Paraeducators and Students
Amendum, S. J., Liebfreund, M. D. (2019). Situated learning, professional development and early reading intervention: a mixed methods study. Joournal of Education Research, DOI: 10.1080/00220671.2018.1523782.
The purpose of the present mixed methods study was to investigate a model of situated professional development and classroom-based early reading intervention implemented by the K–2 teaching teams from one school in a large urban/suburban school district in the southeastern United States. Twenty-nine teachers participated along with 125 students (74 intervention, 51 comparison). Student-level data sources included letter-word identification, word attack, spelling of sounds, and passage comprehension measures. Teacher-level data sources included semistructured interviews with each teacher, planning/recording documents, and pre/post questionnaires to gather information about teachers’ self-efficacy and demographics. The main conclusions were the following: (a) struggling readers eligible for intervention made significant gains, (b) struggling readers eligible for intervention made significantly greater gains than their nonstruggling peers did, (c) teachers’ reflections on the intervention and the situated professional development were generally positive, and (d) teachers’ self-efficacy for instructional strategies positively changed across the year.
Azad G. F., Locke, J., Downey, M. M., Xie, M., & Mandell, D. S. (2015). One-to-one assistant engagement in Autism support classrooms. Teacher Education and Special Education, 38(4) 337-346.
Classroom assistants and one-to-one assistants are an important part of the staffing structure of many autism support classrooms. Limited studies, however, have examined how one-to-one assistants spend their time in the classroom. The purpose of this article was to examine the percentage of time one-to-one assistants were engaged in instruction or support of students with autism and to determine the factors associated with their engagement. Direct observations were conducted in 46 autism support classrooms. Teachers and classroom assistants were engaged in instruction or support 98% and 91% of the time, respectively. One-to-one assistants were engaged in instruction or support 57% of the time. Classroom assistants’ and oneto-one assistants’ engagement was significantly correlated. The low rate of one-to-one assistants’ engagement suggests an inefficient use of an important resource.
Barnes T.N., Cipriano, C., Flynn, L., Rivers, S.E., & Xu, W (2018). Validating the recognizing excellence in learning and teaching (RELATE) tool for special education classrooms. Jouornal of Experimental Education, DOI: 10.1080/00220973.2018.1465383
We created the Recognizing Excellence in Learning and Teaching (RELATE) Tool for Special Education Classroom Observation to fill the need for a well-researched, observational tool that provides a more accurate lens for observing instructional and social processes in the self-contained, special education setting. In this study, we examined the factor structure, descriptive, and psychometric properties of the RELATE Tool using 47 special education classrooms. The results of the descriptive statistics, exploratory factor analysis, and generalizability and decision studies suggest that the tool’s reliability and validity are promising. We suggest modifications to one component of the tool to improve its psychometric properties.
Bingham G. E., Hall-Kenyon, K., Culatta, B. (2010). Systematic and engaging early literacy: Examining the effects of paraeducator implemented early literacy. Communication Disorders Quarterly.
This study examined the effect of explicit and engaging supplemental early literacy instruction on at-risk kindergarten children’s literacy development. Sixty-three kindergarten-aged children who had been ranked in the lowest 20th percentile on basic literacy skills participated in this study (38 treatment). Results reveal that children who received engaging and explicit supplemental instruction from a paraeducator performed significantly better on rhyming, alliteration, letter knowledge, letter-sound association, spelling, and blending tasks than children who received one-on-one instruction through a tutoring program. Findings highlight the important role that paraeducators can play in implementing explicit and engaging literacy curriculum that positively affects children’s development of early literacy skills.
Blatchford P., Bassett, P., Brown, P., Martin, C., Russell, A., & Webster, R. (2011). The impact of support staff on pupils’ “positive approaches to learning” and their academic progress. British Educational Research Journal, 37(3), 443-464.
In recent years there has been an unprecedented increase in support staff in schools in England and Wales. There were widespread expectations that this will be of benefit to teachers and pupils but there has been little systematic research to address the impact of support staff. This study used a naturalistic longitudinal design to investigate the relationship between the amount of support (measured by teacher estimates and systematic observation) and pupils’ ‘Positive Approaches to Learning’ (PAL) and academic progress. There were over 8000 pupils across two cohorts and seven age groups. Results on PAL were not straightforward by there was a consistent trend for those with most support to make less academic progress than similar pupils with less support, and this was not explained by characteristics of the pupils such as prior attainment or level of special educational need.
Blatchford P., Russell, A., & Webster, R. (2011). Reassessing the impact of teaching assistants: How research challenges practice and policy. London: Routledge.
_Over the last decade, teaching assistants (TAs) have become an established part of everyday classroom life. TAs are often used by schools to help low-attaining pupils and those with special educational needs. Yet despite the huge rise in the number of TAs working in UK classrooms, very little is known about their impact on pupils.
This key and timely text examines the impact of TAs on pupils’ learning and behaviour, and on teachers and teaching. The authors present the provocative findings from the ground-breaking and seminal Deployment and Impact of Support Staff (DISS) project. This was the largest, most in-depth study ever to be carried out in this field. It critically examined the effect of TA support on the academic progress of 8,200 pupils, made extensive observations of nearly 700 pupils and over 100 TAs, and collected data from over 17,800 questionnaire responses and interviews with over 470 school staff and pupils.
This book reveals the extent to which the pupils in most need are let down by current classroom practice. The authors present a robust challenge to the current widespread practices concerning TA preparation, deployment and practice, structured around a conceptually and empirically strong explanatory framework. The authors go on to show how schools need to change if they are to realise the potential of TAs.
With serious implications not just for classroom practice, but also whole-school, local authority and government policy, this will be an indispensable text for primary, secondary and special schools, senior management teams, those involved in teacher training and professional development, policy-makers and academics._
Blatchford, P., Bassett, P., Brown, P., & Webster, R. (2009). The effect of support staff on pupil engagement and individual attention. British Educational Research Journal, 35(5), 661-686.
Despite an unprecedented increase in classroom-based support staff, there are confusing messages about their appropriate deployment and a lack of systematic evidence on their impact. This article addresses the deployment and impact on pupil engagement and individual attention of support staff, commonly known as teaching assistants (TAs), in terms of: (1) a comparison between TAs and teachers; (2) differences between pupils with and without special educational needs (SEN); and (3) differences between primary and secondary schools. Systematic observations of pupil behaviour in 49 primary and secondary schools showed that support staff presence resulted in increased individualisation of attention and overall teaching, easier classroom control, and that pupils showed more engagement and a more active role in interaction with adults. This supports teachers’ positive view of support staff, but their presence also meant pupils’ contact with teachers declined and at secondary level there was less individual and active interactions between teachers and pupils.
Boomer L. W. (1994). The utilization of paraprofessionals in programs for students with autism. Focus On Autistic Behavior, 9(2), 1-9.
This article points out that paraprofessionals have been involved in serving students with disabilities for nearly two centuries (documented since the work of Itard). It traces some of the historical changes in the roles of paraprofessionals to the present day. The article describes three roles of paraprofessionals, particularly as they relate to students with disabilities. These include the paraprofessional as: (a) “Data Manager”, (b) “Integration Facilitator”, and © “Functional Skills Facilitator”. Secondly, the article discusses three “current myths regarding the roles and responsibilities of paraprofessionals in light of changing service delivery systems” (p.2). These myths are identified as: Myth 1: “Students with autism require constant, one-to-one supervision by a paraprofessional” Myth 2: “Paraprofessionals should be able to work independently” Myth 3: “The paraprofessional will make the special education teacher’s job easier”
Bosanquet, P., Redford, J. (2018). Teaching assistant and pupil interactions: The role of repair and topic management in scaffolding learning. British Journal of Educational Psychology. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1111/bjep.12231.
Teaching assistants (TAs) (also known as paraprofessionals or teacher aides) are present in schools in England in large numbers. They spend extensive time with pupils at risk of losing academic ground and those with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) (Blatchford, Russell, & Webster, 2012). TAs becoming responsible for the education of the most vulnerable pupils are being increasingly seen across the world, for example in the United States, Finland, Australia, and Ireland (Giangreco, Doyle, & Suter, 2013; Webster & Blatchford, 2013). However, this is reported to have the effect of separating these pupils from the teacher and quantitative research has raised serious questions as to the overall impact of TA support on pupil progress, showing that there is a negative relationship between the numbers of hours of TA support and the progress of supported pupils in maths, English, and science (Blatchford et al., 2012).
