Paraeducators and Collaboration

Abbott E.A. (2013). Perspectives of paraeducators on collaboration in music therapy sessions. Canadian Journal of Music Therapy, 19(1), 47-65.

Twenty paraeducators who worked in a suburban special education center with two music therapists participated in focus-group interviews that explored their perspectives on the music therapy sessions in which they assisted. The paraeducators defined collaboration and described their own and the music therapists’ contributions to the music therapy sessions as well as the learning that they and the music therapists received from one another. Qualitative analysis of the interview transcripts showed that these paraeducators clearly differentiated between the expertise that they and the music therapists contributed to the music therapy sessions and that role clarity, mutual learning, and respect were keys to their successful collaborative relationshp with the music therapists.

Battaglia E., & Brooks, K. (2019). Strategies for co-teaching and teacher collaborations. Science Scope; Washington, 43(2), 80-83.

Students with complex special needs are frequently placed in mainstream science classes. The students are often several grade levels below their classmates in reading, and are in the class with little or no support. Sometimes the special education teacher or a paraeducator (teacher assistant) is in the classroom, but due to a lack of science content knowledge he or she spends the class period in the back of the room taking notes or assisting the special education students alone. However, the talents of that person can be put to much better use.

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)

Bouchard, M., & Stegemoller, J. W. (2019). Tools to support collaboration in educating emergent multilingual students: jumpstart and electronic performance log. i.e.:inquiry in education, 11(2), 1-21.

Teaching English language learners, referred to as emergent multilingual students here, is a complex endeavor including ESL and bilingual teachers, content teachers, and paraeducators, among others, for example special education teachers and reading specialists, to name a few. As a result, the Illinois State Board of Education’s (ISBE) guidance for the development of ESL and bilingual education stresses that “intentional and consistent collaboration between all teachers and school personnel serving English learners is a vital component to all effective English learner programs” (ISBE, 2016b). To achieve this level of concerted collaboration within ESL education, ISBE’s guidance suggests that educators utilize technology to remove barriers to collaboration and to increase the potential to crowdsource expertise. A 2016 report titled The Collaboration Imperative (ISBE, 2016a), written by ESL and bilingual education experts to advise the Illinois State Superintendent of Education, singles out ineffective collaboration among teachers and other stakeholders as a significant challenge to educating emergent multilingual students. To increase the effectiveness of instruction for emergent multilingual students, the ISBE report recommends the creation of digital communities of practice to increase quality collaboration at the district level. This paper provides an example of tools that can be used to increase not only collaboration but also the effectiveness of the role of paraeducators in educating emergent multilingual students.

Cipriano C., Barnes, T.N., Bertoli, M.C., Flynn, L.M., & Rivers, S.E. (2016). There’s no “I” in team: Building a framework for teacher-paraeducator interactions in self-contained special education classrooms. Journal of Classroom Interaction, 51(2), 4-19.

Students educated in self-contained special education classrooms and the teachers who serve them are in crisis. Self-contained classrooms are separate from general education classrooms and may be resource classrooms housed within general education schools or separate schools or districts serving primarily students with disabilities. Underresearched and excluded from most large-scale efficacy and response to intervention (RTI) trials, students in self-contained classrooms make little progress academically and behaviorally (Lane, Wehby, Little, & Cooley, 2005; Siperstein, Wiley, & Forness, 2011). These outcomes are poorest among the approximately 362,000 students in American public schools who are categorized as having an emotional and/or behavioral disorder (EBD; US Department of Education, 2015). Students with EBD face many academic and behavioral challenges in schools including school failure, a higher likelihood of conflict with peers and school personnel, and the highest drop-out rates among students in both general and special education settings (Wynne, Ausikatis, & Satchwell, 2013). Our interest is in improving outcomes for students in these restrictive educational settings (i.e., classrooms, schools, or facilities serving students with disabilities in settings separate from their nondisabled peers).

Coleman M.B., Cramer, E.S., Park, Y., Bell, S.M. (2015). Art educators’ use of adaptations, assistive technology, and special education supports for students with physical, visual, severe and multiple disabilities. Journal of Developmental and Physical Disabilities, 27(5), 637-660.

The purpose of this study was to examine art educators’ use of adaptations, including assistive technology, and their reported supports from special education personnel to meet the needs of students with physical, sensory, severe, and multiple disabilities in the art classroom. Seventy-seven P-12 art teachers responded to an online survey items consisting of perceived knowledge and preparedness and strategies and resources, including assistive technology, used in the art classroom. Results showed that (a) neither years of teaching experience nor number of students with disabilities taught were related to frequency of use of assistive technology; (b) respondents agreed/strongly agreed that it is important for students with significant disabilities to participate in artmaking (96 %); (c) in response to a list of assistive technology devices, over half reported using most of them rarely or never. Those most commonly reported were large-handled writing or painting tools, adapted scissors, and devices for stabilization; and (d) one-fourth of the respondents reported “never” working collaboratively with a special education teacher and most reported collaboration happens only “sometimes.” Findings suggest the need for more preservice and inservice preparation for art teachers to most effectively engage students with significant disabilities as well as more preparation for special education teachers and paraeducators in both collaboration and specific assistive technology expertise.

