What the literature tells us about the use of paraprofessionals in schools Marianna Kiva
Resource-Special Needs teacher at Ecole 7 Oaks Middle School in Winnipeg B.Ed, M.Ed
In order to reach an understanding of the benefits or drawbacks that arise from the work that paraprofessionals perform in the schools, it is important to appreciate the historical viewpoints in the wake of the introduction of paraprofessionals into the school environments. According to the data from the NRCP (2006, ¶. 1) National Resource Center for Paraprofessionals, post WWII licensed teacher shortages and the pressures from the parents of children with disabilities to establish school-based supports generated awareness and the need to hire teacher-aides (paraprofessionals). Societal acknowledgment that students with special needs are entitled to a just and equitable educational service cemented the need and the services of the paraprofessionals in the schools.
“Helping or Hovering? Effects of Instructional Assistant Proximity on Students with Disabilities” (Giangreco, Edelman, Luiselli, & MacFarland, 1997), is an empirical article that addresses the issues of how an instructional assistant influences the learning progress of a student with complaints. The title of the article suggests that the purpose of the study was to explore the world of assistance that is provided in the classrooms to students with disabilities. Using the terms helping or hovering, they sought to evaluate how the role of the instructional assistant affects the everyday existence of students, teachers, parents, and special educators. Proximity of the instructional assistant to the student was identified as one of the major themes. Within this significant theme, eight distinct areas were discussed, documented and analyzed. These areas were:
• interference with ownership
• responsibility of general educators
• separation from classmates
• impact on peer interactions
• limitations on welcoming competent instruction • loss of personal control,
• loss of gender identity
• and interference with instruction of other students In conjunction with the main issues, the authors explored the role of instructional assistants: their training, the role they play and the implications this might have on the quality of the services that they provide. Upon further reflection, three broad categories were specified based on the nature of the interaction: identity, belonging and learning process. Identity is the relationship between the student and the instructional assistant. Belonging focuses on the relationships between students. The learning process represents the reciprocal relationships between teachers and students (Giangreco et al., 1997). The authors arrived at these categories by organizing their findings into similar issues then identifying the underlying theme. Finding new categories helped the authors' view how their instructional assistants in relation to others in the same environment are supporting students. This presented them with more information, rather than focusing exclusively on the role of the instructional assistant. By doing this, it helped them to evaluate whether proximity is the only issue, or if there is a different context in which to interpret the results, as these results would affect classroom practices (Kiva & Chase, 2006). In the article, Helping or Hovering? Effects of instructional assistant proximity on students with disabilities, (Giangreco et al., 1997), identified that the proximity of the instructional assistants to their students there is potential to inhibit peer relationships between students with exceptionalities and their classmates. It was noted that the instructional assistants tended to dominate work in small groups, thereby impeding interactions between special needs students and their classmates. Even though the...