Title

Paraprofessionals in the School Setting: A Web Resource for Training, Strategies, and Professional Development

Date of Award

Winter 12-15-2022

Document Type

Project Abstract (696 or 796 registration)

Degree Name

Master of Science in Special Education

Department

Graduate Studies

Committee Chair

Marci Glessner

Keywords

paraprofessional, special education, collaboration, training, professional development

Abstract

Teachers and paraprofessionals are partners in education, working together to provide the best educational experience possible for each child. Biggs et al. state “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” (2016, p. 152). It is crucial that paraprofessionals are offered training and taught strategies and techniques to implement and support diverse students in the classroom (Patterson, 2016).

In the 1950’s, paraprofessionals were first added to the classroom as a way to provide teachers with more planning time and they performed mostly clerical duties (Villa et al., 2018). Between the 1970’s and 2000’s the duties of paraprofessionals transformed into more instructional roles and they have taken on more of a supportive role for students with disabilities and work in more inclusive classrooms. Today, paraprofessionals are expected to perform a variety of duties in the classroom and are spread thin throughout the school building in order to “fill gaps'' out of necessity, but the training and methods to prepare paraprofessionals for these evolving roles have not changed.

Common concerns regarding these ever-changing roles have been highlighted by paraprofessionals across the public school settings including: a lack of administrative support, the need for mentorship programs, increased training opportunities and more opportunities for collaboration (Biggs et al. (2018). Throughout these articles and journals, there is a clear need for clearly laid-out expectations, enhanced communication and collaboration strategies, and more training opportunities.

This project consisted of a literature review that examined the research based around common themes of the expectations, roles and responsibilities of paraprofessionals; the importance of collaboration in the classroom, and the immense need for professional development for paraprofessionals. Based on the findings from this literature review and our collective teaching experiences at two different rural schools, the project also consisted of the creation of a website specifically designed for paraprofessionals. It provides a plethora of resources, information, and training guides as a way to help paraprofessionals feel supported in their roles in the classroom.

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