Exploring paraprofessional and classroom factors affecting teacher supervision

Dwight W. Irvin, Paul Ingram, Jonathan Huffman, Rose Mason, Howard Wills

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Background Paraprofessionals serve a primary role in supporting students with disabilities in the classroom, which necessitates teachers’ supervision as a means to improve their practice. Yet, little is known regarding what factors affect teacher supervision. Aims We sought to identify how paraprofessional competence and classroom type affected the levels of teacher direction. Methods and procedures We administered an adapted version of the Paraprofessional Needs, Knowledge & Tasks Survey and the Survey for Teachers Supervising Paraprofessionals to teachers supervising paraprofessionals in elementary schools. Structured Equation Modeling was used to examine the link between paraprofessional competence and classroom factors affecting the level of teacher supervision. Outcomes and results Our results indicated that when teachers perceived paraprofessionals as being more skilled, they provided more supervision, and when more supervision was provided the less they thought paraprofessionals should be doing their assigned tasks. Additionally, paraprofessionals working in classrooms with more students with mild disabilities received less supervision than paraprofessionals working in classrooms with more students with moderate-to-severe disabilities. Those paraprofessionals in classrooms serving mostly children with mild disabilities were also perceived as having lower levels of skill competence than those serving in classrooms with students with more moderate-to-severe disabilities. Conclusion and implications By understanding the factors that affect teacher supervision, policy and professional development opportunities can be refined/developed to better support both supervising teachers and paraprofessionals and, in turn, improve the outcomes of children with disabilities. What this paper adds The number of paraprofessionals in a more active educational support role in today's schools continues to rise. With paraprofessionals often lacking adequate training to provide more direct support to children with disabilities and professional development opportunities lacking, supervising teachers are often the primary source of the on-the-job training for paraprofessionals. Alarmingly, teachers often do not receive sufficient pre- or in-service training on how to best supervise paraprofessionals. To our knowledge, this is the first study to examine paraprofessional and classroom factors thought to affect teacher supervision. By obtaining a better understanding of the factors linked to supervision that teachers provide, administrators and policy-makers can make more informed choices about professional development efforts they choose/fund. Further, this knowledge can be used by researchers to design/refine professional development opportunities to support teachers and paraprofessionals in ways that improve teacher-paraprofessional relationships and student outcomes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)106-114
Number of pages9
JournalResearch in Developmental Disabilities
StatePublished - Feb 2018


  • Elementary school children with disabilities
  • Paraprofessional competence
  • Teacher supervision


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