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Study Groups As a Professional Development Model for Paraprofessionals


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Presentation from the 2006 National Resource Center for Paraprofessionals Conference

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Study Groups As a Professional Development Model for Paraprofessionals

  1. 1. Paraprofessional Study Groups: CT’s alternative professional development opportunity for paraprofessionals Kjell Fenn, Consultant Connecticut State Education Resource Center (SERC)
  2. 2. SERC – State Education Resource Center <ul><li>Non-profit agency in operation since 1969 through funding from the Connecticut State Department of Education. </li></ul><ul><li>Began with 2 consultants, now has over 25 consultants, 4 education service specialists, and 11 project assistants as well as other related staff </li></ul>
  3. 3. SERC – State Education Resource Center <ul><li>Began as Special Education Resource Center </li></ul><ul><ul><li>In the mid-1980s, our function changed in attempts to unify general and special education </li></ul></ul><ul><li>2005 the name changed to State Education Resource Center and includes </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Special education resource center </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Early childhood resource center </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>School reform resource center </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>(Possibly) an inclusive education resource center </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>(applying for grant) parent information resource center </li></ul></ul>
  4. 4. Initiative history <ul><li>Paraprofessionals As Partners – began in 1991 </li></ul><ul><li>The Paraprofessionals as Partners Initiative was created to assist school districts in the training and utilization of paraprofessionals providing instructional support to students in various educational settings. </li></ul>
  5. 5. Initiative Information <ul><li>Coordinate an Annual Statewide Conference </li></ul><ul><li>Host Regional Forums on CT’s Guidelines </li></ul><ul><li>Provide training in-district </li></ul><ul><li>Study groups as PD (job-embedded) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Develop a Literacy, teacher/paraprofessional team study group </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Currently conducting interviews to locate supportive environments in which paraprofessionals are appropriately and effectively utilized </li></ul><ul><li>Build a conference on supervision and evaluation of paraprofessionals to administrators </li></ul>
  6. 6. Initiative Information <ul><li>Paraprofessionals As Partners </li></ul><ul><li>The Crest The Logo </li></ul>Developed by the CT State Education Resource Center, 2005
  7. 7. In collaboration with AFT <ul><li>SERC collaborated with Connecticut’s chapter of AFT (American Federation of Teachers) </li></ul><ul><li>AFT provided key insight into union issues as well as important decisions on coordination, implementation, and training. </li></ul>
  8. 8. Paraprofessional Workforce <ul><li>CT - Over 13,000 instructional paraprofessionals </li></ul><ul><li>US – Over 685,000 instructional paraprofessionals </li></ul>
  9. 9. Federal legislation – NCLB & IDEA ‘04 <ul><li>Many references to professional development for paraprofessionals </li></ul><ul><li>States should have a professional development plan that includes paraprofessionals </li></ul>
  10. 10. The Study Groups <ul><li>Paraprofessionals, generally, do not receive relevant, meaningful professional development* and they are often not released to attend in out-of-district training**. </li></ul><ul><li>The study groups are a cost effective means of providing paraprofessionals job embedded professional development </li></ul><ul><li>*(Mueller, 1997; Riggs and Mueller, 2000; Giangreco, Edelman, and Broer, 2001). </li></ul><ul><li>**(Office of Special Education Programs, 2001) </li></ul>
  11. 11. The Vision <ul><li>To initiate multiple study groups for paraprofessionals across Connecticut in various districts and schools. It is anticipated that these study groups of paraprofessionals will meet throughout the school year with participation growing from school year to school year as additional paraprofessionals join in the learning opportunity and new groups are created. </li></ul>
  12. 12. The mission <ul><li>To create learning experiences for paraprofessionals to enhance their job performance, knowledge, competency, and skills. It is also to provide paraprofessionals opportunities to network among themselves, forming a collaborative, collegial culture within schools and districts, and ultimately within the state of Connecticut. </li></ul>
  13. 13. What is a study group? <ul><li>A study group is a facilitated group in a school building or district involving 4-8 members who gather for in-depth dialogue. They will meet regularly to analyze, reflect upon, dialogue about, and construct meaning on current topics or issues that are clearly defined and of importance to developing the skills and abilities needed by paraprofessionals to do their jobs at a highly qualified level and partner with other educators to improve student outcomes. </li></ul>
