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Paraeducators in Inclusive Settings Share Their WIZdom


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Paraeducators in Inclusive Settings Share Their WIZdom—What Do They Do? How Do They Do It? What Do they Need to Do It Better? by Andrea Liston, Ida Malian, & Ann Nevin.

From the 2009 National Resource Center for Paraprofessionals Conference.

Published in: Education, Health & Medicine
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Paraeducators in Inclusive Settings Share Their WIZdom

  1. 1. Inclusive Paraeducators Share Their Wizdom The most important part of the work I do in inclusive classrooms is to support students so they can access the content in a consistent and meaningful manner to them and their objectives. (R6, MN) Andrea Liston, Point Loma Nazarene Ida Malian, Arizona State University Polytechnic & Ann Nevin, Arizona State University (Emerita) and Florida International University National Resource Center for Paraprofessionals
  2. 2. 2008 NATIONAL STUDY: A Multi-Site Mixed Methods Study of Paraeducators in Inclusive Classrooms Analysis of National Survey Data and Follow-Up Interviews in California
  3. 3. What Did We Want to Accomplish? • We wanted to understand the perceptions of paraeducators who work with teachers in inclusive classrooms. • We wanted to listen to their voices and to seek their advice. • We asked paraeducators to share their perceptions so as to address the following overarching questions. – What are paraeducators actions and beliefs? – What advice do paraeducators have to offer those who work in inclusive classrooms?
  4. 4. How Did We Determine Paraeducators’ Perceptions? • Comprehensive survey: Based on the literature review, survey questions were organized into five sections: – definitions of terms (i.e., paraeducator, inclusive classroom); – demographics (items related to age, gender, ethnicity, linguistic diversity, preparation, prior experience in inclusive classrooms, prior employment or skills, classroom information on number of students with disabilities and socio-economic status of the neighborhood); – items related to attitudes, beliefs, and actions to be rated on a 5-point Likert scale; – a series of open ended questions; and a section to solicit volunteers to be interviewed which is handed in separately from the survey in order to protect anonymity of respondents.
  5. 5. Determining Paraeducators’ Perceptions--Continued • Follow-up interviews with volunteer survey respondents • A semi-structured open-ended interview process (Bogdan & Biklen, 1998) was implemented. • Interview questions focused on eliciting the paraeducators’ – (a) belief system for inclusive education, – (b) who they worked with, – (c) experiences they enjoyed, – (d) strategies and methods they used, – (e) benefits and barriers, and – (f) advice to other paraeducators. • Interviews conducted at paraeducators’ school sites and/or by telephone.
  6. 6. Who Are the Paraeducators? • Survey: (N = 202) – predominately White, – English-speaking females – who hailed from 34 of the 50 states in the USA. – average of 7 years of experience, – had a family member or friend with a disability, – worked in a school within the $25K to $75K socio- economic range, and – worked in an elementary education inclusion class with 20 students in small groups or 1:1 – did not meet regularly with the supervising teacher.
  7. 7. Where and With Whom Did Paraeducators Work? • Paraeducators focused their planning on helping their students achieve a wide variety of subject matter including social and life skills, math, English, reading, health, writing, and community based instruction • They teach students with: behavior disorders, mental retardation (e.g,, Down Syndrome), physical disabilities (e.g., deaf, blind), neurological impairment (e.g., autism), traumatic brain injury, cerebral palsy) and learning disabilities (e.g., ADD, ADHD, dyslexia). – Some national respondents explained that descriptions of the disabilities are not provided to them -- ―The students learning disabilities are kept private.‖ • They work with classroom teachers and special educators in – Elementary, junior and senior high school settings, – Early childhood and transition settings
  8. 8. What Inclusive Education Strategies Did Paraeducators Use? • The least frequently used strategies— – supervising peer tutoring sessions (36%), – coaching homework (26%), – supporting cooperative learning groups (14%). • The most frequently used strategies— – directing student behavior (68%), – delivering individual instruction (59%), – teaching appropriate social skills (50%).