Broer S. M., Doyle, M. B., & Giangreco, M. F. (2005) Perspectives of students with intellectual disabilities about their experiences with paraprofessional support. Exceptional Children, 71(4), 415-430.
This article report on a research study that interviewed young adults about their perception of the paraeducator support they had received while in high school. The study found that paraeducators were viewed both positively and negatively in four roles: (1) mother; (2) friend; (3) protector from bullying; and (4) primary teacher. The authors state that each role is a cause for concern and they provide recommendations for schools to minimize these effects increasing teacher involvement, listening to students with disabilities and including them more in decisions about their support needs.
Byers-Kirsch, J. (2009, March). Idaho’s design for paraeducator effectiveness. The School Administrator, 66(3), 40-41.
Cardinal, J. R., Gabrielsen, T. P., Young, E. L. (2017). Discrete trial teaching interventions for students with autism: web-based video modeling for paraprofessionals. Journal of Special Education Technology, 32(3), 138-148.
Delivering individualized learning interventions to students with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is daunting for education professionals already stretched to capacity meeting needs of all of their students. Paraprofessionals (paraeducators) can assume integral roles in classroom support and management, but they may not be consistently trained in delivery of specialized intervention and instructional methods. We looked at using the technology of web-based video modeling with additional brief, in-person verbal corrective feedback to increase fidelity in paraprofessionals’ delivery of instruction using discrete trial teaching (DTT), an applied behavioral analysis (ABA) intervention for youth with ASD that has extensive research showing effectiveness. Students (n ¼ 4) were ages 6–11 with ASD and mild to moderate intellectual disability. Paraprofessionals (n ¼ 4) had minimal or no prior training in DTT or ABA. Over 4–6 weeks, results included large effect sizes for fidelity improvement of paraprofessionals and skill improvement in students. By the end of the intervention, all paraprofessionals reached 90% fidelity. Social validity was strongly endorsed by the paraprofessionals. These results have implications for schools with skilled personnel shortages, particularly in rural and other underserved areas.
Carter, E. W., Cushing, L. S., Clark, N. M., & Kennedy, C. H. (2005). Effects of peer support interventions on students’ access to the general curriculum and social interactions. Research and Practice for Persons with Severe Disabilities, 30(1), 15-25.
Peer support interventions are emerging as an effective alternative to traditional paraprofessional models for assisting students with moderate to severe disabilities to access the general curriculum. To contribute to the refinement of peer support interventions, we evaluated the impact of altering the number of participating peers on the social and academic outcomes of students with and without disabilities. Our findings indicated that changes in the configuration of peer support arrangements differentially affected student outcomes. Specifically, higher levels of social interaction and contact with the general curriculum were observed when students with disabilities worked with two peers relative to one peer. The additive benefits of a second peer provide guidance to educators concerning the implementation of peer support interventions in inclusive classrooms. (Contains 2 tables and 4 figures.)
Carter, E. W., & Pesko, M. J. (2008). Social validity of peer interaction intervention strategies in high school classrooms: Effectiveness, feasibility, and actual use. Exceptionality, 16(3) 156-173.
Promoting social interaction among students with severe disabilities and their general education peers has long been a prominent focus of research and policy efforts. We asked 81 educators to evaluate the effectiveness, feasibility, and actual use of 12 intervention strategies for increasing social interaction among high school students with and without severe disabilities. Although considerable variability was evident across individual strategies, general educators, special educators, and paraprofessionals generally shared similar views regarding the acceptability of these strategies. Recommendations for developing socially valid interventions for transition-age youth are discussed.
Causton-Theoharis, J. & Burdick, C. (2008). Paraprofessionals: Gatekeepers to authentic art production. Studies in Art Education, 49(3), 167-182.
Paraprofessionals are increasingly utilized in inclusive art classrooms to support the art production of students with disabilities. For this descriptive qualitative study, we observed 18 paraprofessionals across elementary, middle, and high school inclusive art classrooms in Central New York. The findings suggest that these support staff act as gatekeepers, either denying or allowing access to authentic art production by facilitating or impeding access to the art curriculum. Implications for practicing art teachers and art teacher preparation programs are included. (Contains 2 figures, 1 table and 1 footnote.)
Causton-Theoharis J.N., & Malmgren, K.W. (2005). Building bridges: Strategies to help paraprofessionals promote peer interactions. Teaching Exceptional Children, 37(6), 18-24.
Peer support interventions are emerging as an effective alternative to traditional paraprofessional models for assisting students with moderate to severe disabilities to access the general curriculum. To contribute to the further refinement of peer support interventions, we evaluated the impact of altering the number of participating peers on the social and academic outcomes of students with and without disabilities. Our findings indicated that changes in the configuration of peer support arrangements differentially impacted student outcomes. Specifically, higher levels of social interaction and contact with the general curriculum were observed when students with disabilities worked with two peers, relative to one peer. The additive benefits of a second peer provide guidance to educators concerning the implementation of peer support interventions in inclusive classrooms.
Chopra, R.V., Carroll, D., & Manjack, S. (in press). Paraeducator Issues and Strategies for Supporting Students with Disabilities in Arts Education. In J. B. Crockett & S. M. Malley, Handbook of Arts Education and Special Education. New York: Routledge
Cooke N.L. Galloway, T.W., Kretlow, A.G. (2011). Impact of the script in a supplemental reading program on instructional opportunities for student practice of specified skills. Journal of Special Education, 45(1), 28-42.
Many educators are reluctant to use scripted instruction, reporting that scripts are mechanical in nature and only appropriate for low-level skills. This study sought to investigate the impact of a supplemental program’s script on the rate of on-task and off-task instructional opportunities offered by the instructor for students to practice the specific skills targeted in lesson exercises. Using a multiple-baseline across-participants design, four paraeducators delivered daily instruction, first in a nonscripted version of an explicit supplemental program and then in the scripted version of the same program, to 12 first-grade students identified at risk for reading failure. Upon introduction of the script, the rate of on-task instructional opportunities for student practice was substantially higher, and the rate of off-task instructional opportunities diminished. Both paraeducators and student participants preferred the scripted instruction.
Conroy, P. W. (2008). Paraprofessionals and students with visual impairments: Potential pitfalls and solutions. Re:View, 39(2), 43-55.
The use of paraprofessionals in all areas of special education has grown tremendously in the past decade (N. French, 2003). For the student with a visual impairment in the general education classroom to receive 1-to-1 assistance from a paraprofessional has become almost automatic (E. Forster & C. Holbrook, 2005). Although well-intentioned, this 1-to-1 assistance has had negative effects on the educational and social independence of students. The author discusses the pros and cons of assigning paraprofessionals to work in the general education classroom with students who are visually impaired and presents training, supervision, and peer support models as potential solutions to the problems that may arise from overreliance on paraprofessionals. The author also provides resources for further information.
Cushing L. S., Clark, N., Carter, E. W., & Kennedy, C. H. (2003). Peer supports and access to the general education curriculum. TASH Connections, 29(10), 8-11.
Douglas, S. N., Gerde, H. K. (2019). A strategy to support the communication of students with autism spectrum disorder. Intervention in School and Clinic. https://doi.org/10.1177/1053451219833021.
Communication is an essential skill that develops in early childhood and links to later academic and social success. However, some children, such as those with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), struggle to develop sufficient social communication skills and may require speech language therapy and targeted support from educators to achieve functional communication. Unfortunately, educators, including teachers and paraeducators, may have limited knowledge and skills to best support the social communication needs of students with ASD. Therefore, this article introduces a research-based strategy, POWR: Prepare, Offer, Wait, and Respond, that can be used by educators and peers to effectively enhance the social communication development of students with ASD. Research support and detailed guidelines regarding how communication partners (e.g., teachers, paraeducators, peers) can implement the POWR strategy are included.
Ernsperger L.A. (1998, Summer). Using a paraeducator to facilitate school reentry. Reaching Today’s Youth: Community Circle of Caring Journal, 2(4), 9-12.
This article tells the story of a paraeducator’s successful role in supporting an adolescent who returned to his home school following a residential placement. The story is told through the eyes of the school’s behavioral consultant and describes activities related to training, strategies for reducing dependence, and lessons learned from the experience. The author sites research that reports a high failure rate among students with severe behavioral and learning problems who return from residential placements to their neighborhood schools. The article concludes with an argument for more effective utilization of paraeducators to increase the success rate for students returning from residential placements.
Erwin E. (1996). Meaningful participation in early childhood general education: Exploring the use of natural supports and adaptive strategies. Journal of Visual Impairment and Blindness, 90, 400-411.