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.

Gosselin, K. S., Sundeen, T. H. (2019). Supporting literacy instruction for students with extensive support needs in rural settings through collaboration: so much better when we work together! Rural Special Education Quarterly, 38(1), 53-64.

The roles of teachers and related service providers (e.g., speech-language pathologists, occupational therapists, physical therapists) are vital to skill acquisition and meaningful access to the general education curriculum for students who have been identified as having significant or extensive support needs. However, often delivery of instruction can become fragmented and disjointed as time for service providers to collaborate with team members is limited in rural schools. As a result, students with more extensive support needs may not receive adequate access to systemic and meaningful literacy instruction. This article will identify the obstacles as well as three strategies special education teams can use to improve communication and collaboration.

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.

Kurth J.A., Keegan, L. (2014). Development and use of curricular adaptations for students receiving special education services. The Journal of Special Education, 48(3), 191-203.

This study is a quasi-experimental descriptive design, with existing educator-made adaptations evaluated. The goals of this study were to (a) describe how educators develop adaptations and (b) evaluate the effectiveness of educator-made adaptations in facilitating the learning of students with disabilities. Findings suggest that (a) most adaptations were made in core general education classes; (b) experienced educators created more simplified curricular adaptations, whereas novice educators created more functional alternative adaptations; (c) educators are generally satisfied with the adaptation they have created and believe it was effective in teaching the student; (d) educators spent on average 59.1 min creating the adaptation; (e) educators in rural areas and novice educators provided adaptations that were rated lower in quality and clarity than experienced and urban educators; and (f) general education teachers provided adaptations that were of lower quality and clarity than special education teachers and paraeducators. Recommendations for practice are provided.

Lambert J.M., Lopano, S.E., Noel, C.R. & Ritchie, M.N. (2017). Teacher-conducted, latency-based functional analysis as basis for individualized levels system in a classroom setting. Behavioral Analyses in Practice. 10(4), 422-426.

Latency-based functional analysis (FA) may be appropriate when stakeholders are concerned with safety or feasibility. We trained a first-year special education teacher to collect data while she implemented a latency-based FA and validated a function-based intervention. Treatment effects were generalized across paraeducators and were maintained during a 1-month follow-up.

Lane, K. L., Oakes, W. P., Royer, D. J. (2019). Using the schoolwide expectations survey for specific settings to build expectation matrices. Remedial and Special Education, 40(1), 51-62.

Schoolwide expectations are a critical component of tiered systems of support, particularly when established with input from faculty and staff and then taught to all students. The expectation matrices depicting these expectations for all key settings serve as important instructional tools when teaching schoolwide expectations. In this study, we examined psychometric properties of the Schoolwide Expectations Survey for Specific Settings (SESSS)—a measure designed to assist school teams in K-12 settings constructing schoolwide expectations for seven school settings with input from all faculty and staff—with results indicating strong internal consistency of items. These settings are classrooms, hallways, cafeterias, playgrounds, restrooms, buses, and arrival/dismissal. In addition, we examined the degree to which adults in elementary, middle, and high school converged and diverged in their expectations for each setting. Using mixed-effects modeling for nested data, we found some expectations varied among school levels in some noninstructional settings. We conclude with limitations and future directions.

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.

Manz P.H. Power, T.J., Ginsburg-Block, M., Dowrick, P.W. (2010). Community paraeducators: a partnership-directed approach for preparing and sustaining the involvement of community members in inner-city schools. School Community Journal, 20(1), 55-80.

Inner-city schools located in high poverty communities often operate with insufficient resources to meet the educational needs of students. Community residents serving as paraeducators offer the dual benefits of expanding instructional capacity and fostering family-school relationships, provided they are appropriately prepared and incorporated with professional staff. This paper introduces a community partnership model for preparing members of the local community to serve as paraeducators and for fostering their working partnerships with professional school staff. A theoretical rationale demonstrating the significance of this model for students from low-income and ethnic minority backgrounds is presented, and key elements in establishing it are discussed. The application of the community partnership model for preparing paraeducators is illustrated through a case example, the Reading Partners program. Future directions to empirically advance the community partnership model are presented. (Contains 1 figure and 1 table.)

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.

Miller, A., Lieberman, L., Lane, K., Owens, R. (2019). Preparing your paraeducator for success. Journal of Physical Education, Recreation and Dance, 90(5), 47-51, DOI: 10.1080/07303084.2019.1583026.

This article provides a handout that promotes communication between general physical education teachers and the paraeducators that they work with.

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.