  14. 14. The facilitator <ul><li>A paraprofessional selected by a district or school administrator. The duties of the facilitator will include: inviting colleagues to join the learning experience; scheduling dates and times of meetings; becoming familiar with topics/issues; prepare materials; and, if appropriate, inviting outside speakers to present information. The facilitator will also “facilitate” during the actual study group sessions. </li></ul>
  15. 15. Facilitation <ul><li>Facilitation during the study group meeting will include reviewing group norms, keeping the group on task, staying within the set time limits, and providing all members opportunities to share within the meeting. </li></ul>
  16. 16. Study Group participants <ul><li>Participants in the study groups are to be paraprofessionals who work in the same building or district as the facilitator. </li></ul>
  17. 17. Administrative support <ul><li>Regular monitoring of the group; </li></ul><ul><li>Possibly sitting in on a session; </li></ul><ul><li>Providing space and times for the groups to meet; </li></ul><ul><li>Providing release time for facilitator to receive support and training through SERC; </li></ul><ul><li>Allowing time for the facilitator to prepare for group meetings; </li></ul><ul><li>Marketing the study groups to the staff (by either placing the study groups on the agenda of staff meetings or allowing the facilitator to speak at the staff meeting); and </li></ul><ul><li>Supporting the facilitator in securing resources for dissemination as appropriate (e.g., copies of a timely, relevant journal article) and light refreshments. </li></ul>     X X X
  18. 18. Curricula <ul><li>Positive Behavior Support </li></ul><ul><li>Instructional Support </li></ul><ul><li>LRE/Inclusion </li></ul><ul><li>Roles and Responsibilities </li></ul><ul><li>Specific Disabilities (e.g., Autism, ID, ADHD) </li></ul><ul><li>Child and Adolescent Development </li></ul>
  19. 19. SERC Support <ul><li>Facilitator training at the annual statewide conference for paraprofessionals in November 2005, and at SERC in winter and spring of 2006 (four total trainings/meetings); </li></ul><ul><li>Resource materials; </li></ul><ul><li>SERC library membership; </li></ul><ul><li>Consultation as needed (via phone or email, and/or, if appropriate, on site by SERC Consultants); </li></ul><ul><li>Training on skills needed by study group facilitators, group norms, meeting norms, discussion enhancers and prohibitors, and specifics on forming, maintaining, and assessing the impact of a study group for paraprofessionals; and </li></ul><ul><li>Networking opportunities for facilitators across buildings and districts. </li></ul>     
  20. 20. Study Group Formation <ul><li>Identification of facilitators - District and/or school administrators are asked to nominate a paraprofessional as a potential candidate for facilitating a study group during the 2005-2006 school year. The administrator should submit a recommendation to SERC on the attached form. These candidates will receive training at the annual statewide conference in November and also at the end of January. </li></ul>
  21. 21. Study Group Marketing <ul><li>PD Booklets </li></ul><ul><li>Flyers (disseminated at different trainings including regional forum on CT’s Guidelines for Training and Support of Paraprofessionals ) </li></ul><ul><li>Personal contacts </li></ul>
  22. 22. Tasks and Expectations <ul><li>November 17 </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Vision, mission, curricula, tasks </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Given a study group packet </li></ul></ul><ul><li>January 19 </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Facilitation skills, group dynamics </li></ul></ul><ul><li>April 27 </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Assessment of progress </li></ul></ul><ul><li>June 23 </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Celebration, evaluation </li></ul></ul>
  23. 23. Tasks and Expectations <ul><li>November 17 </li></ul><ul><li>January 19 </li></ul><ul><li>April 27 </li></ul><ul><li>June 23 </li></ul><ul><li>Tasks: </li></ul><ul><li>Determine dates and times </li></ul><ul><li>Find locations </li></ul><ul><li>Recruit members </li></ul><ul><li>Tasks: </li></ul><ul><li>Conduct 4-6 study group meetings </li></ul>
  24. 24. Who’s participating? Teaching & Learning 545 LEARN (PK-5) RESC PBS 117 Special Ed. Facility () Private Roles of Paras 2,449 Middle School (6-8) Plainfield LRE 2,467 Elementary (K-5) Rocky Hill Learning Styles 19,232 Elementary (K-4) New Haven Various 2,449 Elementary (4-5) Plainfield Study topic # students in district School (grades) District PBS 22,690 Magnet (K-8) Bridgeport PBS 294 Jumoke Academy (K-6) Hartford Discipline/PBS 2,733 Intermediate (5-8) Killingly Specific Disabilities 2,376 Intermediate (3-5) Suffield
  25. 25. Who’s participating? Suffield Hartford Rocky Hill Killingly Plainfield Cheshire New Haven Old Lyme Bridgeport