Findings: Provision of context cues, use of spontaneous events for teaching, verbal directions and feedback by staff, cues and feedback by peers as modeled by staff, and individual student-generated strategies such as use of familiar landmarks & signals served as successful natural support strategies for an inclusive preschool. “Hands-off” approach was emphasized meaning support was provided in nonintrusive ways and only when needed.
Farrell P., Alborz, A., Howes, A., Pearson, D. (2010). The impact of teaching assistants on improving pupils’ academic achievement in mainstream schools: A review of the literature. Educational Review, 62(4), 435-448.
This paper discusses key findings from one aspect of a systematic review of the literature carried out by the Inclusion Review Group at Manchester University, on behalf of the Evidence for Policy and Practice Information (EPPI) Centre. The specific focus of this element of the review was on the impact of teaching assistants (TAs) (or their equivalent) on improving pupils’ academic achievement that had been measured in some way before and after a period of intervention/support from a TA. The synthesis of findings from the review indicates that the academic achievements of primary aged pupils with identified difficulties in learning, typically in literacy, improve significantly following a period of targeted intervention from TAs. However findings from studies, where support is of a more general nature and not directed at pupils with identified difficulties, are more equivocal suggesting that the presence of TAs in mainstream classes may not have a positive impact on the achievements of all pupils. These findings have major implications for the ongoing training, management, support and deployment of TAs in mainstream schools.
Fetko E.E., Collins, B.C., Hager, K.D., Spriggs, A.D. (2013). Embedding science facts in leisure skill instruction conducted by peer tutors. Education and Training in Autism and Developmental Disabilities, 48(3), 40-411.
This investigation evaluated the effectiveness of using peer tutors to teach a chained leisure skill (i.e., UNO card game) to three middle school students with disabilities using a simultaneous prompting procedure within a multiple probe design. The investigation also assessed whether the students with disabilities would acquire four unrelated science core content facts presented as nontargeted information during instructive feedback. Results indicated that all students met or made progress toward criterion on the leisure skill. In addition, two of the three students acquired all four core content facts.
Fried L., Konza, D., & Mulcahy, P. (2012). Paraprofessionals implementing a research-based reading intervention. Australian Journal of Learning Difficulties, 17(1), 35-54.
In many schools in Australia students often begin their primary years with limited preparation for reading. ‘All hands on deck’ are required to ensure the best possible student success rate for learning to read. In this project, Education Assistants, often under-utilised in schools, were used to implement a reading intervention to struggling readers in years one to three. Education Assistants were trained to withdraw students in small groups and engage students in an explicit, systematic early reading program. The intervention was implemented in a cognitively and emotionally supportive manner and the Education Assistants were trained using autonomy support, collaboration and reflection. Results showed encouraging growth in reading skills for all student age groups compared to the rest of the class. The Education Assistants responded well to the initial and ongoing training processes, refining their teaching skills and the intervention over the period.
French N. K. & Lock, R.H. (2002). Maximize paraprofessional services for students with learning disabilities. Interventions in Schools and Clinic, 38(1), 50-55.
Twenty suggestions are provided for helping teachers to become more effective managers of paraprofessionals and to improve the ways paraprofessionals work with students with learning disabilities. These include: provide orientation; find out what the paraprofessionals’ work-style preferences are; assess the skills of the paraprofessional; observe and coach the paraprofessional; and delegate skillfully. (Contains 1 reference.) (CR)
Garwood J. D., Van Loan, C. L., Gessler Werts, M. (2018). Mindset of paraprofessionals serving students with emotional and behavioral disorders. Intervention in School and Clinic, 53(4), 206-211.
As schools across the United States move toward more inclusive models and as caseloads for special education teachers increase, special education paraprofessionals are being hired to fill service delivery gaps. Most often, paraprofessionals are asked to provide social and behavioral support to students with disabilities, and much of their time is spent in direct support of students with emotional and behavioral disorders. Special education teachers have reported that students with emotional and behavioral disorders are some of the hardest to serve, and those working in this field have the highest rate of burnout. Although there has been increased recognition of the importance of mental health and wellbeing for special education teachers, little attention has been paid to paraprofessionals’ needs. Based on recommendations for special education teachers in the extant literature, 12 survival mindsets to be adopted by paraprofessionals are proposed that may prevent burnout by promoting greater resiliency, emotional wellbeing, and self-awareness.
Gerber S.B., Finn, J.D., Achilles, C.M., Boyd-Zaharias, J. (2001). Teacher aides and students’ academic achievement. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 23(2), 123-143.
This article is based on a reanalysis of the Tennessee STAR report with regard to its findings on aides. It states that aides have no effect on students test scores and that students benefit academically if aides perform only clerical tasks. They do concede that it is also possible that teacher aides may provide important attention and support to specific students. This may be reflected in those students’ test scores, but not affect the class as a whole. It provides recommendations for courses of action and future research.
Giangreco M. F., Edelman, S. W., Broer, S. M., & Doyle, M. B. (2001). Paraprofessional support of students with disabilities: Literature from the past decade. Exceptional Children, 67(1), 45-63.
This article summarizes and analyzes a set of 43 pieces of professional literature pertaining to paraprofessional supports for students with disabilities published between 1991 and early 2000. Twenty-six nondatabased sources and 17 research studies were included. The findings identify topical gaps in the literature, review the major databased findings, and present implications for the field. The review concludes with suggestions for future research that emphasize the need for more student outcome data, conceptual alignment of roles, training, and supervision, and the exploration of alternatives to paraprofessional supports.
Giangreco M.F., Broer, S.M., & Edelman, S.W. (2002). “That was then, this is now!” Paraprofessional supports for students with disabilities in general education classrooms. Exceptionality, 10(1), 47-64.
Increasingly, paraprofessionals are being employed to support a wide array of students with disabilities in general education classrooms. This descriptive study, based on quantitative and qualitative data from 215 school personnel in 4 schools, provides a portrait of issues and concerns about paraprofessional supports that have implications for other schools. In addition to demographic and quantitative information about paraprofessionals’ roles, the study presents 7 themes based on interviews and observations in the schools. Each of the themes addresses a different aspect of the evolution of paraprofessionals services in these 4 schools. The 7 themes address (a) increases in paraprofessional services, (b) hiring challenges, © turnover, (d) paraprofessional role shift to instruction, (e) paraprofessional assignments, (f) insufficient training, and (g) academic skillfulness concerns. The study concludes with practical implications for schools and suggestions for future research, which focus on student outcomes.
Giangreco M.F., Broer, S.M., & Edelman, S.W. (2001). Teacher engagement with students with disabilities: Differences based on paraprofessional service delivery models. Journal of the Association for Persons with Severe Handicaps, 26, 75-86.
This study describes differences in teacher engagement identified within two approaches to providing paraprofessional supports in general education classrooms, program-based and one-on-one. Analysis of observed and reported experiences of 103 school personnel from four schools identified characteristics of teacher engagement and disengagement, involvement of special educators, and phenomena associated with teacher disengagement when one-on-one paraprofessional service delivery was used. (Contains references.) (Author/DB)
Giangreco M. F., Broer S. M., & Edelman, S. W. (1999). The tip of the iceberg: Determining whether paraprofessional support is needed for students with disabilities in general education settings. Journal of the Association for Persons with Severe Handicaps, 24(4), 280-290.
After presenting selected issues associated with employing paraprofessionals, this article extends the discussion on paraprofessional issues by exploring guidelines to assist teams in making decisions about paraprofessional supports. This includes both considerations for the appropriate use of paraprofessionals when assigned, as well as alternative support solutions. (Author/CR)
Giangreco M.F., Cichoski-Kelly, E., Backus, L., Edelman, S., Broer, S., CichoskiKelly, C., & Spinney, P. (1999, March). Developing a shared understanding: Paraeducator supports for students with disabilities in general education. TASH Newsletter, 25(1), 21-23.
Giangreco M.F. & Doyle, M.B. (2002). Students with disabilities and paraprofessional supports: Benefits, balance, and band-aids. Focus on Exceptional Children, 34 (7), 1-12.
Following a review of current paraprofessional literature and issues, this article addresses five contemporary questions that are within the sphere of control of school personnel, either individually or collectively, to improve paraprofessional supports for students with disabilities
- To what extent should paraprofessionals be teaching students with disabilities?
- What impact does the proximity of paraprofessionals have on students with disabilities?
- How does the utilization of paraprofessional support effect teacher engagement and why should it matter?
- How can authentic respect, appreciation, and acknowledgment of the important work of paraprofessionals be demonstrated?
- What can be done to improve paraprofessional supports schoolwide?
