This project builds on exploratory work engaging in mathematics professional learning with paraeducators to enact and study a professional learning experience with paraeducators focused on teaching and learning mathematics in grades PreK-3.
Paraprofessionals (often referred to as paras) in educational settings have critical roles in supporting student learning in classrooms, particularly in the elementary grades where paras are much more prevalent. Yet little is known about the professional needs of paraeducators and how they can be supported in learning to teach mathematics in the early elementary grades. This project builds on exploratory work engaging in mathematics professional learning with paras to enact and study a professional learning experience with paraeducators focused on teaching and learning mathematics in grades PreK-3. This work will take place in over the course of two years in two different large urban school districts in different parts of the country. This model includes professional development experiences for paras and the teaches with which they work, support for teachers to improve their guidance for paras as they work together to support mathematics learning, professional learning support for school-based mathematics coordinators, and the study of the model's effectiveness through surveys, interviews, and classroom observations.
The project begins with the revision of the professional development model based on prior exploratory work, expanding the model to include aspects geared towards teacher and district-based support as well as strengthening the professional learning opportunities for paras. This phase of the project will develop measurement tools to assess the impact of the para and teacher learning, including the use of surveys to assess the practice and confidence of paras in implementing ambitious mathematics instruction, observation tools to measure para instructional behaviors, individual and focus group interviews to provide paras and their teacher mentors opportunities to describe their learning in depth, and analytical strategies related to the professional development artifacts. The second year will implement the model with 20 paras and their mentor teachers, along with 8 district-based mathematics facilitators. The second year of the project will engage an additional 20 new paras in each of the two districts involved with the project. The final year will focus on data analysis and the development of a generalizable model for para-teacher mentor professional development in mathematics. Dissemination of such a model is likely to have a meaningful impact on professional learning opportunities for this traditionally undersupported population and will support stronger mathematics outcomes for PreK-3 students.