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IES Grant

Title: Para-Impact: Professional Development with Teacher-as-Coach for Paraeducators of Elementary Students with Moderate to Severe Developmental Disabilities
Center: NCSER Year: 2018
Principal Investigator: Mason, Rose Awardee: Purdue University
Program: Professional Development for Educators and School-Based Service Providers      [Program Details]
Award Period: 3 years (08/15/2018-08/14/2021) Award Amount: $1,393,765
Goal: Development and Innovation Award Number: R324A180186
Description:

Co-Principal Investigators: Rispoli, Mandy; Wills, Howard; Richardson, Jennifer; Maeda, Yukiko; Irvin, Dwight; Schnitz, Alana

Purpose: The purpose of this project is to develop Para-Impact, a professional development package to train supervising teachers to utilize practice-based coaching (PBC) to improve paraprofessionals' implementation of systematic instruction for elementary students with moderate to severe developmental disabilities (MSDD). Students with MSDD — including those with autism, significant intellectual disabilities, and multiple disabilities — typically require frequent and intense exposure to evidence-based practices delivered with a high degree of fidelity. However, the paraprofessionals that often serve these students receive little to no formal training in implementing evidence-based practices, such as systematic instruction, and the special education teachers with whom they work have limited experience supervising and training paraprofessionals to implement such practices. The current project will develop Para-Impact to address this research-to-practice gap, and provide a mechanism to support teachers in training and supervising paraprofessionals in the implementation of systematic instruction for students with MSDD, with the ultimate aim of improving classroom climate and students' active engagement, academic responding, on-task behavior, and progress on individualized educational goals.

Project Activities: The research team will use an iterative process to develop Para-Impact. In Year 1, the research team will use feedback from focus groups of teachers, paraprofessionals, and school administrators and a team of content and school-based experts to develop the instructional modules, coaching materials, training manuals, and supporting tools. In Year 2, the research team will collect information on the intervention's feasibility and usability through a series of single-case design studies. In the Year 3 pilot study, a randomized controlled trial will be conducted to evaluate the promise of Para-Impact for improving teacher, paraprofessional, student, and classroom outcomes.

Products: This project will result in a fully developed professional development package to train supervising teachers to utilize PBC to improve paraprofessionals' implementation of systematic instruction for elementary students with MSDD. Products will also include peer-reviewed publications and presentations.

Structured Abstract

Setting: The research will take place in elementary schools in Indiana and Kansas in urban, suburban, and rural settings.

Sample: Approximately 22 paraprofessionals, 22 teachers, and 10 administrators will participate in the iterative development process. In addition, a team of content and school-based experts comprised of researchers (in the areas of implementation science, evidence-based practices for students with autism, nonverbal students, paraprofessional training, and coaching) and district personnel will participate in the development of the intervention. For the pilot study, the sample will include 50 teacher-paraprofessional dyads and approximately 100 of their students with MSDD.

Intervention: The project will result in a professional development package, Para-Impact, designed to train teachers to implement PBC as a mechanism to train, provide feedback, and monitor the progress of paraprofessionals' delivery of systematic instruction (i.e., data collection, reinforcement, prompting, and error correction) to students with MSDD. With PBC, an educator and a coach collaborate to improve implementation of practices and problem solve through shared goals and action planning, focused observation, and reflection and feedback. Para-Impact will include the following components for supervising teachers: (1) web-based learning modules to improve teachers' knowledge and skills around implementing PBC; (2) supporting materials, such as case studies and video exemplars; (3) progress monitoring tools to assess paraprofessionals' fidelity of implementation; and (4) a coaching manual. In addition, Para-Impact will include the following components for paraprofessionals: (1) web-based instructional modules to improve paraprofessionals' procedural knowledge of systematic instruction and (2) supporting materials, such as case studies and video exemplars to show how implementation of systematic instruction may vary across settings and students. First, supervising teachers will be trained in PBC by completing learning modules and meeting with a PBC coach (project staff). Paraprofessionals will be enrolled by supervising teachers and will complete the online modules. Teachers will be coached by a trained PBC coach (e.g., instructional coach, special education coordinator, lead teacher) around implementing PBC with fidelity and, in turn, they will provide coaching and feedback to paraprofessionals around implementing systematic instruction with fidelity. Teachers will fade coaching for skills that paraprofessionals master and continue to monitor over time.   

Research Design and Methods: In Year 1, Para-Impact —including the instructional modules, coaching materials, training manuals, and supporting tools — will be developed based on input from teachers, paraprofessionals, school administrators, and a team of content and school-based experts. The research team will develop prototypes of modules and obtain feedback through focus groups with teachers, paraprofessionals, and school administrators. Modules will be further revised based on feedback and presented to a team of content and school-based experts for additional feedback. The revised modules will then be presented in a second round of focus groups and final revisions will be made before the creation of the web-based versions. In Year 2, three multiple-baseline single-case design studies will be conducted to evaluate the feasibility, usability, and preliminary promise of Para-Impact and inform further revisions. Interviews will be conducted with participating teachers and paraprofessionals at the end of the studies to obtain additional feedback on the feasibility. The intervention will be revised based on this feedback and results of the single-case design studies. In Year 3, a randomized controlled trial will be conducted to assess the promise of Para-Impact for improving (1) teachers' coaching fidelity; (2) paraprofessionals' implementation of systematic instruction and overall instruction; (3) students' active engagement, academic responding, on-task behavior, and progress on individualized educational goals; and (4) classroom climate and teacher-paraprofessional collaboration.

Control Condition: For the pilot study, teacher-paraprofessional dyads in the control condition will participate in a group training on systematic instruction.

Key Measures: Teachers' coaching fidelity and paraprofessionals' implementation of systematic instruction will be assessed using researcher-developed measures of fidelity. Paraprofessionals' overall instruction will be assessed by the Multi-Option Observation System for Experimental Studies (MOOSES). Students' behavioral outcomes will be measured by the MOOSES and students' progress toward meeting individualized education goals will be assessed using Goal Attainment Scales (GAS). Teachers and paraprofessionals will complete the Classroom Team Survey to provide information on their level of collaboration. Classroom climate will be assessed using the observational Classroom Atmosphere Rating Scale (CARS).Teachers and paraprofessionals will also provide information on the feasibility, acceptability, and usability of the intervention through researcher-developed surveys, interviews, and focus groups.

Data Analytic Strategy: During the development of the intervention, qualitative focus group and interview data will be analyzed using content analysis to identify themes. Quantitative data from feedback surveys will be analyzed descriptively. Single-case design data will be analyzed through descriptive statistics, visual analysis, and calculation of effect sizes. Data from the pilot study will be analyzed using multilevel modeling to determine whether the intervention shows promise for improving teacher, paraprofessional, student, and classroom outcomes.


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