For each question, pertinent information from the literature is offered as well as implications for practice. In an interrelated fashion these five questions address the benefits associated with well-conceived paraprofessional supports and the balance of paraprofessional supports with supports provided by others (e.g., classroom teachers, special educators, related services providers, peers). This is set within a context that challenges the reader to consider whether our existing or proposed actions to improve paraprofessional supports offer viable solutions that truly accomplish what we intend for students with disabilities or whether they are merely band-aids.
Giangreco M.F., Edelman, S.W., & Broer, S.M. (2001). Respect, appreciation, and acknowledgement of paraprofessionals who support students with disabilities. Exceptional Children, 67, 485-498.
This article describes the experiences of 103 school personnel, including classroom teachers, paraprofessionals, special educators, and administrators who worked in four schools, Grades K-12. Data were collected during 22 school visits and 56 individual interviews. Six themes were identified pertaining to how school personnel think about and act upon, issues of respect, appreciation, and acknowledgment of paraprofessionals who work in general education classrooms supporting students with and without disabilities. The themes included (a) nonmonetary signs and symbols of appreciation, (b) compensation, © being entrusted with important responsibilities, (d) noninstructional responsibilities, (e) wanting to be listened to, and (f) orientation and support. The article concludes with a discussion of implications for how these data might be applied in schools.
Giangreco M.F., Edelman, S., Luiselli, T.E., & MacFarland, S.Z.C. (1997). Helping or hovering? Effects of instructional assistant proximity on students with disabilities. Exceptional Children, 64, 7-18.
This study presents data on the effects of the proximity of instructional assistants on students with multiple disabilities who are placed in general education classrooms. Based on extensive observations and interviews, analyses of the data highlighted eight major findings of educational significance, all related to proximity of instructional assistants. Categories of findings and discussion include (a) interference with ownership and responsibility by general educators, (b) separation from classmates, © dependence on adults, (d) impact on peer interactions, (e) limitations on receiving competent instruction, (f ) loss of personal control, (g) loss of gender identity, and (h) interference with instruction of other students. The article concludes with implications for practice related to policy development, training, classroom practices, and research.
Giangreco M.F., Yuan, S., McKenzie, B., Cameron, P., & Fialka, J. (2005). “Be careful what you wish for…” Five reasons to be concerned about the assignment of individual paraprofessionals. Teaching Exceptional Children, 37(5), 28-34.
Granger, J. D. & Grek, M. (2005). Struggling readers stretch their skills: Project maximizes use of paraprofessionals to teach reading. Journal of Staff Development, 26(3), 32-36.
In Florida, a group of paraprofessionals worked with students struggling to read at grade level. The students’ gains show that the intensive attention of these professionals to small groups of students can make a significant difference. This article presents a study about the effectiveness of paraprofessionals’ and teachers’ instruction for at-risk 1st graders. Thus, the study found that these 1st graders gained literacy skills when: (1) Participating paraprofessionals were carefully selected; (2) Paraprofessionals used an explicit research-based curriculum; and (3) The paraprofessionals took part in high-quality professional development.
Haegele, J.A., Sato, T, Zhu, X. & Kirk, T.N. (2019). Paraeducator support in integrated physical education as reflected by adults with visual impairments. Adapted Physical Activity Quarterly, 36(1), 91-108.
The purpose of this study was to examine the reflections of adults with visual impairments regarding paraeducator support during their school-based integrated physical education. An interpretative phenomenological analysis research approach was used, and 9 adults (age 21–34 years; 8 women and 1 man) with visual impairments acted as participants. Semistructured audio-recorded telephone interviews and reflective field notes were sources of data. A 3-step analytic process was adopted for thematic development. Based on the data analysis, 3 interrelated themes emerged: “they wouldn’t let me participate”—restriction in the name of safety, “stuck out like a big tree in a field full of poppies”—unwanted social attention and isolation, and “I felt like they weren’t trained”—paraeducator disengagement and training needs. The themes highlight concerns expressed by the participants, such as the need for paraeducator training, that should be considered when using paraeducator support during physical education.
Hall L.J., & Macvean, M.L. (1997). Increases in the communicative behaviors of students with cerebral palsy as a result of feedback to, and the selection of goals by, paraprofessionals. Behaviour Change, 14(3), 174-184.
“Baseline observations revealed that the participating paraprofessionals rarely used prompts or set the occasion for the use of communication behaviours by the students with spastic quadriplegic cerebral palsy). Following intervention, or the selection of the type of prompting strategies and feedback on the frequency and effectiveness of their use of these strategies, all four paraprofessionals increased their level of prompting and, in general, met their self-selected goals. In addition, the target behaviours of all 3 students increased markedly after the introduction of the intervention.” (p. 182). Using a 5-point Likert-type scale, all integration assistants agreed or strongly agreed that “involvement in this research: (a) improved their abilities to facilitate communication skills of the students, (b) increased their confidence in their abilities to communicate with the student, and © increased the student’s ability to communicate.” (p. 182).
Hemmingsson H., Borell, L., & Gustavsson, A. (2003). Participation in school: School assistants creating opportunities and obstacles for pupils with disabilities. Occupational Therapy Journal of Research, 23(3), 88-98.
A study of 7 pupils aged 7-15 with physical disabilities found that school assistants could both facilitate and hinder student participation. Results suggest the need for awareness of priorities students place on social participation to ensure that effective and flexible support is available to students with disabilities. (Contains 42 references.) (JOW)
Hendrix, N.M., Vancel, S.M., Bruhn, A.L., Wise, S. & Kang, S (2018). Paraprofessional support and perceptions of a function-based classroom intervention. Preventing School Failure, 62(3), 214-228.
Paraprofessionals carry out behavior interventions for students with challenging behavior in inclusive classroom settings. Examination of paraprofessional involvement in behavior interventions informs how paraprofessionals may best support intervention implementation. The researchers used a withdrawal design to evaluate the effects of a multiple-component intervention primarily conducted by paraprofessionals in decreasing one sixth-grade student’s disruptive behavior. They then used a systematic approach to functional behavior assessment to identify the function of the student’s behavior and to design an intervention, which was tested using a single-subject design. Results demonstrated a functional relation between the student’s disruptive behavior and intervention. Further, the paraprofessionals and classroom teacher regarded the intervention as favorable, suggesting the intervention was feasible and suitable for the student. Discussion includes implications for practice and future research.
Hernandez C., Kulkarni, S.S. (2018). Social skills and students with moderate to severe disabilities: Can community based instruction help? Journal of the American Academy of Special Education Professionals, Spring/Summer, 2018, 13(2), 6-22.
Students with disabilities are increasingly taught in general education settings, including mathematics classes. Too often, math teachers confront challenging behaviors of students with disabilities in inclusive settings. The authors present five efficient tools effective teachers can add to their repertoire to combat problem behaviors during group work that impact learning for students with problem behavior. In order to lead our students to proficiency in the concepts and procedures of mathematics, it is imperative that we have the behavior management skills to support our students in less structured environments like group work activities. In this article we highlight five research-based strategies that can be used to support some of the most challenging behaviors present in inclusive classrooms. Those five tools are assigning student to roles in group work, using proximity control with redirecting (directing student to be on-task), engaging students by using interest boosting techniques, conducting frequent checks for understanding, and delivering behavior-specific praise.
Hill C. (2003) The role of instructional assistants in regular classrooms: Are they influencing inclusive practices? Alberta Journal of Educational Research, 49(1), 98-100.
Observations were carried out in 10 regular elementary classrooms in Winnipeg (Manitoba) in which instructional assistants were assigned to students with severe disabilities for at least 2.5 hours per day. Instructional assistants were found to facilitate inclusive practices by interacting with regular and special education students together, providing support to whole-class activities, and promoting the independence of exceptional students. (SV)
Jenkins J.R., Vadasy, P.F., Firebaugh, M., & Profilet, C. (2000). Tutoring first-grade struggling readers in phonological reading skills. Learning Disabilities Research and Practice, 15, 75-84.
Description of a tutoring program for struggling 1st grade readers focuses on use of Sound Partners, a program designed for non-teacher tutors. This program emphasizes basic phonological awareness and phonological reading skills. The article describes the program’s theoretical ancestry, application, research outcomes, and obstacles/solutions related to implementation. (Contains references.) (Author/DB)
Jones E., Larsen, R., Sudweeks, R.R., Young, K.R. & Gibb, G.S. (2018). Evaluating paraeducator-led reading interventions in elementary school: A multicutoff regression-discontinuity analysis, Journal of Research on Educational Effectiveness, DOI:10.1080/19345747.2018.1481164.
