what do they do? Teaching Exceptional Children, 32(1), 65-69.
This is the initial article in a new feature within the journal called “Paraeducator Supervision Notebook”. The feature is edited by Nancy K. French and Kent Gerlach. In this first topic the author addresses a series of foundational topics of interest to teachers by answering a variety of questions. These topical questions include: (1) What is a paraeducator? (2) How many paraeducators are there? (3) What background training do they have? (4) Who are the people who hold paraeducator positions? (5) What are typical characteristics of the people who work as paraeducators? (6) What do paraeducators do? (7) What does the presence of a paraeducator imply about my (teacher) role? (8) What advantage is there to employing paraeducators in special education? (9) What does this mean to your district? (10) What does this mean to you? (11) What can you do? (12) How can you get your questions answered? The article provides brief answers to these questions and incorporates contemporary issues such as inclusive education and changes in IDEA.
French N.K. (1999). Topic #2 Paraeducators and teachers: Shifting roles. Teaching Exceptional Children, 32(2), 69-73.
Explores the changing roles of both teachers and educators. Practical suggestions for educators and paraeducators in inclusive programs; Knowledge of the issues associated with the assignment of tasks to paraeducators; Three sets of considerations.
Gartner A., & Reissman, F. (1974). The paraprofessional movement in perspective. Personnel and Guidance Journal, 53, 253-256.
Provides a perspective on the paraprofessional movement in human services. Factors that contributed to the movement’s development; Movements and approaches to the utilization of paraprofessionals; Achievements and failures of the paraprofessional movement.
Ghere, G., & York-Barr, J. (2007). Paraprofessional turnover and retention in inclusive programs: Hidden costs and promising practices. Remedial and Special Education, 28(1), 21-32.
In recent years, education policies have focused on raising the standards for paraprofessional qualifications, supervision, and development. Given the increasingly problematic rates of paraprofessional turnover, focusing on the retention of effective paraprofessionals is of equal importance. In an effort to understand the reasons for and costs of turnover and to identify strategies that increase the likelihood of retention, 53 district and school employees from six schools in three school districts were interviewed. The findings indicated that the costs of turnover are felt at every level within a school district: central office, school, team, and student. Also suggested were strategies for increasing retention, including ensuring a threshold wage, focusing on job matching early in the employment process, providing ongoing support and direction, and developing a team culture in which paraprofessionals feel valued.
Giangreco M. F., Broer, S. M., & Suter, J. C. (2011). Guidelines for selecting alternatives to over reliance on paraprofessionals: Field-testing in inclusion-oriented schools. Remedial and Special Education, 32(1), 22-38.
This 5-year multisite mixed-methods evaluation study chronicles the field-testing of the planning process Guidelines for Selecting Alternatives to Overreliance on Paraprofessionals in 26 schools (Grades K—12) in six states. Evaluation of the utilization and outcomes of the guidelines process was based on data from 472 study participants. Findings highlight (a) reasons why schools decided to utilize the process; (b) self-assessment ratings, selected priorities, and actions pursued by the schools; © consumer feedback; and (d) the impact of the guidelines process in the schools. Primary areas of impact included changes in special educator caseloads and paraprofessional utilization, extension of inclusive opportunities, and improvement in classroom collaboration and practices. Implications for schools and future research are discussed.
Giangreco, M.F. Doyle, M.B., & Suter, J.C. (2011). Constructively responding to requests for paraprofessionals: We keep asking the wrong questions. Remedial and Special Education.
Paraprofessional utilization has steadily risen in an effort to meet the needs of students with disabilities in inclusion-oriented classrooms. To date, no widely accepted processes exist to assist schools in determining when the use of paraprofessional staff is warranted. Many schools have attempted to fill this void by developing local processes designed to justify paraprofessional assignment. This article describes how justification approaches to paraprofessional decision making operate from a reactive posture, include inherently problematic criteria, and perpetuate socially constructed myths that certain students need one-to-one paraprofessionals. An alternative framework for making decisions is offered through a series of school/district- and classroom/team-level concepts and corresponding actions that can be pursued in developing proactive processes and practices tailored to local contexts.
Gibson, D. Paatsch, L., Toe, D., Wells, M., & Rawolle, S. (2015). Teachers aides working in secondary school settings: Preparedness and professional learning. Journal of Education and Learning, 4(3), 71-87.
In Victoria, Australia teachers’ aides (TAs) are employed to provide support to students with disabilities in accessing their education. The role of the TAs varies within and across school settings. Drawing from the findings of a quantitative study, the purpose of this paper is to develop an understanding of teachers’ aides’ perceptions of their preparedness to perform 18 student-related tasks within the state secondary school setting in Victoria, Australia. In all, 163 participants completed the on-line questionnaire. The results of the study showed that that in general TAs perceive there are tasks relevant to their roles in supporting students with disabilities; and there are tasks that are not applicable to that role. The TAs in this study considered that they had training that enabled them to effectively perform the listed student related tasks to support students with disabilities in the secondary school environment.
Graves, S. (2013). New roles, old stereotypes – developing a school workforce in English schools. School Leadership and Management, 34(3), 255-268.
In this paper, the author explores the development of school staff who are employed to support pupils in the classroom, specifically the teaching assistant/higher level teaching assistant role. These roles have undergone considerable change following the introduction of Workforce Reform and Remodelling in English schools and the National Agreement. In practice, the introduction of this agreement into schools appears to have a powerful gendered aspect which limits choice and agency for individuals and prevents the development of a coherent workforce. I argue that the discourse of maternality within which the school support role has evolved supposes a level of self-sacrifice and conscientiousness which is gendered and conceals the exploitative nature of the role in terms of poor pay and career prospects. Furthermore, the growth of support staff in English schools to undertake roles previously assigned to teachers has had the effect of disaggregating and de-professionalising the teacher role and weakening the traditional job boundaries which defined the work of support staff.
