Doing the Math! Effective Paraeducator PD to Strengthen Instructional Practices in Elementary Mathematics
Many students rely on paraeducators when learning mathematics. They offer valuable support to reluctant learners, struggling to make sense of math ideas and improve their skills (Ashbaker and Morgan 2012). Yet, paraeducators often receive little professional development designed especially for them (Giangreco et al. 2012). Our Doing the Math with Paraeducators project, funded by the National Science Foundation (DRL1621151), offers practice-based professional development (PD). Designed to increase paraeducators’ mathematics pedagogical content knowledge and instructional strategies that empower students (including those with disabilities and English Language Learners), the PD helps paras develop a sense of efficacy and new techniques. Our session provides PD example activities that are content-focused (e.g., mental computation, fraction games) and student-focused (e.g., evaluating student work, offering targeted student assistance), aimed to support paras in the elementary grades. Through video clips and paraeducator-teacher vignettes, we will discuss first-year findings of increased paraeducator confidence, participation, and learning. We will share improvements and persistent challenges related to paras’ classroom roles, and the supports that teachers provide for their paras. Session participants will have opportunities to discuss their dilemmas and successes as paraeducators, administrators, or teachers, and to consider implications of para PD in their education setting.