  9. 9. What are Pareducators’ Attitudes and Beliefs? Attitude Or Belief National Ratings I can use different classroom routines to help meet diverse needs 4.2 of my learners. I think that a student with learning problems needs me to adjust 4.4 my teaching strategies or curriculum. I think that not all students must do the same activity the same 4.5 way. My ability to meet students’ diverse needs has improved because 3.8 of my work in inclusive classrooms. I know how to use flexible grouping in the inclusive classroom. 3.8
  10. 10. An Emerging Role/Responsibility— Implementing or Monitoring RtI • In the words of one participant from Michigan, ―Our district uses RtI. We have used the ‘six minute solution’ in reading that is very effective. We have resources that push in and pull out as needed.” • Another participant, from Rhode Island, wrote, ―I have coached children in language arts under the supervision of a reading teacher.‖ • A second participant from Michigan explained, ―I document notes on each child seen daily to measure progress and give [the notes about] strategies [to the teacher].‖ • RtI--Intensive language arts Two paraeducators from Oregon used technical language instruction and monitoring such as, ―I use DIBELS to monitor progress [of all the students].‖ DIBELS is an acronym for Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills; see
  11. 11. Survey Respondents’ Roles, Responsibilities, and Supports What do How do they say What do they say helps them paraeducators they do it? do it better? say they do? Provide tutorials Work 1:1 with students. Initial training and reflective Implement instructional coaching from supervisor(s) strategies such as TEACCH, computer assistance Provide small group Provide direct instruction, CBI, Initial training and reflective instruction QAR, note-taking strategies, coaching from supervisor(s) hands-on experiences Teach social skills Work 1:1, use social stories, Development of staff and student implement programs such as norms, implement rules of Character Counts engagement, opportunities for role- playing Supervise peer tutors Demonstrate, supervise, and Enhance use of peer tutors by redirect peer tutors moving to the use of cooperative group structures
  12. 12. Roles, Responsibilities, and Supports--Continued What do How do they say What do they say helps paraeducators they do it? them do it better? say they do? Manage student Redirect the student, teach Staff ownership, mutual respect, behaviors student to self-regulate via consistency in the use of behavior taking breaks when needed, supports (reinforcement and implement programs such as natural consequences) Character Counts Understand lesson plans Informal conversation prior to Structured planning time within class the work week for all staff involved Collect data Collect work samples, anecdotal Initial training and reflective data, behavioral data, and coaching from supervisor(s), attend conducting fluency timing for professional development focusing an individual or groups of on CDM students Prepare adapted On their own personal time Time built into their work day and materials access to resource materials, attend professional development to adapt content, process, and content.
  13. 13. I make myself available to all of the kids not just to those with disabilities. Ask Collaborate with each student’s questions! general education teachers on a daily basis! PARAS SPEAK OUT!* Sometimes they don’t We must all keep know what learning. to do with you! We are so lucky to be in an inclusive classroom! *From p. 93, Nevin, A., Thousand, J., & Villa, R. (2009). A guide to co-teaching with paraeducators: Practical tips for K-12 educators. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.
  14. 14. What Advice do Inclusive Paraeducators Offer? • “Be Flexible!” – ―Be prepared to be busy.‖ – ―Be prepared to work with some people who may not know exactly what to do with you.‖ • “Be Willing to Ask!” – ask questions, – read books, – collaborate and communicate with others in order to learn strategies to help the children.
  15. 15. Implications* • Continue to acknowledge and collaborate with paraeducators. • Clearly define duties and responsibilities regarding instruction, classroom management, and planning. • Build in time to meet. • Share goals for students, class, and each other. *National significance-- 525,000 are currently employed in FTE positions nationwide (NCES, 2000). Of that number approximately 290,000 or 55% are employed in inclusive general and special education programs, self-contained and resource rooms, transition services and early childhood settings serving children and youth with disabilities. Approximately 130,000 (nearly 25%) are assigned to multi-lingual, Title I or other compensatory programs. The remaining 20% work in pre-school and elementary classrooms and other learning environments including libraries, media centers, and computer laboratories.