A two-cutoff regression discontinuity design (RDD) was used to assign 321 students in grades 1 through 6 at a Title I elementary school to two types of Tier 2 reading interventions administered by paraeducators: (a) direct instruction (DI) and (b) computer-assisted instruction (CAI). Students scoring at or below a lower cutoff pretest score were assigned to the DI reading intervention. Students scoring between the lower cutoff score and an upper cutoff score on the pretest were assigned to a CAI reading intervention. Student reading ability was reassessed in January and May. Results indicated that the DI intervention was significantly more effective than the CAI interventions at the lower cutoff (p < .01). No significant treatment effect was detected at the upper cutoff, but the estimation power of the design at this cutoff was limited to medium-to-large effect size. Findings suggest that the DI intervention was superior to the CAI interventions for at-risk readers. Implications for practice, including fidelity of paraeducator implementation, are discussed.
Kotkin R. A. (1995). The Irvine paraprofessional program: Using paraprofessionals in serving students with ADHD. Intervention in School and Clinic, 30(4), 235-240.
This article presents a rationale for inclusion of students with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in regular classrooms; identifies current problems with inclusive practices; and offers a model program, the Irvine Paraprofessional Program. This program focuses on the use of paraprofessional teacher assistants, inservice training on behavior modification, use of a token economy, and social skills training. (DB)Lacey, P. (2001). The role of learning support assistants in the inclusive learning of pupils with severe and profound learning difficulties.
Lacey P. (2001). The role of learning support assistants in the inclusive learning of pupils with severe and profound learning difficulties. Educational Review, 53(2), 157-167.
This paper presents findings from a study of the role played by learning support assistants (LSAs) in the inclusion of pupils with severe or profound learning difficulties. The data suggest that LSAs are of crucial importance in making this possible and supporting these pupils’ learning. The most effective LSAs supported groups of pupils rather than individuals, offered just the right amount of support, had time for planning and reporting back to teachers; and felt a valued part of the staff team.
Lane K., Carter, E. & Sisco, L. (2012). Paraprofessional involvement in self-determination instruction for students with high-incidence disabilities. Exceptional Children, 78(2), 237-251.
Although enhancing students’ self-determination is advocated as a central element of high-quality special education and transition services, little is known about the ways in which paraprofessionals are involved in promoting self-determination or the extent to which they share teachers’ views regarding its importance. The authors surveyed 223 paraprofessionals from 115 randomly selected public schools to examine their perspectives on promoting self-determination among students with high-incidence disabilities. Overall, paraprofessionals attributed high levels of importance to each of the 7 component elements of self-determination (i.e., choice making, decision making, problem solving, goal setting and attainment, self-advocacy and leadership, self-management and self-regulation, and self-awareness and self-knowledge). The extent to which paraprofessionals reported providing instruction addressing each of the 7 components of self-determination was moderate, with average ratings all slightly above the midpoint of the scale. This article presents implications for the involvement of paraprofessionals in supporting the development of self-determination among students with high-incidence disabilities, along with recommendations for future research.
Lane, K. L., Fletcher, T., Carter, E., Dejud, C., Delorenzo, J. (2007). Paraprofessional-led phonological awareness training with youngsters at-risk for reading and behavioral concerns. Remedial and Special Education, 28, 266–276.
This study examined the efficacy of a paraprofessionalled supplemental early intervention for first-grade students with poor early literacy skills and behavioral concerns. The goal was to determine if (a) the relatively brief intervention was effective in improving phonological skills, and (b) improvements in academic skills would be accompanied by behavioral and social improvements. The results indicated that the students in the treatment condition experienced significant, lasting increases in phonological awareness and moderate improvement in word attack skills. However, significant collateral effects on social and behavioral performance were not observed. Limitations and directions for future investigation are offered.
Leko, M. M., Roberts, C., et. al. (2019). Selecting evidence-based practices: what works for me. Intervention in School and Clinic, https://doi.org/10.1177/1053451218819190.
As the special education research community continues to identify new evidence-based practices (EBP), educators will need to make choices regarding which EBPs to implement. This article provides educators with practical guidelines for selecting EBPs that will improve outcomes for students with learning disabilities (LD), emotional and behavior disorders (EBD), and autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Among the factors for EBP consideration discussed are strength of evidence, cost, complexity and transferability, and contextual fit. By taking these factors (and others) into consideration, educators can make more informed decisions from the outset about which EBPs will work in their particular contexts, meet the specific needs of their students, and lead to long-term sustainability.
Lewis, K.C. (2005). Seen but not heard: ESEA and instructional aides in elementary education. Review of Research in Education, 29, 131-149.
I am very, very, very close with my kids … they’re my babies … I make it a point to really get to know my kids, to let them know how much I care, so when it gets in a situation that I need to be firm and that I need to be rough and tough on ‘em they understand why. It’s not just… that it’s just a job to me. Because it’s not. I really do … I care about my kids. I care about all the kids in the building. (Olinthia, an instructional aide)
Logan, A. (2006). The role of the special needs assistant supporting pupils with special educational needs in Irish mainstream primary schools. Support for Learning, 21(2), 92-99.
In this article the author describes a small-scale study into the role of the special needs assistant (SNA) supporting the inclusion of pupils with learning difficulties in the Irish Republic. The findings regarding the perspectives of teachers, principals, SNAs, pupils supported by SNAs and their parents on the support offered to three pupils are also described. The actual (as distinct from the prescribed) role of SNAs, including the issue of SNAs working in a general rather than a pupil-specific capacity, and the nature of the SNA-teacher relationship are discussed. The main findings emerging from the data were that the role of the SNA is one of both education and care and that SNAs are a welcome support for inclusion. Issues emerging from the study include the need for effective communication and planning, shared understanding of the role and responsibilities of SNAs and ongoing monitoring of the way in which support is provided.
Malmgren, K.W., & Causton-Theoharis, J.N. (2006). Boy in the bubble: Effects of paraprofessional proximity and other pedagogical decisions on the interactions of a student with behavior disorders. Journal of Research in Childhood Education, 20(4), 301-312.
Peer interactions are a critical component of learning; however, students with emotional and behavioral disorders (EBD) are at particular risk of social isolation at school. As students with EBD are increasingly included in general education settings, a better understanding of what affects their interactions is needed. In this qualitative study, structured observations and semi-structured interviews were used to gain an understanding of how specific classroom environmental and pedagogical decisions (i.e., instructional groupings, overall classroom environment, task structure, and proximity of adults) affected the peer interactions of a 2nd-grade student with EBD who was educated in an inclusive classroom with the support of a full-time paraprofessional. Analysis revealed that close physical proximity of the paraprofessional significantly impeded the number of interactions experienced by the student. (Contains 1 table.)
Martella R.C., Marchand-Martella, N.E., Miller, T.L., Young, K.R., & Macfarlane, C.A. (1995). Teaching instructional aides and peer tutors to decrease problem behaviors in the classroom. Teaching Exceptional Children, 27(2), 53-56.
This article describes a systematic program that special education teachers can use to teach instructional aides and peer tutors to use effective teaching practices. The article specifically focuses on delivering appropriate instructional commands, providing specific praise, and using appropriate error correction procedures. (JDD)
McDonagh S. H., Fordham, L. A., Dillon-Wallace, J. A. (2014). The educational context and services of children with additional needs in their first years of school in Australia. Special Education Perspectives, 23(1), 29-41.
In Australia, children with additional needs are now primarily educated in mainstream regular classes and schools. While discussion has focused on teacher attitudes, teacher preparation and professional development to support the academic progress of children with additional needs, there is limited research examining the educational contexts and services provided to such children in Australian schools. This descriptive paper examines the educational contexts of 563 Australian children with additional needs, in reference to 3600 of their typically developing peers. Data in relation to educational setting, retention, prevalence of additional needs, access to specialist services, learning support, and individual programming are reported.
McDonnell J., Johnson, J. W., Polychronis, S., & Risen, T. (2002). Effects of embedded instruction on students with moderate disabilities enrolled in general education classes. Education and Training in Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities, 37(4), 363-377.
Four students with moderate mental retardation were taught to read or define words on vocabulary lists of general education classes using embedded instruction. Results indicate that embedded instruction led to the acquisition and maintenance of the target skills. Paraprofessionals successfully implemented the embedded instruction in general education classes. (Contains references.) (Author/PB)
McDowell N., Budd, J. (2018). The perspectives of teachers and paraeducators on the relationship between classroom clutter and learning experiences for students with cerebral visual impairment. Journal of Visual Impairment and Blindness, 112(3), 248-260.