Griffin-Shirley, N. & Matlock, D. (2004). Paraprofessionals speak out: A survey. Re:View: Rehabilitation and Education in Blindness and Visual Impairments, 36(3), 127-136.
A need for more personnel to teach students with disabilities resulted from the passage of Public Law 94-142, The Education for All Handicapped Children Act, which enabled those children to attend school in regular classrooms. Many schools solved their shortages of teaching personnel by hiring assistants, termed paraprofessionals, who were not certified special education teachers but would work under a supervising teacher. The authors review the legislation that affects these paraprofessionals and examine the findings of a survey conducted by the Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired that gathered information about paraprofessionals, including their salaries and work hours, their job descriptions, and their training. The paraprofessional will be even more important to special education in the future. Their training and educational achievements determine how beneficial they can be to children with visual impairments.
Hampden-Thompson, G., Diehl, J., & Kinukawa, A. (2007). Description and employment criteria of instructional paraprofessionals (No. NCES2007-008). Washington, DC: National Center for Educational Statistics.
This Issue Brief (1) offers a descriptive portrait of the distribution of instructional paraprofessionals in all public elementary and secondary schools by instructional responsibility and selected school characteristics and (2) examines the educational attainment criteria used by school districts in hiring these paraprofessionals. Data for this analysis were drawn from the 2003–04 Schools and Staffing Survey (SASS). The findings from this analysis indicate that 91 percent of public elementary and secondary schools in the United States had at least one instructional paraprofessional on staff in 2003–04. A greater percentage of traditional public schools than charter schools had instructional paraprofessionals and a greater percentage of elementary schools than secondary schools report having instructional paraprofessionals. Overall, 93 percent of schools were in districts that required paraprofessionals to have a high school diploma or the equivalent. The results also indicate that a greater percentage of Title I schools than non-Title I schools were in districts that required instructional paraprofessionals to have a high school diploma or the equivalent.
Harris, L. R., & Aprile, K. T. (2015). “I can sort of slot into many different roles”: Examining teacher aide roles and their implications for practice, School Leadership & Management, 35(2), 140-162.
This study utilised role theory to investigate teacher aide roles within regional schools in Queensland, Australia. Twenty primary schoolteacher aides were interviewed; data were triangulated with 27 teacher aides’ responses to a follow-up questionnaire and interviews with 6 administrative staff. Data suggest that classroom instructional support roles and small group instruction dominate teacher aide work; they also perform many non-instructional roles and work individually with students with diverse needs. School leaders must reconsider the roles expected of these professionals given their position, professional training and remuneration, better supporting teacher aides through improved communication, collaboration and sustained professional learning opportunities.
Harris, L. R., Davidson, C. R., & Aprile, K. T. (2015). Understanding teacher aides’ definitions of reading: Implications for classroom practice. The Australian Educational Researcher, 42(5), 627-644.
While teacher aides often provide individual and group reading instruction for at-risk readers, research suggests these interventions may not always bring about reading gains. This Australian study investigated upper primary school teacher aides’ definitions of reading, drawing on semi-structured interview responses and written definitions examined via categorical analysis. The analysis identified six categories classifying participant understandings: Translating, Making sense, Contextualising meaning, Generating an affective response, Using texts for practical purposes, and Growing as a person, with Making sense the most prevalent actual definition. Definitions did not include critical understandings of reading or digital reading practices. The study identifies that teacher aides require better conceptual understandings of reading, especially within upper primary or secondary contexts. However, if teacher aides are expected to obtain further educational credentials or professional learning, careful consideration is also needed about how these increased expectations should impact teacher aide status, working conditions, and remuneration in schools.
Hebdon, H. (2008). The use of one-on-one paraprofessionals in the classroom. Exceptional Parent, 38(3), 88-89.
Examples of this type of separation included the paraprofessional leaving the regular classroom a couple of minutes before the rest of the students to take the student with disabilities to the specialty classroom (e.g., art, music, physical education). The study suggested that different service strategies include: providing needed supports in general education classrooms; training and support for the teacher and students; and increasing the opportunities for students to use natural peer support.
Higgins, H. & Gulliford, A. (2014). Understanding teaching assistant self efficacy in role and in training: its susceptibility to influence. Educational Psychology in Practice: Theory, Research and Practice in Educational Psychology, 30(2), 120-138.
There has been a noted growth in the number of teaching assistants (TAs) in mainstream schools. Research is inconclusive about their efficacy at changing outcomes for children and has proposed more training for TAs. Generic training models have suggested that enhancing self-efficacy in turn improves performance. This exploratory study investigated factors that may influence TAs’ sense of self-efficacy and its susceptibility to influence in training. Following two modes of school-based training by educational psychologists (EPs) data were collected from 14 mainstream secondary school TAs using focus groups. A thematic analysis noted themes regarding self-efficacy, aligned with Bandura’s sources of information, outcome expectations and whole school support and norms. Review of the data from this study is likely to be able to guide potential trainers to coach-consult strategies which are self-efficacy supportive and which address contextual factors including the perceived status of TAs in schools.
Houssart, J. (2013). ‘“Give me a lesson and I’ll deliver it”: Teaching assistants’ experiences of leading primary mathematics lessons in England. Cambridge Journal of Education, 43(1), 1-16.
