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Parent-paraeducator collaboration in inclusion

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Title:
Parent-paraeducator collaboration in inclusion reality and issues
Creator:
Chopra, Ritu Verma
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Language:
English
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285 leaves : ; 28 cm

Subjects

Subjects / Keywords:
Teachers' assistants -- Colorado ( lcsh )
Parent-teacher relationships -- Colorado ( lcsh )
Students with disabilities -- Education -- Colorado ( lcsh )
Parents of children with disabilities -- Colorado ( lcsh )
Parent-teacher relationships ( fast )
Parents of children with disabilities ( fast )
Students with disabilities -- Education ( fast )
Teachers' assistants ( fast )
Colorado ( fast )
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bibliography ( marcgt )
theses ( marcgt )
non-fiction ( marcgt )

Notes

Bibliography:
Includes bibliographical references (leaves 271-285).
Statement of Responsibility:
by Ritu Verma Chopra.

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University of Florida
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All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
51782385 ( OCLC )
ocm51782385
Classification:
LD1190.E3 2002d .C46 ( lcc )

Full Text
PARENT-PARAEDUCATOR COLLABORATION IN INCLUSION:
REALITY AND ISSUES
by
Ritu Verma Chopra
B.S., University of Punjab, India, 1976 M.S., University of Delhi, India, 1978 M. Ed., University of Delhi, India, 1983
A thesis submitted to the University of Colorado at Denver in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy Educational Leadership and Innovation 2002


This thesis for the Doctor of Philosophy degree by Ritu V. Chopra has been approved
by
Nancy K. French
ilyn Likins


Chopra, Ritu V. (Ph.D., Educational Leadership and Innovation) Parent-Paraeducator Collaboration in Inclusion: Reality and Issues Thesis directed by Associate Research Professor Nancy K. French
ABSTRACT
This qualitative research study examined the relationships that existed between the parents of students with significant disabilities and the paraeducators who supported them in inclusive educational settings. The purpose of the study was to gain an understanding from several different perspectives of the role parent-paraeducator collaboration played in inclusion. The study included the perspectives of parents, paraeducators, Significant Support Needs (SSN) teachers, and general educators.
The research methodology included interviews with 21 participants; 20 of them represented three SSN program sites in the same district and one was the SSN coordinator for the selected district. Results revealed five different types of relationships between parents and paraeducators; namely close and personal friendship, routine limited interactions, routine extended interactions, tense relationship, and minimal relationship. Results indicated that it is important for paraeducators and parents to communicate because paraeducators spend more time with the students and thus know the students better than anyone else in school.
in


However, for paraeducator-parent relationships to be beneficial in the students education, they must remain within the limits and boundaries established by the team leader or person in charge of the program.
Results identified collaboration among paraeducators, parents, teachers, and related service providers as a fundamental contributing factor to inclusion. In addition, the role of the SSN teacher as the team leader in coordinating the collaborative efforts and supervising the paraeducators was highlighted.
This study offered implications in three areas of practice: establishing collaborative practices, training of paraeducators, and teacher preparation and in-service programs for teachers.
This abstract accurately represents the content of the candidates thesis. I recommend its publication.
Signed
Nancy K. French
IV


DEDICATION
This dissertation is dedicated to my parents for their unconditional love, sound advice, unfailing support, and for instilling a love of learning in all of us.


ACKNOWLEDGEMENT
This dissertation would not have been successfully completed without the help of several persons in my life. I take this opportunity to thank them for their contributions to my accomplishment.
First of all, I am sincerely obligated to my committee: Nancy French, Laura Goodwin, Marilyn Likins, Sally Nathenson-Mejia and Donna Sobel. Each one of you gave me time, advice, and constructive feedback through this arduous process and helped me achieve something that I could be proud of. It was, indeed, a great pleasure to work with such an amazing group of women. Nancy, I am especially grateful to you for all these years of mentorship, guidance, and nurturing, and most importantly, for keeping me on track to be able to accomplish this task.
I want to thank all of the study participants, including parents, teachers, and paraeducators, without whose participation this study would still be an idea and a dream. I was enthralled by your cooperation and enthusiasm. I am particularly grateful to Don Bell who I pestered at every stage of the study, conceptualization to report writing. Don, I can never thank you enough for your patience, wisdom, and assistance.
I wish to acknowledge Tom Bellamy, Alan Davis, and Andrew Helwig. You were not directly involved with this research and dissertation but played an important role in my growth as a researcher and a professional. I would not be where I am today were it not for the incredible learning opportunities that you provided through classes, projects, and laboratory experiences during the course of my doctoral program.
I want to acknowledge my colleagues at the PAR2A Center and for their moral support and timely suggestions. My special thanks to Karen Friedman who diligently edited and formatted this dissertation and thus, contributed significantly to the final product.
Special thanks to all my friends for their constant questioning, How can we help? and for encouraging me to finish. You gave me shoulders to cry on when I was totally frustrated and celebrated with me when I was happy.
To both my older sisters, thanks for encouraging me and urging me to join your Ph.D. Sisters Club. You are both so special and such wonderful role models for me. To my brother, thanks for personally visiting me several times during these years,