Structured abstract: Introduction: Cerebral visual impairment (CVI) typically affects children’s overall functioning in visually cluttered environments. This study aims to consider whether the removal of classroom clutter ameliorates visual problems and the associated behavioral difficulties for these children. Methods: Two classrooms at a special school were de-cluttered. Changes included: covering glass panels with thick black paper; hanging sheets over open shelving; creating areas of blank wall in front of the student to focus attention on work; removing unnecessary equipment and furniture; and taking down information on windows and walls, and that hanging from ceilings. Teachers, paraeducators, and students worked in these classrooms for two weeks, following typical daily routines. Observations by teachers and paraeducators of students’ behavior and learning experiences before and after de-cluttering were sought through interviews. Findings: The perspectives of the teachers and paraeducators were that de-cluttering had a positive effect on the students’ learning experiences and behavior and also on their own functioning. They also considered the fact that creation of learning spaces lined with black paper resulted in greater attention and focus, but that students continued to be distracted by the noise and movement of others. Discussion: The potential link between cluttered classrooms and students’ functioning and behavior indicates that visual clutter may amplify the visual difficulties associated with CVI and distract the students from learning activities, and is in line with current literature. Changes to classroom layouts that include specific areas for different learning activities, including “black hubs,” may therefore benefit students with CVI. Implications for practitioners: This pilot study suggests that the elimination of classroom clutter and the creation of black hub learning spaces enhances functioning and merits further investigation. A study that compares specific behaviors and performances, before and after implementation of de-cluttering strategies, might also determine whether the positive effects describedby the teachers can be further corroborated.
Metatia, O., & Cullen, C. (2018). “Bursting the assistance bubble”: Designing inclusive technology with children with mixed visual abilities. Proceeding of the 2018 CHI conference on human factors in computing systems (Paper No. 346). Montreal, PQ, Canada.
Children living with visual impairments (VIs) are increasingly educated in mainstream rather than special schools. But knowledge about the challenges they face in inclusive schooling environments and how to design technology to overcome them remains scarce. We report findings from a field study involving interviews and observations of educators and children with/without VIs in mainstream schools, in which we identified the “teaching assistant bubble” as a potential barrier to group learning, social play and independent mobility. We present co-design activities blending elements of future workshops, multisensory crafting, fictional inquiry and bodystorming, demonstrating that children with and without VIs can jointly lead design processes and explore design spaces reflective of mixed visual abilities and shared experiences. We extend previous research by characterising challenges and opportunities for improving inclusive education of children with VIs in mainstream schools, in terms of balancing assistance and independence, and reflect on the process and outcomes of co-designing with mixed-ability groups in this context.
Miller S. D. (2003). Partners-in-reading: Using classroom assistants to provide tutorial assistance to struggling first-grade readers. Journal of Education for Students Placed at Risk, 8 (3), 333-349.
Evaluated the feasibility of using classroom assistants to tutor 1st-grade struggling readers in a school with limited financial and personal resources. Comparison of intervention students, students in traditional tutoring, and control students indicated that, although equivalent at the year’s start, both intervention groups outperformed the control group at the end of the year, and students with classroom assistants outperformed the other two groups on reading comprehension. (SM)
Moore W. & Hammond, L. (2011). Using education assistants to help pave the road to literacy: Supporting oral language, letter-sound knowledge and phonemic awareness in the pre-primary year. Australian Journal of Learning Difficulties, 16(2), 85-110.
Children with weak oral language skills are at risk of experiencing difficulty with early literacy acquisition. Intensive small group intervention during the pre-primary year has the potential to improve children’s success in developing emergent literacy skills. Education assistants are a potentially powerful resource for supporting students at educational risk. In this study, education assistants at four schools were trained to provide a daily half-hour emergent literacy program to pre-primary students with low oral language skills. The program focused on developing phonological awareness, letter-sound knowledge and vocabulary using both explicit and in-context (embedded) learning activities. The students undertaking the program made significant gains on early language and literacy measures. Case studies are presented that illustrate the strengths and limitations of the intervention for children and schools.
Mueller P.H., & Murphy, F.V. (2001). Determining when a student requires paraeducator support. Teaching Exceptional Children, 33 (6), 22-27.
This article outlines the rationale for developing a process to help Individualized Education Program teams determine when to assign paraeducators to support students with disabilities in general education classrooms. It describes a formal, decision-making model, its benefits, and its effects. A needs checklist and assistance matrix is provided. (Contains nine references.) (CR)
Nolan J.D. & Filter, K.F. (2012) A function-based classroom behavior intervention using non-contingent reinforcement plus response. Education and Treatment of Children 35(3), 419-430.
This study investigated the use of noncontingent reinforcement with response cost to reduce problem verbal and physical behavior maintained by automatic reinforcement in an internationally adopted, post-institutionalized student diagnosed with ADHD. Systematic direct observation was employed to measure behavior in a single-subject withdrawal design. Results indicate this function-based intervention was effective when used in a school and implemented with fidelity by a paraprofessional.
Phillips, C. (2007). What pertinent skills and strategies do paraeducators need in order to provide effective and meaningful support to a child with autism in public school classrooms?. Education Masters. Paper 80.
The rates of children diagnosed with autism in the United States today are steadily increasing. Children with autism are enrolling in the public school system in increasing numbers, and many require support from paraeducators. Engaging a child with autism in learning can be a tremendous challenge that requires specialized skills and strategies. Therefore paraeducators need specialized skills and strategies when working with a student with Autism Spectrum Disorder to insure meaningful and effective support for students. Exactly what skills and strategies do paraeducators need? A review of the literature as well as research is undertaken to examine what autism is, the role of a special education paraprofessional, current skill set standards for special education paraeducators, and identifying the most recent skills and strategies, if any, to engage a child with autism being researched. Controversy concerning the potential over-utilization of paraeducators was identified. The intent is to synthesize the information and data collected to develop a deeper understanding of what exactly a paraeducator needs to know and be able to do when working in the classroom with children with autism.
Probst K.M. Walker, V.L. (2017). Using the system of least prompts to teach personal hygiene skills to a high school student with comorbid visual impairment and autism spectrum disorder. Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness, 111(6), 511-525.
This study evaluated the effectiveness of a workshop and follow-up coaching sessions on the implementation of the system of least prompts procedure by classroom team members and explored whether this intervention resulted in personal hygiene skill acquisition by a male high school student with comorbid visual impairment and autism spectrum disorder. Methods: Implementation fidelity data were analyzed descriptively through visual analysis. A multiple baseline design across behaviors was utilized to evaluate the effectiveness of the system of least prompts procedure on student skill acquisition. Results: Implementation fidelity was high and increased over the course of the study: paraeducator 1: 93.9% (range, 70 to 100%); paraeducator 2: 78.2% (range, 11 to 90%); and special education teacher: 94.1% (range, 35 to 100%). In addition, the student’s independent performance improved from baseline to intervention across each targeted skill, with Tau-U scores as follows: cleaning the augmentative and alternative communication device: 0.78; washing hands: 0.76; and brushing teeth: 0.92. Classroom team members found both the training procedures and the system of least promptsintervention to be of value and effective. Discussion: During intervention, classroom team members implemented the system of least prompts with fidelity and the student mastered each skill. These results are promising and add to the significantly limited literature on instructional interventions for students with comorbid visual impairment and autism spectrum disorder. Implications for practitioners: Classroom team members can effectively be taught to use the system of least prompts with students with comorbid visual impairment and autism spectrum disorder. Furthermore, the intervention might be used to increase independent functioning for students with these comorbid conditions.
Robertson K., Chamberlain, B., Kasari, C. (2003). General education teachers’ relationship with included students with autism. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 33(2), 123-130.
A study involving 187 children from second- and third-grade inclusive classrooms, 12 with autism, and 12 general education teachers, found included students with autism formed multidimensional relationships with their general education teachers. These relationships were associated with student’s display of behavior problems and level of inclusion in the class. (Contains references.) (Author/CR)
Rossetti, Z. S. & Goesling, D.P. (2010). Paraeducators’ roles in facilitating friendships between secondary students with and without autism spectrum disorders or developmental disabilities. Teaching Exceptional Children, 42(6), 64-70.