Teaching Assistants (TAs) in primary schools in England have a growing pedagogic role. For some, this sometimes includes responsibility for the whole class instead of the teacher. This article draws on 24 interview transcripts to examine the practice in the context of primary mathematics lessons and from TAs’ viewpoints. Emergency cover is often seen as reasonable where good working relationships exist. The practice of being regularly responsible for mathematics lessons evokes more diverse reactions. Some TAs initially appear to support the ‘official’ view that it is unproblematic to run a lesson from pre-prepared plans, though close inspection reveals a different picture. Others acknowledge that the interactions involved in such lessons are not necessarily susceptible to planning. The findings raise considerable doubt about current policy and question its presentation as a way to raise standards.
Howard, R. & Ford, J. (2007). The roles and responsibilities of teacher aides supporting students with special needs in secondary school settings. Australasian Journal of Special Education, 31(1), 25-43.
This study examined the perceptions of teacher aides regarding their roles and responsibilities in supporting senior students with special needs in mainstream secondary school settings. Fourteen teacher aides were interviewed using a semi-structured interview guide to determine their views regarding their roles and responsibilities, the challenges they faced, their relationships with parents, teachers and students, and their professional development needs. Findings from the study indicated that the participating teacher aides performed a variety of roles and that they often had a considerable degree of autonomy and responsibility in providing academic, social, and behavioural support to the students they served. Teacher aides reported that they were generally satisfied with their jobs and proud of their contributions and accomplishments. However their relationships with teaching staff were often challenging. Teacher aides also indicated that their roles and responsibilities were not clearly delineated, their professional status was not formally recognised, opportunities for advancement and professional development were limited, and that they received little systematic feedback and evaluation of their performance.
Hughes, M. T. & Valle-Riestra, D. M. (2008). Responsibilities, preparedness, and job satisfaction of paraprofessionals: Working with young children with disabilities. International Journal of Early Years Education, 16 (2), 163-173.
To support teachers with their classroom responsibilities, schools have increasingly turned to paraprofessionals for assistance, with the largest numbers of paraprofessionals employed in the field of special education. Owing to this important role that paraprofessionals now perform in the education of children with disabilities in the USA, we set out to investigate the responsibilities that paraprofessionals working with young children with disabilities had. We were also interested in identifying how paraprofessionals and the teachers with whom they work alongside perceived the paraprofessionals’ level of preparedness for their roles and their job satisfaction. Fifty-two paraprofessionals and 59 teachers of young children with disabilities participated in the study. Overall, both paraprofessionals and teachers indicated that paraprofessionals were generally well prepared for activities they frequently engaged in and both viewed themselves as collaborative members of an educational team.
Johnson M.M., Lasater, M.W., & Fitzgerald, M.M. (1997). Paraeducator: Not just an aide. Journal of Staff Development, 18(1), 6-11.
This article describes the authors’ suggestions for essential content of staff development for paraeducators. This content includes: (1) paraeducators’ roles and responsibilities, (2) learner characteristics, (3) data collection, (4) behavioral and instructional strategies, and (5) health-related issues. The authors also present a framework for planning professional development. They conclude with 10 recommendations: (1) communicate that paraeducators are valued and important to the instructional process; (2) incorporate the results of needs assessment; (3) provide ongoing responsive support; (4) include numerous opportunities for sharing, interacting, and problem solving; (5) allow for venting while ensuring refocusing and action; (6) build a solid knowledge base that reflects students’ needs/goals; (7) offer concrete tools to take back to the classroom; (8) offer practical alternatives for responding to implementation challenges, (9) provide opportunities to partner teachers and paraeducators to experience professional development together; and (10) celebrate paraeducators’ successes.
Jones C.R., Ratcliff, N.J., Sheehan, H,Hunt, G.H. (2011). An analysis of teachers’ and paraeducators’ roles and responsibilities with implications for professional development. Early Childhood Education Journal, 40(1), 19—24.
There is a lack of documented evidence related to the relationships existing between paraeducators and teachers working in early childhood classrooms. Based on a 2-year project with three phases of data collection, the authors explore the duties of paraeducators and their working relationships with the teachers with whom they team. Based on findings from the data collected, the authors make specific recommendations for targeted professional development that is designed to improve collaboration and skill sets for paraprofessionals within early childhood learning environments. The position taken is one that supports collaborative teamwork designed to maximize the learning of young children.
Lamont L. L…, & Hill, J. L. (1991). Roles and responsibilities of paraprofessionals in the regular elementary classroom. British Columbia Journal of Special Education, 15(1), 1-24.
This article report on a research study. A questionnaire asked regular education teachers and paraeducators about the actual, preferred, not appropriate and not applicable tasks paraeducators were performing in regular education classrooms where special education students were integrated. The study took place in 5 school districts in British Colombia. The participants’ responses were similar for actual and preferred tasks. Tasks listed as not appropriate were instructional in nature; those that were not applicable were in the area of personal care and assistance to students.
Lenski, S. D. (2006). Reflections on being biliterate: Lessons from paraprofessionals, Action in Teacher Education, 28, 104-113.
The purpose of this study is to examine the strengths that biliterate paraprofessionals bring to the teaching workforce. Paraprofessionals, such as teachers’ aides, are commonly used in classes for English-language learners. Because of the pending teacher shortage for English-language learners, a variety of teacher preparation programs have been developed to certify paraprofessionals as teachers. Little research, however, has been conducted about these programs or the teachers who are becoming certified in them. The participants of this study included 10 bilingual/bicultural paraprofessionals who were enrolled in the Bilingual Teacher Pathways program at a large western university. The data sources for this interpretive study were journal entries, interviews, class discussions, and memos. Data were primarily analyzed using the constant comparative method. The analysis of the data indicates that the biliterate paraprofessionals have unique strengths that fall into four categories: A personal understanding of cultural complexities, a learned knowledge of language systems, an ability to communicate with students and families, and a keen awareness of their responsibility as role models.
