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ERIC Number: ED521760
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2010
Pages: 279
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: 0
ISBN: ISBN-978-1-1243-2899-7
The Other Grown-Up in the Elementary Classroom: Paraprofessionals' Perceptions of Identity, Role and Relationships
Hull, Mary Wenner
ProQuest LLC, Ed.D. Dissertation, Rutgers The State University of New Jersey - New Brunswick
In a growing trend, educational paraprofessionals instruct some children who are eligible for special education in elementary general education classrooms. Many educational researchers have framed their employment in this capacity as a problem fraught with confused role boundaries (Giangreco, 2003; Riggs, 2001; York-Barr, 2003) and a lack of training (Chopra et al, 2004; Downing, 2000; French, 2004). By debating the behavior of the paraprofessionals rather than the place of their occupation within the context of a classroom, researchers have overlooked important considerations about the nature of the work and those who perform it. Using the social lens of Wenger's community of practice theory, I examined the perceptions and actions of six paraprofessionals in a well-resourced school with backgrounds similar to those of the teachers with whom they work. Results suggest that the participants use a set of skills that are social in nature and dependent upon opportunities for discourse. Their discourse lays the foundation for creating and sustaining identity and membership in a community of practice. Through interviews, observations and informal communication, I found evidence that these paraprofessionals have agency only within inherent limitations of their work environment. The participants belong to an occupation that is somewhere between the teacher and the students in the school hierarchy. In this halfway land, they navigate between two potential poles of behavior: adult agency and childlike dependency. They do not confuse the boundaries of the role but negotiate and adapt to them. They do not report a lack of training, but a need for adequate time to build relationships through which they can continuously train to adapt to changing needs. Using the occupation rather than individuals as the unit of analysis revealed systemic issues of allocation of resources rather individual lack of training and chronic role confusion. A fuller understanding of the relationships between paraprofessionals, students and teachers may be critical at a time when schools are facing new requirements and fiscal constraints. Despite the specific, local nature of the school in which the study took place, the results may aid understanding of the paraprofessionals' work within the classroom and prompt further research. [The dissertation citations contained here are published with the permission of ProQuest LLC. Further reproduction is prohibited without permission. Copies of dissertations may be obtained by Telephone (800) 1-800-521-0600. Web page:]
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Publication Type: Dissertations/Theses - Doctoral Dissertations
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A