  16. 16. Implications—Continued SYSTEMATIC PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT Image* by Jodie Beecher, PACE University graduate *From p. 77, Nevin, A., Thousand, J., & Villa, R. (2009). A guide to co-teaching with paraeducators: Practical tips for K-12 educators. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.
  17. 17. A Peek into the Roles and Responsibilities of the Paraeducator • Dispositions and Inclusive Belief Systems •Benefits for Students with Diverse Learning Characteristics •Typical Supports and Strategies Used •Communication and Collaboration •Training and Ongoing Professional Development
  18. 18. Words of Wisdom “A positive attitude has always helped me work with even the most disgruntled student.”
  19. 19. Words of Wisdom “It‟s a challenge to find time to meet with my teacher. It would be helpful if all of us could meet each day…”
  20. 20. Words of Wisdom “I set up a table for small group instruction, support the rules of the classroom and reinforce good behavior.”
  21. 21. Words of Wisdom “I‟m also assigned a student with autism. He gets stressed easily and I often help him with calming strategies.”
  22. 22. “First, bond with the children. Have fun with them while they do their work.”
  23. 23. Words of Wisdom “Include other students who sit near the student who needs support to create a community environment and participation for all…no isolation!”
  24. 24. Words of Wisdom “Repeat and review, drawing pictures, using counters, relating the material/topics to the children.”
  25. 25. “I help students with computer assisted learning. It supports students as there are visual prompts and color coding.”
  26. 26. Words of Wisdom “ I find out what they like and use that as a reinforcement.”
  27. 27. Words of Wisdom “I keep students on task and answer questions they may have regarding material. Some need help but are too embarrassed to ask.”
  28. 28. “I tailor instruction to meet the children‟s needs whether I do it individually or with a small group of children.”
  29. 29. “Let the kids help each other…. Don’t let the student become prompt dependent on you. Work yourself out of a job.”
  30. 30. “I go classroom-to -classroom to work with students, keep on task, catch up, organize, I read each student‟s goals and communicate with their primary teachers.”
  31. 31. “All the kids in the class will need your help from time to time, and when you have the time you can help them. They don‟t need to have an IEP.”
  32. 32. “I enjoy working with all students in the inclusive classroom and breaking down instruction into manageable chunks.”
  33. 33. “I work 1:1 with the student, going over classroom norms before we go to the general education classroom. Then it is easier to include him and redirect him when necessary.”
  34. 34. “The majority of students I support are those with severe disabilities while they are in general education. I am always looking for trainings that pertains to mainstreaming.”
  35. 35. “I teach my student with severe autism appropriate behavior through social stories.”
  36. 36. “I assist the student, to the best of my ability, to help him achieve all goals set - and to accomplish even more that asked of him.”
  37. 37. “I keep data on academics and behavior. Sometimes I use data sheets, and other times I use a marker and wipe board for prompts needed.”
  38. 38. “Visual aides are a must, picture schedules, hands-on materials, „TEACCH‟ materials….I help in making all of these.”
  39. 39. “Sorry that we couldn‟t be here, but we love our job, and can‟t leave our students. Thank you for letting us share our experience!”
  41. 41. The Last Word Teachers often view paras not as a bridge to the special needs students but as a bypass, a way to avoid direct interaction/responsibility.” (R59, KY) “The most important part of the work I do in inclusive classrooms is to support students so they can access the content in a consistent and meaningful manner to them and their objectives.” (R6, MN) “The most important part of the work I do in inclusive classrooms is meeting the students‟ needs and working with their IEP goals.” (R10, ABQ) “It is a joy to be in this work.”
  42. 42. Thanks for your attention! Many thanks to our co-pi’s • California—Point Loma Nazarene M.Ed. Students (Moira, Ashley, Colette, Laura, Julie, Kristin, Tara, Alisa, and Cindy) • Florida--FIU doctoral students who facilitated data collection (Magda, Whitney, Raul, Liana, Deidre, Jorine) • Arizona—Silverio for superb technical assistance on the web-accessed survey