Lieberman, L. J. (2007). Paraeducators in physical education: A training guide to roles and responsibilities. Champaign IL: Human Kinetics. Publisher’s page.
Edited by College at Brockport faculty member Lauren J. Lieberman.Also includes a chapter by College at Brockport faculty member Douglas Collier: Positive methods for dealing with difficult behavior, and chaopters co-authored by College at Brockport alumni Rocco Aiello: Instruction strategies; and Carin Mulawka: Assessment.Paraeducators work in virtually every school—but until now, no systematic training program has existed to teach them how to work effectively with children in physical education settings. Paraeducators in Physical Education: A Training Guide to Roles and Responsibilities is a comprehensive yet easy-to-use training package for teachers, administrators, and paraeducators. This book and CD-ROM package puts everything you need at your fingertips for effective training from prekindergarten through high school settings for both general and adapted physical education. It presents thorough and practical information across a wide spectrum of issues, including the roles and responsibilities of paraeducators, providing for physical and emotional safety, dealing with difficult behavior, instructional strategies, assessment, and individualized education program (IEP) development. The CD-ROM includes seven PowerPoint presentations to guide training sessions along with easy-to-print handouts in the book to reinforce and extend paraeducators’ learning. This package is useful for in-service days, staff meetings, and independent study programs in school settings. It’s also applicable in college settings, where the material can be used in teaching paraeducators and training the trainers of preservice and in-service teachers.
Loschert K. (2003). No para left behind. NEA Today, 21(6). Reviews the NCLB legislation as it relates to paraeducators.
Lytle, R., Lieberman, L., & Aiello, R. (2007). Motivating paraeducators to be actively involved in physical education programs. The Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance, 78(4), 26-30.
Marian was a part-time paraeducator for Sara. Marian hated it when it was time to take Sara to physical education during third period. The smell of the locker room brought back bad memories of her physical education experience as a child. She never felt comfortable in the gym; there was nowhere to sit, and she did not want to sit on the cold gym fl oor in her dress and heels. When the class was held outdoors, she hated tromping through the wet grass in her good shoes. She enjoyed her job in the classroom working on reading and academics with Sara: this was her comfort zone. She disliked the dynamic environment and seeming chaos of physical education, where she never knew what to expect. The special education teacher was not familiar with physical education and often said, “Just make sure that Sara participates.” But what did that mean? The general physical education teacher seemed to be doing a good job: she was enthusiastic and kept the students engaged. However, the physical education teacher had a large class to attend to and very rarely spoke with Marian or Sara. They seemed to slip in and out with little notice.
MacVean, M.L., & Hall, L.J. (1997). The integration assistant: Benefits, challenges and recommendations. Australian Disability Review, 2/97, 3-9.
This article summarizes the “opinion and experiences of the authors” (p. 4) based on their close working relationship with the Essex Heights Primary School in Melbourne, Australia. This school “has along history of integration and inclusion” (p 4). In 1996 this school had 714 students, 38 of whom had disabilities (about 5%). They employed 21 “integration assistants” and two “integration teachers” (p. 5). The authors discuss benefits primarily related to teamwork and mutual support among team members. Challenges included time limitations for effective teamwork, planning and evaluation as well as the need for adequate training for all team members. The authors offer a series of recommendations for integration assistants (e.g., advocating for children’s independence; assist children to be socially accepted and to have fun with peers; be patient, caring, encouraging and accepting of children’s rights).
Miramontes O. B., Nadeau, A., Commins, N. L. (1997). Restructuring Schools for Linguistic Diversity . New York: Teacher’s College Press.
This article has implications for paraeducator role in bilingual classroom. The authors state that the primary language plays an important role in developing deeper understandings of a topic – as in social studies concepts, which may be taught in English. The native-language paraeducator can play important role here helping to deepen the students understanding of a topic by having conversation with them in their native language. The article recommends cross-grade groupings and specifies that when paraeducators take a group, their instruction must be directly coordinated and supervised by certificated licensed teachers.
Morgan J., Ashbaker, B.Y., & Forbush, D. (2000, November/December). Special helpers. American School Board Journal, 187(1), 54-56.
This article describes the experience of one school district in Idaho and how they implemented an on the job training initiative for paraeducators that included job descriptions and roles and responsibilities of teachers in supporting and evaluating paraeducators. The implementation process is described and goals to establish certification and increased compensation for training are discussed.
Paoni M. F., Wise, S. P., Marshall, M. & Kelly, R. (1996). Classroom Aide-Teacher Relationships. NASP Communiqué. p. 22.
The authors discuss the role of the school psychologist around classroom aide-teacher issues. They are involved in selection, orientation and on the job training of aides. They assist aides in developing skills in behavioral observation. They work with aides to make certain that intervention plans are implemented correctly and monitored on a regular basis. They also help to expand the roles of aides (e.g. through participating in behavior management plans or home-school communication strategies).
Palladino P., Cornoldi, C., Vianello, R., Scruggs, T. & Mastropieri (1999). Paraprofessionals in Italy: Perspectives from an inclusive country. Journal of the Association for Persons with Severe Handicaps, 24(4), 253-256.
Since 1977, Italy has largely eliminated special schools and special classes in favor of neighborhood school placements where students with disabilities are served primarily in general education classes. Overall class sizes are small and caseloads ofspecial education teachers are very favorable (about two students with disabilities for each special education teacher). Because ofthese factors, it was thought that attitudes toward the role of paraprofessionals in Italian schools would differ from those toward paraprofessionals in the United States, where many paraprofessionals take on a more independent role in inclusive classrooms. In this discussion article, we suggest that the role of paraprofessionals might be viewed differently in Italy than in the United States, and that these differences may reflect differing levels of available support for inclusive classrooms.