Much has been written on the roles and responsibilities of paraeducators in inclusive classrooms related to instruction, behavioral support, and their supervision by general and special educators. Paraeducators are defined as school support staff who work under the direction of a certified teacher and assist students with instruction, social/emotional/behavioral skills and sometimes personal care. Paraeducators are also known by terms such as teacher assistant, aide and paraprofessional. Few authors have focused primarily on the specific opportunities for paraeducators to help facilitate friendships between students without disabilities and students labeled with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) or other developmental disabilities, especially at the high school level. This article reviews several strategies and specific considerations for their systematic implementation that were observed by the authors and used successfully by paraeducators in multiple high school settings.
Rubie-Davies, C. M., Blatchford, P., Webster, R., Koutsoubou, M., & Bassett, P. (2010). Enhancing learning? A comparison of teacher and teaching assistant interactions with pupils. School Effectiveness and School Improvement, 21(4), 429-449.
Rutherford G. (2011). Doing Right By Teacher Aides, Students with Disabilities, and Relational Social Justice. Harvard Educational Review, 81(1), 95-118.
In this article, Gill Rutherford seeks to understand, from the perspectives of teacher aides, the influence of their work on the school experiences of New Zealand students with disabilities. Rutherford contributes to a growing body of international research regarding the role of teacher aides that documents the complex and ambiguous nature of their work. Ironically, given the injustice of assigning unqualified teacher aides to students whose learning support requirements (through no fault of their own) often challenge teachers, the findings of the study suggest that aides may contribute to the development of a more just education by virtue of their relationships with students with disabilities. Teacher aides’ knowing and caring about students in terms of their humanity and competence resulted in their recognizing and addressing injustices experienced by students. In acting on students’ behalf, in “doing right by” each student, these aides enabled students to enact their formal right to education. The study findings, interpreted within a framework of relational social justice, add another dimension to what has already been documented in research literature about the paradoxical nature of teacher aides’ work.
Rutherford, G. (2009). Curriculum matters for all students? Understanding curriculum from the perspective of disabled students and teacher aides. Curriculum Matters, 5, 90-107.
Schenker, R., Coster, W., & Parush, S. (2006) Personal assistance, adaptations, and participation in students with cerebral palsy mainstreamed in elementary schools. Disability and Rehabilitation, 28, 1061-1069.
Schofield, K.E., Ryan, A.D., Stroinski, C. (2017). Student-inflicted injuries to staff in schools: comparing risk between educators and non-educators. Injury Prevention, Published Online First: 27 October 2017. doi: 10.1136/injuryprev-2017-042472.
Student-inflicted injury to staff in the educational services sector is a growing concern. Studies on violence have focused on teachers as victims, but less is known about injuries to other employee groups, particularly educational assistants. Inequities may be present, as educational assistants and noneducators may not have the same wage, benefits, training and employment protections available to them as professional educators. We identified risk factors for student-related injury and their characteristics among employees in school districts.
Shukla S., Kennedy, C.H., & Cushing, L.S. (1999). Intermediate school students with severe disabilities: Supporting their education in general education classrooms. Journal of Positive Behavior Interventions, 1(3), 130-140.
Skar L., & Tamm, M. (2001). My assistant and I: Disabled children’s and adolescents’ roles and relationships to their assistants. Disability and Society, 16, 917-931.
Vadasy P.F., Sanders, E.A., Jenkins, J.R., & Peyton, J.A. (2002). Timing and intensity of tutoring: A closer look at the conditions for effective early literacy tutoring. Learning Disabilities: Research and Practice, 17(4), 227-241.
A study compared students at risk for reading disabilities who were provided phonics-based instruction in first grade (n=13), students tutored in comprehension skills in second grade (n=10), and students tutored in both grades (n=26). Students tutored only in first grade performed better than those also tutored in second grade. (Contains references.) (CR)
Vadasy, P.F., Jenkins, J.R., & Poole, K. (2000). Effects of tutoring in phonological and early reading skills on students at risk for reading disabilities. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 33, 579-590.
Twenty-three first-graders at risk for learning disabilities received one-to-one tutoring from noncertified tutors for 30 minutes, 4 days a week, for one school year. Tutoring included instruction in phonological skills, explicit decoding, writing, spelling, and reading phonically controlled text. Participants significantly outperformed controls on measures of reading, spelling, and decoding. (Contains references.) (Author/CR)
Vadasy, P.F., Jenkins, J.R., Antil, L. R., Wayne, S.K., & O’Connor, R. E. (1997). The effectiveness of one-to-one tutoring by community tutors for at-risk beginning readers. Learning Disabilities Quarterly, 20, 126-139.
Twenty at-risk first graders received 30 minutes of individual instruction from community tutors four days a week for up to 23 weeks. Subjects outperformed the control group on all reading, decoding, spelling and segmenting, and writing measures. Tutors who implemented the program with a high degree of fidelity achieved significant effect sizes in each reading skill area. (Author/DB)
Vadasy, P.F., Jenkins, J.R., Antil, L. R., Wayne, S.K., & O’Connor, R. E. (1997). Community-based early reading intervention for at-risk first graders. Learning Disabilities: Research and Practice, 12, 29-39.
A study of 17 first-graders identified at high risk for a reading disability investigated the effects of community tutors on reading performance. When compared to the performance of matched controls, the children performed better on spelling and segmentation but not on reading. Skills declined at the second-grade follow-up evaluation. (CR)
Vadasy P.F. Sanders, E.A. (2008). Repeated reading intervention: Outcomes and interactions with readers’ skills and classroom instruction. Journal of Educational Psychology, 100(2), 272-290.
This study examined effects of a repeated reading intervention, Quick Reads, with incidental word-level scaffolding instruction. Second- and third-grade students with passage-reading fluency performance between the 10th and 60th percentiles were randomly assigned to dyads, which were in turn randomly assigned to treatment (paired tutoring, n = 82) or control (no tutoring, n = 80) conditions. Paraeducators tutored dyads for 30 min per day, 4 days per week, for 15 weeks (November–March). At midintervention, most teachers with students in the study were formally observed during their literacy blocks. Multilevel modeling was used to test for direct treatment effects on pretest–posttest gains as well as to test for unique treatment effects after classroom oral text reading time, 2 pretests, and corresponding interactions were accounted for. Model results revealed both direct and unique treatment effects on gains in word reading and fluency. Moreover, complex interactions between group, oral text reading time, and pretests were also detected, suggesting that pretest skills should be taken into account when considering repeated reading instruction for 2nd and 3rd graders with low to average passage-reading fluency.
Vadasy, P.F., Sanders, E.A., & Peyton, J.A. (2006). Code-oriented instruction for kindergarten students at risk for reading difficulties: A randomized field trial with paraeducator implementers. Journal of Educational Psychology, 98, 508-528.
The purpose of this study was to evaluate the effectiveness of code-oriented supplemental instruction for kindergarten students at risk for reading difficulties. Paraeducators were trained to provide 18 weeks of explicit instruction in phonemic skills and the alphabetic code. Students identified by their teachers meeting study eligibility criteria were randomly assigned to 2 groups: individual supplemental instruction and control. Students were pretested in December, midtested, and posttested in May-June of kindergarten. At posttest, treatment students significantly outperformed controls on measures of reading accuracy, reading efficiency, oral reading fluency, and developmental spelling. Treatment students had significantly higher linear growth rates in phonemic awareness and alphabetic knowledge during the kindergarten treatment. At a 1-year follow-up, significant group differences remained in reading accuracy and efficiency. Ethical challenges of longitudinal intervention research are discussed. Findings have policy implications for making supplemental instruction in critical early reading skills available.
Vadasy, P.F., Sanders, E.A., & Peyton, J.A. (2006). Paraeducator-supplemented instruction in structural analysis with text reading practice for second and third graders at risk for reading problems. Remedial and Special Education, 27(6), 365-378.
Two studies – one quasi-experimental and one randomized experiment – were designed to evaluate the effectiveness of supplemental instruction in structural analysis and oral reading practice for second – and third-grade students with below-average word reading skills. Individual instruction was provided by trained paraeducators in single- and multiletter phoneme-grapheme correspondences; structural analysis of inflected, affixed, and multi-syllable words; exception word reading; and scaffolded oral reading practice. Both studies revealed short-term word level and fluency effects.
Vadasy, P.F., Sanders, E.A., & Peyton, J.A. (2005). Relative Effectiveness of Reading Practice or Word-Level Instruction in Supplemental Tutoring: How Text Matters Journal of Learning Disabilities, 38, 364-380.