  26. 26. Project Evaluation <ul><li>Conduct four sets of interviews with: </li></ul><ul><li>Building administrators </li></ul><ul><li>Para facilitator </li></ul><ul><li>Paraprofessionals who compose the study groups </li></ul><ul><li>Classroom teachers who utilize the paraprofessionals in their classrooms </li></ul><ul><li>The information to be collected might include the following: </li></ul><ul><li>Assessment of the Para Study Group Model </li></ul><ul><li>Value of the training </li></ul><ul><li>Value of topics chosen </li></ul><ul><li>Level of building support provided (space, release time, copying, other resources/ materials) </li></ul><ul><li>Implementation of meetings and their value </li></ul><ul><li>SERC support and development of the model </li></ul><ul><li>Impact on school culture regarding the contribution of the paraprofessional </li></ul><ul><li>Change in classroom climate </li></ul><ul><li>Application of knowledge gained/ Evidence of application of their study </li></ul><ul><li>Strengths of the Para Study Group Model </li></ul><ul><li>Limitations of the Para Study Group Model </li></ul><ul><li>Recommendations for improvement of the Para Study Group Model </li></ul>
  27. 27. Reality Check/ Lessons Learned <ul><li>Stay within one building </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Same schedule and administration </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Encourage nominator/administrator to explain study group PD to paraprofessionals in building </li></ul><ul><li>Look for grants/monies </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Place as a line item in the flyer as a financial commitment of the district </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>For stipends </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Refreshments </li></ul></ul></ul>
  28. 28. Reality Check/ Lessons Learned <ul><li>Use ‘Professional Development’ in place of ‘Study Group’ in the marketing </li></ul><ul><li>Time of meetings: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>During the school day </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Common duty period </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Common prep time </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Assembly/events block </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>End of day “flex” (study hall) </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Beginning of day (HR) </li></ul></ul></ul>
  29. 29. Reality Check/ Lessons Learned <ul><li>Time of meetings (cont.) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>After school (stipend, union issues) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>During scheduled staff meeting </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Mandatory meetings (per contract) </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Before school (as above) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>PD/Staff Development Days </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Pay can be an issue </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Some portion of the day </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Full day </li></ul></ul></ul>
  30. 30. Reality Check/ Lessons Learned <ul><li>No high schools participated </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Need to market specifically to high schools; maybe personally </li></ul></ul>
  31. 31. SWOT Results <ul><li>In response to the statewide paraprofessional study group model as SERC has conducted it. </li></ul>S W O T
  32. 32. Next Year – 2006-07 <ul><li>The current 10 Facilitators will continue (with SERC support) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>2 half days of training – Fall & Spring </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Invited to share at Statewide Conference </li></ul></ul><ul><li>New cadre of facilitators will be trained </li></ul><ul><li>Networking among groups </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Within districts </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>With other districts </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Formal networking meeting of all participants </li></ul></ul>
  33. 33. Thank You <ul><li>Kjell Fenn </li></ul><ul><li>[email_address] </li></ul><ul><li>(860) 632-1485, ext. 312 </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul>
  34. 34. Job-embedded Professional Development <ul><li>Job-embedded Professional development is learning that occurs as educators engage in their daily work activities. </li></ul><ul><li>It is based on adult learning, the brain, and constructivist pedagogy. </li></ul><ul><li>(Galloway, H. (2006). Job-embedded Professional Development . Retrieved April 21, 2006 from </li></ul>back
  35. 35. Study Group Packet consists of <ul><li>Agenda </li></ul><ul><li>Six (6) curricular suggested study options </li></ul><ul><li>CD Table of Contents </li></ul><ul><li>Excerpts from the CT Guidelines (6 Responsibilities of paraprofessionals) </li></ul><ul><li>Two (2) articles from AFT </li></ul><ul><li>A CD with 27 bibliographies, over 80 articles and resources, the CT Guidelines , 2 facilitation skills booklets, agendas of meetings, and lists of web sites </li></ul><ul><li>An article on the role of a facilitator </li></ul><ul><li>Two (2) facilitation skills booklets </li></ul>back