Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Master of Science (MS)


Special Education and Rehabilitation

Department name when degree awarded

Special Education

Committee Chair(s)

Tyra Sellers


Tyra Sellers


Thomas Higbee


Kimberly Snow


Employees in the field of human services can influence the health and rate of progress of the clients they serve. A human service supervisor’s responsibilities include identifying why an employee may be performing poorly and provide an effective intervention to ensure improved performance. The Performance Diagnostic Checklist for Human Services (PDC-HS) has been used in treatment clinics to identify the variables that can contribute to poor employee performance, and subsequently recommend an intervention to improve performance.

The special education classroom is a human service setting in which special education teachers supervise paraeducator’s skills and performance. A paraeducator’s role includes providing instruction to students. Discrete trial instruction is an effective method for students requiring specialized instruction to acquire new skills and concepts. Poor instruction can have an adverse impact on a student’s performance resulting in a slow rate of progress or regression. Special education teachers are trained in specialized instruction, behavior management and classroom organization, but are rarely prepared to supervise and train other adults. Additional challenges are time to provide professional development and training preparation, given the background and experience of paraeducators. Research has demonstrated that a systematic approach for training and performance evaluation is required in order to provide quality instruction.

This research evaluated the effectiveness of the PDC-HS, as completed by classroom teachers, in a public school special education setting to improve the performance of paraeducators for discrete trial instruction. Three teachers first identified which paraeducators were not correctly implementing the steps for discrete trial instruction. They then used the PDC-HS to determine why their paraeducators were performing poorly and which interventions could improve their performance.

The results indicated that a lack of training was contributing to poor performance and a Behavior Skills Training (BST) package would most likely increase their performance. The BST package began with defining the steps for discrete trial instruction, modeling the steps, practicing the steps and providing feedback on progress. Once the paraeducator was able to correctly demonstrate the steps with an adult, they were able to continue instruction with their students. The data demonstrated that their performance significantly increased after they were provided BST.

The social validity results indicated that the teachers had a positive experience using the PDC-HS. All teachers reported that this was the first time they had consistently taken data on a paraeducator’s performance and were appreciative of the training and pleased with the results. The results also indicated that all were unaware of their paraeducator’s skill in discrete trial instruction and saw the value and outcomes of using data analysis for both the paraeducators and the students they were working with.