This quasi-experimental study examined the relative effectiveness of time allocated to either intensive decoding instruction or oral text reading practice in phonics based tutoring sessions. Subjects were 57 first graders who scored in the lowest quartile in reading skills at pretest in fall of grade one. Subjects were matched on a pretest composite to form equal groups: reading practice, word study, and controls. Paraeducator tutors were trained to provide individual instruction in one of the treatments. Treatment students were tutored for 30 min a day, 4 days a week for an average 44 hours of instruction. Mean fidelity ratings based on an average of 20 observations per tutor were 95% for both treatments. Tutored students in both treatment groups significantly outperformed controls at posttest in reading accuracy, reading comprehension, passage reading fluency, and spelling. The reading practice group performed significantly higher at posttest in passage reading fluency (rate) and accuracy, supporting the benefits of oral reading practice in combination with explicit phonics instruction.
Vadasy, P.F., Sanders, E.A., & Tudor, S. (2007). Effectiveness of paraeducator-supplemented individual instruction: Beyond basic decoding skills. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 40(6), 508-525.
A total of 46 children in Grades 2 and 3 with low word-level skills were randomly assigned to 1 of 2 groups that received supplemental phonics-based reading instruction. One group received intervention October through March (21.5 hours), and one group served as a control from October through March and later received intervention March through May (17.5 hours). Paraeducators trained in a standard treatment protocol provided individual instruction for 30 min per day, 4 days per week. At the March posttest, the early treatment (ET; n = 23) group outperformed the controls (late treatment, LT; n = 20) on reading accuracy and passage fluency. Across both groups, second graders outperformed third graders on these same measures. At the 3-month follow-up, the ET group showed no evidence of decline in reading accuracy, passage fluency, or words spelled; however, 3rd-grade ET students had significantly higher spelling skills compared to 2nd graders. The LT group demonstrated significant growth during their intervention in reading accuracy and spelling, but not passage fluency. When we compared the ET and LT groups on their gains per instructional hour, we found that the ET group made significantly greater gains than the LT group across all 3 measures. The results support the value of paraeducator-supplemented reading instruction for students below grade level in word identification and reading fluency
Walter, U. M. 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.
Watkins S., Clark, T., Strong, C., & Barringer, D. (1994). The effectiveness of an intervener model of services for young deaf-blind children. American Annals of the Deaf, 139 (4), 404-409.
“This article discusses a naturalistic approach to providing developmental, home-based services for young children who are deaf-blind. Simply stated, this approach is patterned after the one-to-one services provided by Annie Sullivan to Helen Keller. The services are called the Intervener Model” (p. 404). “The Intervener Model focuses on a paraprofessional called an intervener who provides services to infants and young children who are deaf-blind and their families” (p. 404). The model was develop by the SKI*HI Institute in Utah. After additional description of the Intervener Model the remainder of the article provides a brief summary of four studies: (1) the development of children who are deaf-blind who receive intervener services, (2) intervener effects on communication and self-stimulation behaviors of deaf-blind children, (3) comparison of children and parents who did and did not receive intervener services, and (4) qualitative effects of the intervener on service recipients. In the article’s summary, the authors state “ The services of interveners in Utah enabled young children who are deaf-blind to make greater developmental progress during the services than before and to make greater developmental gains than would have been expected due to maturation alone.” (p 409).
Webster R., & Blatchford, P. (2014). Worlds apart? The nature and quality of the educational experiences of pupils with a statement for special educational needs in mainstream primary schools. British Journal of Educational Research, 41(2), 324-342.
Findings from the Deployment and Impact of Support Staff (DISS) project showed that support from teaching assistants (TAs) had a strong negative impact on the academic progress of pupils, and this applied particularly to pupils with a statement of special educational needs (SEN). Although the DISS project found that such pupils experienced less contact with teachers, little is known about school- and classroom-level decision-making relating to provision. This paper addresses the nature and quality of the educational experiences of pupils with statements, and who has responsibility for putting in place and delivering provision for these pupils within schools. Results come from the Making a Statement (MAST) project, which tracked the educational experiences of 48 9- and 10-year-old pupils with the highest level of SEN, attending mainstream primary schools in England. The study involved the thematic analysis of 48 detailed pupil case studies, drawing on interview, documentation and field note data. Results are presented in terms of four key themes: (1) the explicit and subtle forms of separation these pupils experience daily; (2) the high level of pedagogical decision-making TAs have for pupils with statements; (3) the impoverished pedagogical diet pupils with statements receive, compared to their peers; and (4) the gaps in teachers’ and TAs’ knowledge concerning meeting the needs of pupils with statements. The findings have particular implications for the deployment of TAs and for provision for pupils with SEN, with and without statements.
Welch M., Richards, G., Okada, T., Richards, J., & Prescott, S. (1995). A consultation and paraprofessional pull-in system of service delivery: A report on student outcomes and teacher satisfaction. Remedial and Special Education, 16(1), 16-28.
This article presents results of evaluation of an educational partnership approach, the Consultation and Paraprofessional Pull-In System (CAPPS), for serving at-risk students and those with mild academic disabilities. The program synthesizes the resource/consulting teacher role, pull-in programming, and utilization of paraprofessionals for service delivery. Quantitative and qualitative evaluation findings are detailed. (Author/DB)
Werts M.G., Zigmond, N., & Leeper, D.C. (2001) Paraprofessional proximity and academic engagement: Students with disabilities in primary aged classrooms. Education and Training in Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities, 36(4). 424-440.
A study involving three students (ages 7-9) with severe disabilities found they were academically engaged during a significantly higher number of intervals when a paraprofessional was positioned close to the student. Students and paraprofessionals were more likely to be verbally interactive than physically when the student was actively academically engaged. (Contains references.) (Author/CR)
Westover J. M., & Martin, E. J. (2014). Performance feedback, paraeducators, and literacy instruction for students with significant disabilities, Journal of Intellectual Disabilities, 18(4), 364-381.
Literacy skills are fundamental for all learners. For students with significant disabilities, strong literacy skills provide a gateway to generative communication, genuine friendships, improved access to academic opportunities, access to information technology, and future employment opportunities. Unfortunately, many educators lack the knowledge to design or implement appropriate evidence-based literacy instruction for students with significant disabilities. Furthermore, students with significant disabilities often receive the majority of their instruction from paraeducators. This single-subject design study examined the effects of performance feedback on the delivery skills of paraeducators during systematic and explicit literacy instruction for students with significant disabilities. The specific skills targeted for feedback were planned opportunities for student responses and correct academic responses. Findings suggested that delivery of feedback on performance resulted in increased pacing, accuracy in student responses, and subsequent attainment of literacy skills for students with significant disabilities. Implications for the use of performance feedback as an evaluation and training tool for increasing effective instructional practices are provided.
Young B., Simpson, R., Smith Myles, B., and Kamps, D.M. (1997). An examination of paraprofessional involvement in supporting students with autism. Focus on Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities, 12(1), 31-38, 48.
This study investigated paraeducator proximity to students with autism in general education classrooms. They found that the teacher initiated contact with student most when paraeducator was more than 2 ft. away from students or when out of the room, but initiated contact with student less than 1% of the time when paraeducator was closer than 2 ft. away. However, paraeducators initiated no interactions with student 75% of the observed time. In fact, 82% of the time no one initiated contact. The use of gestures or cueing was observed less than 1% of the time – a problem because all students had difficulty with verbal directions and needed cues and prompts. In spite of this, students were on task appropriate amounts of time – most often when working with a peer. Their conclusion was that maybe the most appropriate role of the paraeducator with children with autism is to facilitate peer interaction.
Zabel, T. A., Gray, R. M., Gardner, J., & Ackerman, J. (2005). Use of school-based one-to-one aides for children following traumatic brain injury: A proposed practice model. Physical Disabilities: Education and Related Services 24(1), 5-22.
One-to-one aides can be an important intervention resource for the reintegration of children into school following traumatic brain injury (TBI). School-based one-to-one aides are typically paraprofessionals assigned to monitor children with TBI throughout the school day. This intervention allows for a continuous feedback and reinforcement schedule to address problematic behavior. Potential drawbacks of this resource, however, include cost, role confusion, and increased dependence upon the one-to-one aide to maintain classroom functioning. Intervention models and goal-planning strategies are needed to help ensure that one-to-one aides intervene in a cost-effective, time-limited manner that contribute to the reacquisition of functional classroom skills as well as decreased reliance upon the one-to-one aide for behavioral control. We present a model for conceptualizing the use of one-to-one aides in the classroom, and discuss intervention strategies to address common problems observed in children following TBI. This model is based upon our combined experience in school reentry following TBI as well as a current understanding of executive functioning, with an emphasis on addressing potential needs in behavioral regulation and goal-directed action. Additionally, general guidelines for the utilization of one-to-one aide in the classroom are proposed. (Contains 6 figures.)