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

Morrison H. J. & Gleddie, D. (2019). Playing on the same team: collaboration between teachers and educational assistants for inclusive physical education. Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance, 90(8), 34-41, DOI: 10.1080/07303084.2019.1644257

Together, teachers and educational assistants have an opportunity to ensure physical education (PE) is inclusive, accessible, and meaningful to all students. This article discusses collaboration for teaching inclusive PE (IPE), where students with disabilities participate within the context of the general PE environment with their peers. With the diversity we see in practitioners’ backgrounds, school contexts, and student populations, it can be difficult for them to “get on the same page” and work together without having a strategic plan. This article highlights a process for collaboration and suggests tasks for teachers and educational assistants to implement to achieve a collaborative approach to teaching and planning for IPE. It is essential for teachers and educational assistants to work through this plan and create an inclusive environment together to ensure appropriate and meaningful opportunities of IPE are being facilitated for students with disabilities. Specifically, this article discusses ways for teachers to better connect and work collaboratively with educational assistants in the IPE environment. Teachers and educational assistants can ensure the best IPE experiences by (1) starting the conversation, (2) unpacking experiences, (3) setting expectations, (4) discussing students, (5) planning for success, (6) pursuing professional development, and (7) engaging in collaborative reflection. Make time to communicate, build a relationship, support each other, and plan for successful IPE.

Nguyen O. (2015). Reaching out: extending collaboration and training to paraeducators. Revista Cientifica Hermes, 13(13), 180-200.

In the United States, special education paraeducators constitute a population of educators that provide integral services to our students with special needs. This population of educators is historically and currently poorly trained and supervised; yet, they work with the most challenging conditions and student population. Existing literature has unveiled a dismal state where the paraeducators job demands are increasing while their training and support remain relatively stagnant. An area where research has not highlighted as thoroughly is the impact of the dysfunctional, hierarchical system in which paraeducators operate. In essence, paraeducators are victims of a dysfunctional system that leaves them stagnant in their learning and in a position of marginalization. To begin including and valuing these individuals and thus improving our schools, practitioners must go back to the basics and increase the extent in which we demonstrate our appreciation of paraeducators by acknowledging and including them in more collaborative relationships and providing adequate training.

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.

Peltier C., Vannest, K.J. (2017). Using the concrete representational abstract (CRA) instructional framework for mathematics with students with emotional and behavioral disorders. Preventing School Failure: Alternative Education for Children and Youth, 62(2), 73-82.

Mr. Buxton is a perplexed elementary mathematics teacher. He co-teaches a second-grade classroom, with Ms. Snyder. In their classroom they have 25 students; five are identified as academically at risk, and three receive special education services. In the past Mr. Buxton successfully used an instructional approach consisting of (a) modeling, (b) guided practice, (c) independent practice, and (d) formative assessment. Currently, students are struggling to subtract two- and three-digit numbers requiring regrouping. The co-teacher, Ms. Snyder, suggests that the students need more visuals and concrete examples during instruction.

Mrs. Zampelli teaches third grade in a general education classroom. She has support from the special education teacher and a paraeducator who provide consultation and instructional coaching. Of the 18 students in her class, nine have Individual Education Programs. The special education teacher, Mr. Ortiz, provides great suggestions to make learning “hands-on.” However, the concept of fractions and specifically comparing fractions with like numerators or denominators causes problems every year. Both teachers emphasize multiple representations (e.g., fraction cubes, fraction circles, fraction bars, number lines) of the concepts. Students are able to solve problems when working with manipulatives but struggle to solve problems in the abstract. Leading teammates suggest a more structured framework for incorporating manipulatives and representations.

Staples, K. (2013). Paraeducators transition from silent partners to collaborators with science teachers in urban middle schools. Journal of Science Education for Students with Disabilities, 17(1).

Within middle school classrooms a diverse body of students require specialized instruction and science teachers with unique abilities to implement a reform-based science curriculum. To achieve the goal of success for all, students who are English language learners and with exceptionalities, such as learning disabilities, and emotional and behavioral disorders, are often assigned paraeducators to support science learning. However, professional development often focuses on immersing paraeducators through a broad model of curricular modifications and general support strategies. This study reports findings of a three-year professional development project for middle level science teachers and paraeducators designed to increase science conceptual understanding and inquiry skills development. The overarching goals were to: 1) increase middle level science teachers ability to explain science concepts, and 2) develop paraeducator’s ability to directly assist in delivering inquiry-based science for students with Individualized Educational Plans identified with learning disabilities and emotional and behavioral disorders. A total of 13 science teachers collaborated with 11 paraeducators to identify practices impeding reform-based science instruction, address misconceptions, and modify delivery of instruction and assessment. The model for collaborating with science teachers enabled paraprofessionals to experience science as inquiry and expand their understanding of the vital role paraeducators have in supporting science learning. This mixed methods research design utilized data collected from the STEBI-A [and modified version for paraeducators], RTOP, and reflective journals to determine project impact. Analyses of the data reveal change in conceptual understanding, perceptions, and methodologies by which teachers and paraeducators collaborate to implement science instruction. The model demonstrates strategies for shifting the paradigm of paraeducators as silent partners to active participants in teaching inquiry-based science in middle schools.