One of the great challenges in education is training all staff to implement interventions. There is considerable reliance on para-professionals, especially in special education, to support students. Many of the para-professionals have minimal training in educational practices. In many cases, the training that does occur is the traditional didactic model and there is little evidence that it produces the outcomes it is supposed to yield. An alternative model of training that holds great promise is coaching; however, there are limitations to it because it often relies on outside coaches which makes it cost-prohibited for many districts. A recent report by Sallese and Vannest (2021) offers an alternative that may make coaching more cost-effective. In their research, they utilized classroom teachers to coach the para-professionals working in the classroom to increase the use of behavior specific praise. Many teachers report that they have little or no pre-service or in-service training focused on paraprofessional training and support (Douglas, Chapin & Nolan, 2016). To address this issue, the teachers were provided a manual to guide their coaching efforts. The components of the coaching package included self-monitoring, performance feedback, goal setting, modeling, and action planning. In surveys of paraprofessionals one of the most cited concerns is lack of training and support in behavior management (Mason, et al., 2021). Behavior specific praise has been identified as an evidence-based component of classroom behavior management (Simonsen, Fairbanks, Briesch, Myers, & Sugai (2008); however, it has often been a challenge to increase behavior specific praise and maintain it over time. In this study, all four of the para-professionals that received coaching increased their rate of behavior specific praise. In addition, 100% of the participants agreed that the procedures were appropriate and feasible in terms of time and effort required to implement.
This was a small-scale study but it holds promise as a method for coaching implementers to carry out effective practices. From an implementation perspective, this provides a cost-effective approach to increase the internal capacity of a system to implement adopted practices. Building internal capacity is critical if effective interventions are to be sustained over generations of implementers.
Citation: Sallese, M. R., & Vannest, K. J. (2021). Effects of a Manualized Teacher-Led Coaching Intervention on Paraprofessional Use of Behavior-Specific Praise. Remedial and Special Education, 07419325211017298.
- Douglas, S. N., Chapin, S. E., & Nolan, J. F. (2016). Special education teachers’ experiences supporting and supervising paraeducators: Implications for special and general education settings. Teacher Education and Special Education, 39(1), 60–74. https://doi.org/gf86tz
- Mason, R. A., Gunersel, A. B., Irvin, D. W., Wills, H. P., Gregori, E., An, Z. G., & Ingram, P. B. (2021). From the frontlines: Perceptions of paraprofessionals’ roles and responsibilities. Teacher Education and Special Education, 44(2), 97–116. https://doi.org/fwn6
- Simonsen, B., Fairbanks, S., Briesch, A., Myers, D., & Sugai, G. (2008). Evidence-based practices in classroom management: Considerations for research to practice. Education and treatment of children, 351-380.