Patterson, K.B. (2006). Roles and responsibilities of paraprofessionals: In their own words. TEACHING Exceptional Children Plus, 2(5).
This study focused on the perceptions of paraprofessionals regarding the roles they fulfill while working with children with disabilities in special education and inclusive settings. Students were in grades K-12 and represented a range of disability categories (e.g.,autism spectrum disorders, serious emotional disturbance, development disabilities, and learning disabilities). Twenty-two paraprofessionals were interviewed using a semi structured interview guide to establish their understanding of their roles, responsibilities, teacher expectations, training needs, and challenges they experienced while working with others. Findings from this study indicate that paraprofessionals tend to assume high levels of responsibility for managing the academic and behavioral needs for all students. This article addresses ways to improve our own practices in how we work with paraprofessionals
Pickett A.L. (1989). Restructuring the schools: The role of paraprofessionals. Washington D. C.: Center for Policy Research, National Governor’s Association.
Nationwide there is a growing recognition of the roles of paraeducators as integral members of the instructional process, and the need to develop standards and systems for improving the employment, performance, and preparation of the paraeducator workforce. There are several inter-related reasons for the growing interest in paraeducator issues. In this article, we are focusing on two of the most important issues. The first is the new dimensions that have been added over the last two decades to the traditionally recognized roles and functions of teachers. The second is the provisions contained in two federal legislative actions. The No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) of 2001, which amended the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), includes several sections that impact on paraeducator employment, training, and supervision in Title I. In addition, amendments to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 1997 (IDEA) require states to develop policies and standards to ensure that paraeducators are appropriately trained and supervised. Both of these factors have shaped the evolution in the roles, supervision, and preparation of paraeducators who work in early childhood education; elementary, middle, and secondary inclusive general and special education classrooms; Title 1; multi-lingual; and other compensatory programs provided by local education agencies (LEAs) nationwide.
Pickett A. L. (2003). Paraeducators in educational settings: Framing the issues. In A. L. Pickett & K. Gerlach (Eds.) Supervising paraeducators in educational settings: A team approach (2 nd ed.) (pp. 1-44). Austin, TX: PRO-ED.
An introduction to the book that recounts the history of the use of paraeducators in education. The editor also summarizes current issues surrounding the employment and training of paraeducators.
Pickett A. L., Likins, M., & Wallace, T. (2003). The employment and preparation of paraeducators, the state of the art – 2003. Utah: The National Resource Center for Paraprofessionals.
A review of literature on the current issues facing the field of education regarding the employment, training, preparation, and career development of paraeducators.
Pickett A. L., Vasa, S. F., & Steckelberg, A.L. (1993). Using paraeducators effectively in the classroom. Bloomington, IN: Phi Delta Kappa Foundation.
Paraprofessionals in education have become specialists, who are more accurately described as paraeducators. Paraeducators work alongside their professional colleagues and participate in the delivery of instruction and related services. This pamphlet provides information about strategies that can improve the deployment, supervision, and training of paraeducators. The pamphlet describes the role of district-level personnel, principals, and teachers in establishing paraeducator programs; clarifies the role of the paraeducator and the supervising teacher; provides a sample paraeducator job description; offers suggestions on daily supervision of the paraeducator; outlines important lesson plan components; provides a list of self-evaluation questions for the paraeducator; offers guidelines for training paraeducators through orientation, inservice training, and on-the-job training; and discusses evaluating paraeducator performance and evaluating teacher supervision of paraeducator performance. The pamphlet concludes with a list of five suggested readings. (JDD)
Piletic, C., Davis, R., & Aschemeier, A. (2005). Paraeducators in physical education. Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance, 76(5), 47-55.
Paraeducators have long been employed in the classroom, but their services have not yet been fully put to use in the gymnasium. With the ever-increasing number of physically and mentally challenged students enrolled in general education classes, paraeducators are becoming an essential part of any physical education class. This article explores the various uses of a paraeducator in the gymnasium and explains how they can best aid physical educators. The authors stress that the working relationship between paraeducators and physical educators must include much discussion and clearly defined expectations
Radaszewski-Byrne M. (1997). Issues in the development of guidelines for the preparation and use of speech-language paraprofessionals and their SL supervisors working in education settings. Journal of Children’s Communication Development, 18(1), 5-22.
Reviews the preparation, use, supervision, and qualifications of speech-language (SL) paraprofessionals and their SL supervisors working in educational settings. Identifies ongoing issues that have been barriers to the development of national and state guidelines for SL paraprofessional use and supervision and discusses current issues promoting the development of such guidelines. Offers recommendations. (Author/DB)
Radford J., Bosanquet, P., Webster, R., & Blatchford, P. (2015). Scaffolding learning for indepedence: Clarifying teacher and teacher assistant roles for children with special educational needs. Learning and instruction, 36, 1-10.
Support for children with special educational needs (SEN) in inclusive classrooms, in many countries, continues to be provided by teaching assistants (TAs). Whilst they frequently take responsibility for instruction, they are rarely adequately trained and prepared. As TAs have ample opportunities for individualised and group interactions, this paper recommends scaffolding as the key theory to inform their practice. From a large dataset of interactions in mathematics and literacy lessons, episodes of TA scaffolding were selected. Using conversation analysis, three scaffolding roles emerged: 1) a support role that maintained learner engagement, on-task behaviour and motivation; 2) a repair function that focused on learning and fostered independence when children were in difficulty; and c) a heuristic role that encouraged students to use their own learning strategies. The paper concludes with implications for trainers and managers and how teachers can support TAs in implementing each role.
