Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

The Perceptual Difference in Roles and Responsibilities of Special Education Paraprofessionals
by Harris, Carmen Renee, Ed.D., Lindenwood University, 2012, 139; 3507424
Abstract (Summary)

Based on the researcher's experience as a coordinator of special education, general and special education administrators are challenged with creating, implementing, and supervising special education services addressing the diverse needs of students with disabilities in the general education setting. The researcher has collaborated with principals to review programming options for students with disabilities participating in inclusive general education classrooms and found that often this inclusive programming involves the use of a special education paraprofessional.

The purpose of this mixed methods study was to determine if there was a difference in perception between a student's team members (general education teacher, special education teacher and special education paraprofessional) regarding the roles and responsibilities of special education paraprofessionals in the general education classroom. If there was a difference, the primary investigator attempted to determine why that difference existed as the researcher believed a difference could possibly lead to uncoordinated efforts between the general education teacher, special education teacher and special education paraprofessional supporting a student with a disability.

A random sample of participants from five elementary schools in a large suburban school district was constructed from the larger population consisting of general education teachers, special education teachers, and special education paraprofessionals assigned to students in the general education setting supported by a special education paraprofessional. The results of quantitative data analysis did not show statistically significant differences between team members' (special education teacher, general education teacher, special education paraprofessional) views of the roles and responsibilities of specific paraprofessionals assigned to a student with a disability in the inclusive/general education setting. However, the qualitative analysis of data including individual interviews and observations, provided evidence to conclude five of five educational teams differed in their perceptions of the majority of roles/responsibilities of their assigned special education paraprofessional. Results from one-on-one interviews conducted in this study identified the majority of teams did not have regularly scheduled collaborative times nor devote specific time for instructional planning as a group.

The researcher recommended that educational administrators need an opportunity to structure their educational teams to allow collaborative team time between the general education teacher, special education teacher, and special education paraprofessional to discuss specific roles/responsibilities of paraprofessionals supporting students in the general education setting. The research reinforced the ideas that educators may benefit from the use of a checklist or survey to assist teams in their alignment of what roles/responsibilities are required to support a specific student in the general education setting and how to communicate changing needs to the entire IEP team, specifically including parents. The researcher also recommended a timeline be created in which dates are periodically selected throughout the year to provide an opportunity for the educational team to meet with parents to specifically discuss current paraprofessional supports, possible changes to paraprofessional supports, and a plan of action to potentially decrease paraprofessional support in an effort to increase student independence.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Leavitt, Lynda
Commitee: Kania-Gosche, Beth, Wisdom, Sherrie
School: Lindenwood University
Department: Education
School Location: United States -- Missouri
Source: DAI-A 73/09(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Educational leadership, Special education
Keywords: Educational teams, Inclusive general education, Paraprofessionals, Special education, Teacher collaboration
Publication Number: 3507424
ISBN: 978-1-267-32449-8
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