helping me stay in touch with back home, and compensating for all the trips I could not take to visit our family in India. You have been a great source of strength and encouragement.
Special thanks to my husband, Dilip, for always being there for me, understanding my need for fulfilling this dream, and enduring all the ups and downs with me during this journey. I want to thank my daughters, Serena and Priya, for caring enough to let me have the space and time I needed. Both of you are the light of my life and I hope through this experience I have been able to pass along this important message to you work hard and follow your heart.
Finally, I am especially indebted to my parents. Mummy, this would not have been possible without the traits that I inherited from you a strong will, determination, and a sense of independence. Thanks for all your words of encouragement from thousands of miles and across seven oceans during this process. Papa, I wish you were physically in this world to share this achievement with me but I know you are somewhere out there smiling with pride and joy -1 always feel your presence and love in my life.


CONTENTS
FIGURES...................................................................xiii
TABLES....................................................................xiv
Chapter
1.0 Introduction............................................................1
1.1 The Problem.............................................................1
1.2 The Background of the Problem...........................................3
1.2.1 Paraeducators and Inclusion............................................3
1.2.2 Parents and Inclusive Education........................................4
1.2.3 Collaboration between Paraeducators and Parents in Inclusion...........5
1.3 Conceptual Framework...................................................7
1.3.1 The Wide End of the Tunnel.............................................9
1.3.2 The Middle of the Funnel: Tacit Theories, Research, and Literature....10
1.3.3 The Narrow End of the Funnel: The Focus of the Study..................12
1.4 Research Questions.....................................................12
1.5 Purpose and Importance of the Study....................................13
1.6 Definitions............................................................14
1.6.1 Paraeducator......................................................... 14
1.6.2 Inclusion.............................................................14
1.6.3 Collaboration for Inclusion...........................................15
1.7 Methodology............................................................17
1.7.1 Sample Selection Procedure............................................17
1.7.2 Key Respondents.......................................................18
1.7.3 Data Collection and Analysis..........................................18
1.7.4 Overview of the Remaining Chapters....................................19
viii


2.0 Review of Literature......................................................21
2.1 Inclusion.................................................................21
2.1.1 Introduction.........;..................................................21
2.1.2 Historical Perspective...................................................22
2.1.3 Definition...............................................................25
2.1.4 Research in Inclusive Education..........................................26
2.2 Parent Advocacy and Inclusive Education...................................32
2.2.1 Introduction............................... ............................32
2.2.2 Historical Perspective...................................................33
2.2.3 Research: Parent Perspectives on Advocacy for and Impact of Inclusion...35
2.3 Paraeducators and Inclusion..............................................38
2.3.1 Introduction.............................................................38
2.3.2 Historical Perspective on the Role of Paraeducators......................38
2.3.3 Definition............................................................. 41
2.3.4 New Roles of Paraeducators...............................................41
2.3.5 Issues Regarding Use of Paraeducators in Inclusion.......................46
2.4 Collaboration in Inclusion..................................................50
2.4.1 Introduction.............................................................50
2.4.2 Definition and Features..................................................51
2.4.3 Benefits of Collaboration................................................53
2.4.4 Barriers to Collaboration................................................54
2.4.5 Facilitating Factors for Collaboration...................................54
2.4.6 Gaps in Collaboration Literature.........................................55
2.5 Summary...................................................................59
2.6 Research Questions........................................................61
IX