Radford J., Blachford, P., & Webster, R. (2011). Opening up and closing down: How teachers and TAs manage turn-taking, topic and repair in mathematics lessons. Learning and Instruction.
Support for children with special educational needs in inclusive classrooms is increasingly provided by teaching assistants (TAs). They often have a direct pedagogical role, taking responsibility for instruction in mathematics. The quality of TAs’ oral skills is crucial for learning but has rarely been researched. Using conversation analysis, this study compares teacher and TA talk in terms of turn allocation, topic generation and repair. From 130 recordings, transcripts of mathematics teaching in four lessons were analysed in depth. We found that teachers open up students whilst TAs close down the talk. Teachers, with whole classes, adopt inclusive teaching strategies to ensure oral participation whereas TAs, working with individuals, emphasise task completion. Teachers use open strategies for topic generation whilst TAs ask closed questions. Teachers withhold correction with prompts and hints whilst TAs supply answers. The findings are interpreted with reference to the TA role and implications for management and training.
Radford, J. Bosanquet, P., Webster, R., Blatchford, P. & Rubie-Davies, C. (2013). Fostering learner independence through heuristic scaffolding: A valuable role for teaching assistants. International Journal of Educational Research, 63, 116-126.
Teaching assistants currently play a key pedagogical role in supporting learners with special educational needs. Their practice is primarily oral, involving verbal differentiation of teacher talk or printed materials. In order to help students think for themselves, this paper argues that their practice should be informed by heuristic scaffolding. A substantial dataset from three teaching assistant projects was scrutinised for examples of heuristics. Using conversation analysis, the paper shows how assistance is negotiated and adjusted over a sequence of discourse. Four patterns of heuristic scaffolding are shown: heuristic modelling represents the highest level of support; heuristic questioning and prompting are jointly negotiated with the student. Self-scaffolding by students shows them taking responsibility for their own learning strategies. Implications for the school system are explored.
Reissman F. (1984). Paraprofessionals: Twenty years later. Social Policy, 14, 39.
Rogan, P., & Held, M. (1999). Paraprofessionals in job coach roles. The Journal of the Association for Persons with Severe Handicaps, 19, 32-42.
This article makes recommendations for recruitment and retention of paraeducators for job coach positions. The authors suggest that programs develop accurate job descriptions, proactively recruit desired personnel, and conduct relevant interviews. Furthermore they recommend that programs invest in retention efforts including ongoing professional development opportunities, increasing pay for experience, credentials, and performance, and providing systems of support. The article also identifies some problems with job coaches in work places and discusses specialist vs. generalist roles.
Rose R. (2000). Using classroom support in the primary school: A single case study. British Journal of Special Education, 27(4), 191-196.
A study involving 10 British teachers and 6 primary students with disabilities found the teachers saw the provision of learning support assistants as a critical factor in enabling students to be included in classroom activities. The importance of teamwork and effective communication was seen as essential.
Rueda R. & DeNeve, C.E. (1999). How paraeducators build cultural bridges in diverse classrooms. Community Circle of Caring Journal, 23, 53-55.
In their efforts to accommodate cultural diversity in the classroom, schools have taken a variety of approaches – few of them ideal. In this article, the authors examine how educators can use the “funds of knowledge” available in culturally diverse families and communities to build bridges between the home cultures of students and the cultures of their schools. The student population of American public schools is rapidly becoming more culturally diverse – not in just a few states or in large urban school districts, but on a national scale. The evidence of this can be seen in the increasing number of public school students using English as a second language. Although the general school population in the United States increased only slightly between 1985 and 1992, the number of students acquiring English as a second language grew from fewer than 1.5 million to almost 2.7 million in that same time frame (Goldenberg, 1996). While diversity in the classroom is not troubling by itself ‹ and can, in fact, enrich the learning environment ‹ it is too often associated with low academic achievement. According to Kao and Tienda (1995) achievement differences in all academic areas between whites and Latino students appear early and persist throughout their school careers. How can schools accommodate diversity in such a way that they “level the playing field” for all children, regardless of cultural differences?
Rueda, R., & Genzuk, M. (2007). Sociocultural scaffolding as a means towards academic self-regulation: Paraeducators as cultural brokers. Focus on Exceptional Children, 40(3), 1-8.
In seeking ways to address issues in diverse classrooms, the authors have focused their recent work on paraeducators. The nation’s nearly 500,000 paraeducators working in K-12 classrooms embody a potential source of prospective instructors for the nation’s diverse student population in both special and general education. Paraeducators are school employees whose responsibilities are instructional in nature or who deliver other services to students, working under the supervision of teachers or other professional personnel who have the ultimate responsibility for educational programs. The authors are currently engaged in research examining the instructional activities of Latino paraeducators in classrooms with English language learners. The initial findings of their research reveal that many paraeducators are assigned low-level activities and are given little freedom in terms of instructional activities. While paraeducators do not have the formal training and credentials that teachers do, they do have contributions to make to diverse classrooms. The authors contend that teachers should consider carefully the role of paraeducators in their classrooms and to evaluate whether there are better ways to incorporate and build on this resource.
Rueda, R., Monzo, L. D., & Higareda, I. (2004). Appropriating the sociocultural resources of Latino paraeducators for effective instruction with Latino students: Promise and problems. Urban Education, 39(1), 52-90.
