Date of Award


Degree Type

Creative Project

Degree Name

Master of Education (MEd)


Special Education and Rehabilitation Counseling

Committee Chair(s)

Kaitlin Bundock


Kaitlin Bundock


Sophia D’Agostino


Summer Gunn


If ever you enter a special education classroom, you may encounter a few events. You may witness a classroom of impressive, almost automatic interactions, delivered in a way so eloquent that the students and staff seem to be in an effortless dance with one another. Or, you may witness a classroom that feels heavy with needs; needs of more staff, more help, more hands, and more time. This visual exercise demonstrates how the structure of a special education classroom sets the tone for student growth and success.

One pivotal part of a special education classroom is the paraeducators. Paraeducators, also referred to as paraprofessionals, teaching assistants (TAs), or “paras” are the teaching assistants that work with the students, under the direction of the special education teacher. When we consider the needs of a special education program, the staff who work alongside the students are one of our top priorities in terms of delivering a safe, learning conducive environment. “Paraprofessionals are critical school staff often responsible for students with or at risk for academic, behavioral, and social impairments” (Wiggs et al., 2021). With all these great responsibilities, why is it that paraeducators have such little, if any, formal training for their positions?

There is a current and vital need for paraeducators to receive proper and on-going training in order to fulfill the vast duties of their positions. When faced with this need, it is best practice to then seek out the research behind this concern. However, you will find that the research shows very little data in terms of types of training, effective training practices and even the lack of preparedness that special education teachers have in order to properly train and support their paraeducators.

Therefore, the purpose of this project was to find information by investigating research behind what paraeducators need to thrive in their profession. For the sake of this project, I limited my scope of focus on special education programs in the elementary settings. I searched to find what, if any, curriculum or training programs or practices exist for paraeducators. I then searched for the proper training schedules by studying what information and time is needed before starting in a paraeducator position, followed by how often, and what focus, on-going professional development needs to present in order to prepare paraeducators.

Following my review of literature related to training paraeducators, I conducted two reports. The first report consists of a review of existing training materials for training paraeducators. The second report summarizes my experience implementing paraeducator training at my school.