3.0 Methodology..............................................................63
3.1 Research Questions.......................................................63
3.2 Rationale for Choosing Qualitative Methodology...........................65
3.3 Sample Selection.........................................................66
3.3.1 Purposive Sampling......................................................66
3.3.2 Selection of the School-District........................................67
3.3.3 District Description....................................................68
3.3.4 Selection of the Program Sites and the Key Respondents..................70
3.4 Data Collection Techniques..............................................73
3.4.1 Participant Information Sheets..........................................74
3.4.2 Interviews..............................................................74
3.5 Data Management and Protection Procedures...............................77
3.6 Data Analysis Procedures................................................79
3.7 Trustworthiness of the Research.........................................82
3.7.1 Triangulation...........................................................85
3.7.2 Demonstration of Researchers Familiarity with the Data.................86
3.7.3 Peer Review or Debriefing...............................................86
3.7.4 Rich and Thick Description..............................................87
3.7.5 Detailed Documentation of Methods of Data Collection and Analysis.......87
3.7.6 Detailed Description of Participants....................................88
3.7.7 Clarifying Researchers Bias and Role...................................88
3.7.8 Inclusion of Negative Evidence..........................................89
3.8 Summary.................................................................90
4.0 Results..................................................................91
4.1 SSN Program at Mount Evans Elementary School.............................92
4.1.1 Background of the Participants..........................................93
x


4.1.2 Roles and Responsibilities of the Participants With Regards to the Student... 102
4.1.3 Types of Relationships Between Parents and Paraeducators................106
4.1.4 Factors Leading to Existing Relationships...............................109
4.1.5 Impact of Existing Relationships........................................114
4.1.6 Description of Successful Inclusion.....................................116
4.1.7 Factors Contributing To Successful Inclusion............................121
4.1.8 Existing Practices for Collaboration....................................131
4.2 SSN Program at Fox Trail Elementary.......................................134
4.2.1 Background of the Participants...........................................135
4.2.2 Role and Responsibilities of Participants with Regards to the Student...144
4.2.3 Types of Relationships..................................................149
4.2.4 Factors Leading to Existing Relationships...............................151
4.2.5 Impact of the Existing Relationship.....................................156
4.2.6 Description of Inclusion................................................158
4.2.7 Factors for Successful Inclusion........................................161
4.2.8 Existing Practices for Collaboration....................................170
4.3 SSN Program at Riverside Elementary........................................176
4.3.1 Background of the Participants...........................................177
4.3.2 Role and Responsibilities of the Participants with the Student..........183
4.3.3 Type of Relationship....................................................187
4.3.4 Factors Leading to the Existing Relationships...........................189
4.3.5 Impact of the Existing Relationship.....................................192
4.3.6 Description of Successful Inclusion.....................................194
4.3.7 Factors Contributing to Successful Inclusion............................197
4.3.8 Existing Practices for Collaboration....................................205
4.4 Summary....................................................................207
XI


5.0 Discussion and Implications...............................................221
5.1 Research Questions........................................................221
5.2 Discussion of Results.....................................................222
5.2.1 What types of relationships exist between parents and paraeductors?......222
5.2.2 What factors lead to the existing relationships between parents and
paraeducators?...........................................................225
5.2.3 What impact do the existing relationships between parents and
paraeducators have on the implementation of successful inclusion?........228
5.2.4 How is successful inclusion described?..................................231
5.2.5 What factors contribute to successful inclusion?........................232
5.2.6 How does parent-paraeducator collaboration fit into the big picture of
parent-school collaboration for successful inlcusion?....................239
5.3 Conclusions...............................................................241
5.4 Limitations of the Study..................................................243
5.5 Implications for Future Practice..........................................245
5.5.1 Establishing Collaborative Practices.....................................245
5.5.2 Training of Paraeducators...............................................246
5.5.3 Teacher Preparation and In-Service Programs for Teachers................247
5.6 Implications for Future Research..........................................249
Appendix
A. Participant Information Sheets............................................250
B. Interview Guides..........................................................256
C. Consent Forms.............................................................261
D. Node Listing..............................................................268
References.....................................................................271
xii