This article examines the sociocultural scaffolding practices of 24 Latino paraeducators and 8 former Latino paraeducators (who had recently become teachers) as they worked with Latino students in two large urban schools. Instances were observed in which participants used important funds of knowledge in their interactions with students during instruction, in informal contexts, and in the case of the current paraeducators to inform the teachers with whom they worked in the community. Unfortunately, use of sociocultural scaffolding was scarce, nonstrategic, and not directly tied to instruction. We argue that under ideal instructional conditions, this knowledge should be fostered, used strategically, and appropriated more systematically.
Shyman, E (2010). Identifying predictors of emotional exhaustion among special education paraeducators: A preliminary investigation. Psychology in the Schools, 47(8), 828-841.
The purpose of this preliminary study was to identify predictors of emotional exhaustion among special education paraeducators. A sample of 100 paraeducators in public and specialized alter-native setting schools was used to determine whether self-reported levels of emotional exhaustion and other job-related factors were reported. Using hierarchical regression analysis, the researche rinvestigated whether predictors of emotional exhaustion could be determined. Results indicated that a notable level of emotional exhaustion was reported among the sample and that role conflict, emotional demand, sense of efficacy, and supervisor support were significant predictors of emotional exhaustion. The results of this study are intended to be used to guide future studies to further investigate this topic.
Singh P. (2000). Local and official forms of symbolic control: An Australian case study of the pedagogic work of para-educational personnel. International Journal of Inclusive Education, 4(1), 3-21.
In this paper an analysis is undertaken of the accounts of pedagogic work provided by para-educational personnel working in two government-funded schools situated in a low socio-economic area of an Australian city. Specifically, the paper examines the accounts of two para-educational personnel who identified as Samoan/Pacific Islander and worked to improve the educational outcomes of students from the local Samoan/Pacific Islander community. It is argued that the pedagogic work of para-educational personnel may play an important role in redistributing discursive (informational) resources transmitted through schooling institutions. However, the positioning of para-educational personnel in the field of the local community and the field of education regulates the form/modality of pedagogic work, that is, what is taught and how it is taught. Moreover, the content and form of pedagogic work has the potential for realising inclusive and/or exclusive relations for students from disadvantaged backgrounds.
Stephenson, J. & Carter, M. (2014). The work of teacher aides in Australia: An analysis of job advertisements. International Journal of Special Education, 29(3), 1-9.
Although teacher aides are often employed in schools to provide support for students with disabilities and special education needs, there is limited Australian research on their work and employer expectations. This article provides an analysis of advertisements for teacher aide positions, and compares the content of advertisements with role statements and teacher aide reports of their work. Employment for teacher aides is likely to be casual and short-term and qualifications are rarely required. A very wide range of criteria was identified and the most frequently mentioned criterion was generic, such as the ability to work in a team. Criteria relating to the actual work aides report they perform or to education department role statements were less frequent. Concern is expressed about the effects of generally poorly defined roles, the lack of required qualifications and the precarious nature of many positions on the education of students with special education needs.
Takala, M. (2007). The work of classroom assistants in special and mainstream education in Finland. British Journal of Special Education, 34(1), 50-57.
The contribution of teaching assistants, learning support assistants or classroom assistants is becoming increasingly important in inclusive and specialist classrooms. In this article, Marjatta Takala, professor in special education at the University of Helsinki, describes her research into the work of 14 classroom assistants working in a mix of mainstream and special schools in Helsinki, Finland. The results reveal that the tasks undertaken by assistants are different in mainstream and specialist settings and vary also according to the ages of the children involved. The assistants spent more of their time, for example, working directly with children if they worked in mainstream schools. Assistants in special schools, by comparison, spent more time assisting the teacher. Further, assistants working among older children spent more time waiting or simply listening to the lesson than those working with younger children, who seemed to be more actively involved with supporting learning. Marjatta Takala analyses her results by the full range of tasks encountered; according to three broad types of work; and in terms of the planning and co-operation undertaken by assistants and teachers at the class level. Her discussion will be of interest to anyone concerned with the development of support in the classroom and the education of both teachers and teaching assistants.
Tillery C. Y., Werts, M. G., Roark, R., & Harris, S. (2003). Perceptions of paraeducators on job retention. Teacher Education and Special Education, 26 (2), 118-127.
The authors suggest that factors that are pertinent to teacher retention and attrition may also apply to paraeducators. These include burnout as related to low pay, lack of training, lack of support from parents, stress, student discipline problems, inadequate and insufficient materials, lack of administrative support, lack of influence over school policies and practices, and ambiguity of role definition.
Trent J. (2014). ‘I’m teaching, but I’m not really a teacher’. Teaching assistants and the construction of professional identities in Hong Kong schools, Educational Research, 56(1), 28-47.
Background: In the past decade, educational settings worldwide have experienced a significant increase in the number of school-based teaching assistants (TAs). The deployment of these TAs has been accompanied by reports of confusion and uncertainty about their roles and responsibilities within schools. While the need to reframe the role and purpose of TAs is recognised, it remains unclear how this can be best achieved.
Turner D. J. & Grotzky, M.E. (1995). They teach too: A role for paraprofessionals in library instruction. Reference Librarian, 51-52, 181-193.
Describes the use of paraprofessional library staff at Aurora Library (Colorado) to teach part of the bibliographic instruction sessions. Highlights include strategic planning, revising the library instruction program to incorporate reduction and still meet the students’ educational needs, staff attitudes, and program evaluation and changes. (LRW)
U.S. Department of Education (1997). Roles for education paraprofessionals in effective schools: An idea book. Washington, DC: Author.
