From the Frontlines: Perceptions of Paraprofessionals’ Roles and Responsibilities

Rose A. Mason, Adalet B. Gunersel, Dwight W. Irvin, Howard P. Wills, Emily Gregori, Zhe G. An, Paul B. Ingram

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


The paraeducator workforce as well as the breadth of their responsibilities to serve students in special education has increased considerably in public schools. Unfortunately, research to identify the most effective methods for training paraeducators has not kept pace. Addressing this dynamic, through an implementation science framework, requires a better understanding of contextual factors. In this study, focus groups (FGs) with paraeducators and teachers were conducted to examine (a) responsibilities, training needs, and related issues of paraprofessionals; (b) training needs and related issues of teachers as supervisors of paraeducators; and (c) factors that support or impede special educators’ self-efficacy and their perception of competence of their colleagues. Four FGs, homogeneous based on role and assignment (mild vs. moderate-to-severe disabilities), were conducted utilizing a semistructured interview protocol. Qualitative content analysis revealed important challenges and training-related deficiencies experienced by both teachers and paraeducators, as well as suggestions for addressing these issues.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)97-116
Number of pages20
JournalTeacher Education and Special Education
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 2021


  • general special education
  • paraeducators
  • profession development
  • response to intervention
  • supervision
  • teacher self-efficacy


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