FIGURES
Figure 1.1 The Conceptual Funnel
8
i
Xlll


TABLES
Table 3.1. Number of Key Respondents........................................73
Table 3.2. Parallel Constructs for Trustworthiness..........................84
Table 4.1. Profile of Student Participants in SSN Program at Mount Evans
Elementary.......................................................95
Table 4.2. Profile of Parent Participants at SSN Program at Mount Evans
Primary School.................................-.................95
Table 4.3. Profile of Paraeducator Participants at SSN Program at Mount Evans
Primary School...................................................95
Table 4.4. Profile of Teacher Participants at SSN Program at Mount Evans
Primary School...................................................96
Table 4.5. Profile of the Student Participants in SSN Program in Fox Trail
Elementary......................................................137
Table 4.6. Profile Parent Participants in SSN Program at Fox Trail
Elementary......................................................137
Table 4.7. Profile of Paraeducator Participants in SSN Program at Fox Trail
Elementary......................................................137
Table 4.8. Profile of Teacher Participants in SSN Program at Fox Trail
Elementary......................................................138
Table 4.9. Profile of Student Participants in SSN Program at Riverside
Elementary......................................................178
Table 4.10. Profile of Parent Participants in SSN Program at Riverside
Elementary......................................................178
Table 4.11. Profile of Paraeducator Participants in SSN Program at Riverside
Elementary......................................................178
Table 4.12. Profile of Teacher Participants at SSN Program in Riverside
Elementary......................................................179
Table 4.13. Findings: Mount Evans Elementary................................210
Table 4.14. Findings: Fox Trail Elementary..................................215
Table 4.15. Findings: Riverside Elementary..................................218
XIV


1.0 Introduction
This chapter provides an overall description of the study and includes the conceptual framework, research questions, and a summary of the research design and methodology.
1.1 The Problem
In recent years, paraeducators have become the primary means of support for students with disabilities in inclusive settings (Giangreco, Edelman, Luiselli, & MacFarland, 1997; Haas, 1997; French & Pickett, 1997). To conform to the new ideology of inclusion and rapidly changing societal and legal priorities and demands, the role of the paraeducator has expanded to provide direct services that include monitoring of inappropriate behavior and individual and small group instruction (French and Pickett, 1997; Marks, Schrader, & Levine, 1999; Wadsworth & Knight, 1996). Paraeducators often spend more time and have more contact with students who have severe disabilities compared to teachers and other service providers. As a result, paraeducators play important roles in the education and life of the students they serve (French & Chopra, 1999; Friend and Cook, 1996; Giangreco, & Putnam, 1991).
At the same time, the perceived role of the parents of children with disabilities has changed. In the early part of the 20th century, parents were viewed as the primary cause of their childs disability. Now parents are often viewed as valued agents who provide positive changes in the lives of their children (Paul & Simeonsson, 1993;
1


Turnbull & Turnbull, 1997). Since the 1960s, parents of students with disabilities have been the primary driving force behind the passage of major laws pertaining to inclusive education for their children (Bennett, Deluca, & Bruns, 1997; Garrick-Duhaney & Salend, 2000). Exceptional parents are now recognized as the best advocates and initiators of reform and as partners and collaborators with the school in the care, treatment, and education of their children (Gibb et al.,1997; Guralnick,
1994; Dennis, Williams, Giangreco, & Cloninger, 1993; Turnbull & Turnbull, 1997).
Thus, both paraeducators and parents are major role players in the education of children with severe disabilities in inclusive school settings. It has also been established that the parents of children with significant needs have infrequent and irregular contact with the school professionals whereas they have more frequent and routine contact with the paraeducators who provide individualized attention to their children (Bennett et al., 1997; French & Chopra, 1999; Marks et al., 1999; Pickett, 1994). Studies have also found that close and personal relationships existed between paraeducators, and that parents underscored the importance of paraeducator support for their childrens success in school (Chopra et al., in press; French & Chopra,
1999). Except for the references in the above studies, empirical information about relationships between parents and paraeducators remain scarce and limited. Some of the questions that remain unexamined and unanswered are: Are parent-paraeducator relationships important in the context of inclusion?, What factors contribute to an
2