Educational paraprofessionals can provide strong, multidimensional support for students’ academic success. The first part of this book presents information on roles for education paraprofessionals in effective schools, focusing on the history of paraprofessionals as multifaceted members of the schools staff, the work of paraprofessionals, how to assess whether paraprofessionals can help, and elements of good paraprofessional practice. The second part offers an overview of 15 effective programs nationwide that employ paraprofessionals. The programs include: early childhood education, Title I instruction, Head Start, parent participation, school employee effectiveness training, site-based management, career development, and bilingual pupil services. The third part of the book profiles the 15 effective programs in detail. The three appendixes present listings of paraprofessional job titles and descriptions, profile sites and contacts, and information on Federal student aid programs. (Contains 25 references.) (SM)
Uta, M. W. & Petr, C. G. (2006). Lessons from the research on paraprofessionals for attendant care in children’s mental health. Community Mental Health Journal, 42(5), 459-475.
This article summarizes literature about paraprofessionals who assist children or families in the areas of mental health, education, or early childhood education, and focuses on three main questions: How effective are paraprofessionals?; what are the common and appropriate roles and responsibilities of paraprofessionals?; and what qualifications, training, and supervision are needed for paraprofessionals? Implications are inferred for a burgeoning new form of paraprofessional services: attendant care in community based mental health services for children. Lessons from existing literature can help mental health administrators and clinical supervisors at state and local levels to select, train, supervise, and evaluate attendant care workers.
Wallace, T. (2004). Paraprofessionals in schools. Journal of Special Education Leadership, 17 (1), 46-61.
- The role of paraprofessionals in education has evolved over the past 50 years from assistance with clerical tasks toward more instructional tasks.
- The contemporary role reflects changes in educational practices, evolution of teachers’ roles, shifts in legislation and policy, and shortages of qualified teachers.
- There are varying levels required for certification of paraprofessionals, often dependent on specific job responsibilities.
- Despite recognition of the importance of training, many local and state education agencies do not provide sufficient preservice or inservice training opportunities.
Wasburn-Moses, L., Chun, E., & Kaldenberg, E. (2013). Paraprofessional roles in an adolescent reading program: Lessons learned. American Secondary Education, 41(3), 34-49.
Paraprofessionals are critical to special education service delivery in inclusive classrooms where they are used to support teachers in reading instruction. This qualitative case study examines the use of paraprofessionals in reading instruction in an adolescent reading program. The study focuses on their roles, training, and the feedback provided. Triangulation of data was achieved through the use of document analysis, direct observation, and interviews with the paraprofessionals, supervising teachers, and the school principal. Findings indicated a need for clarification of paraprofessional roles, individualized training and feedback, and shared planning. Attention to these issues is critical in an era of shifting service delivery models.
Watson Bayliss, P., & Pratchett. (2011). Pond life that ‘know their place’: exploring teaching and learning support assistants’ experiences through positioning theory. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education.
Teaching and learning support assistants (TLSAs) are notoriously underpaid and undervalued as members of school workforces in England and elsewhere in the world, where the discourse of support has worked to legitimize their poor status. This article reports and explores empirical findings through the lens of positioning theory. This theoretical approach has revealed ways in which the positions occupied by TLSAs are consolidated in social acts and discursive practices that contribute to a narrative that is shared and understood by those positioned and those positioning. The multiplicity of, and sometimes competing, positions occupied by TLSAs are revealed through different readings of the collective storylines of pond life and knowing one’s place that determine a set of social and occupational practices. These serve to illustrate the discursive fights TLSAs were engaged in to assert their professionalism in schools and to challenge their low status.
Webster, R. (2014). 2014 Code of practice: How research evidence on the role and impact of teaching assistants can inform professional practice. Educational Psychology in Practice: Theory, Research and Practice in Educational Psychology, 30(3), 232-237.
In this article, the author reflects on findings from research on the role and impact of teaching assistants and experience of working as a special educational needs (SEN) officer. Research evidence suggests the reliance on teaching assistants to include pupils with Statements of SEN in mainstream settings masks a collective, though unintentional, failure of educationalists to articulate and provide schools and families of children with SEN with appropriate and pedagogically sound models of inclusive provision. In light of the forthcoming reforms to the SEN system in England, key implications for educational psychologists (EPs) are drawn out, with particular reference to their role in parent liaison during the statutory assessment process.
Webster, R., & Blatchford, P. (2013). The educational experiences of pupils with a statement for special educational needs in mainstream primary schools: Results from a systematic observation study. European Journal of Special Needs Education, 28(4), 463-479.
Findings from the Deployment and Impact of Support Staff project showed that day-to-day support for pupils with special education needs (SEN) in mainstream UK schools is often provided by teaching assistants (TAs), instead of teachers. This arrangement is the main explanation for other results from the project, which found TA support had a more profound, negative impact on the academic progress of pupils with SEN than pupils without SEN. There is, however, surprisingly little systematic information on the overall support and interactions experienced by pupils with the highest levels of SEN attending mainstream schools (e.g. those with Statements). The Making a Statement project was designed to provide such a picture in state-funded primary schools in England (e.g. schools attended by children aged between five and 11). Extensive systematic observations were conducted of 48 pupils with Statements and 151 average-attaining ‘control’ pupils. Data collected over 2011/12 involved researchers shadowing pupils in Year 5 (nine- and 10-year olds) over one week each. The results, reported here, show that the educational experiences of pupils with Statements is strongly characterised by a high degree of separation from the classroom, their teacher and peers. A clear point to emerge was the intimate connection between TAs and the locations, in and away from the classroom, in which pupils with Statements are taught. The currency of Statements – a set number of hours of TA support – is identified as key factor in why provision leads to these arrangements, and appears to get in the way of schools thinking through appropriate pedagogies for pupils with the most pronounced learning difficulties.