effective parent-paraeducator relationship?, and What role does the parent-paraeducator relationship play in parent-school collaboration?
1.2 The Background of the Problem
This section explains the milieu of the study highlighting the salient issues that justified examination of this topic.
1.2.1 Paraeducators and Inclusion
Paraeducators have been employed in schools to deliver an array of services related to the educational process for over 50 years. Nationally, there have been substantial increases in the employment of paraeducators in the last few decades (Nitoli & Giloth, 1997). Paraeducators now constitute the most rapidly growing portion of the workforce in education and are among the personnel in greatest demand (French & Pickett, 1997; Katsyannis, Hodge & Lanford, 2000) with their numbers soaring to almost 1.3 million people in the year 2000 (Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2000).
In 1974, the passage of the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) resulted in the initial surge in the employment of paraeducators to provide individualized support to students with disabilities (Nittoli & Giloth, 1997; Picket, 1994). The 1997 amendments to IDEA placed a greater emphasis on inclusive opportunities and the use of paraeducators as important support for students with special needs (Etscheidt & Bartlett, 1999). The purpose of inclusion is to provide students with disabilities
3


opportunities for interface with age-peers and typical curriculum in normal educational situations (Giangreco & Putnam, 1991; Karagiannis, Stainback & Stainback, 1996; Sands, Kozeleski, & French, 2000; Stainback, Stainback, & Forest, 1989; Stainback & Stainback, 1990; Villa, Thousand, Nevin, & Malgeri, 1996).
Research evidence shows that paraeducators make inclusion possible for students with disabilities by supporting them in general education classrooms (Blalock, 1991; Downing, Ryndak, Clark, 2000; French & Chopra, 1999; Giangreco, Edleman, Broer, & Doyle, 2001; Marks et al., 1999). Paraeducators frequently are assigned on behalf of individual students and they spend their time along side the student rather than along side the teacher because special education teachers cannot be present at multiple locations concurrently (French & Chopra, 1999).
1.2.2 Parents and Inclusive Education
In the 1950 and 60s, the trend towards ending the separate systems of special and general education was fueled by a powerful and strong parent advocacy movement that demanded fundamental change in the education system to include the children with disabilities in regular school settings (Lipsky and Gartner, 1989; Stainback, Stainback, & Forest, 1989). During this time, parent organizations representing several areas of exceptionality joined forces with professionals and other community leaders to seek federal legislation mandating free, appropriate education for students with disabilities. The Education for All Children Act of 1975 that was
4


later reauthorized as Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) in 1990, was a tribute to the efforts of those parents of children with disabilities who upheld the firm belief that their children were entitled to fully participate in society, in schools, in work, and in the community (Turnbull & Turnbull, 1997). The passage of these laws granted parents of students with disabilities the rights of decision making in the educational process of their children.
The 1997 amendments to IDEA place an even greater emphasis on inclusive opportunities and the role of parents. These amendments require that students receive supplementary aids and services in regular education classes. In addition, teams including parents must specifically consider these aids and services while developing the Individualized Education Plan, IEP (Etscheidt and Bartlett, 1999).
1.2.3 Collaboration between Paraeducators and
Parents in Inclusion
There is a general agreement in the field that collaboration among stakeholders is an essential component of effective inclusion of students with disabilities in general education classrooms (Giangreco, Cloninger, & Iverson, 1993; Rainforth, York, & MacDonald, 1992; Rainforth & England, 1997; Jackson, Ryndak & Billingsley, 2000; Snell & Janney, 2000; Thousand, Villa, & Nevin, 1994; Villa et al., 1996; York-Barr, Schultz, Doyle, Kronberg, & Crossett, 1996). The support for the active role of parents as partners and allies with schools in providing services to
5


children with special needs has grown such that parent/family school collaboration is not considered an option but a professional obligation (Walther-Thomas, Komiek, McLaughlin, & Williams, 2000). However, the discussions in the special education literature around family-school collaboration, parent-professional partnerships, or alliances focus primarily on the relationship between teachers and other school professionals (e.g. psychologists, speech therapists, school nurses, school psychologists etc.) and parents (Dunst & Paget, 1991; Dinnebeil, Hale, & Rule, 1996; Turnbull & Turnbull, 1997). These discussions do not include parent-paraeducator relationships as a part of family school collaboration. There seems to be more than one reason to explore this relationship, particularly where needs of children with severe disabilities are concerned.
First, in a recent study, parents reported having close relationships with paraeducators and valued that relationship because it helped them and their children to participate more fully in the education process (French & Chopra, 1999). Second, there is further research evidence that for parents of students with disabilities in inclusive settings, the paraeducator serves as the person with whom they have daily contact regarding their childs performance (Bennett, et al., 1997; Marks, et al., 1999; French & Chopra, 1999). Third, several authors have stated that the practice of employing paraeducators to facilitate inclusive education of students with disabilities in general education has emerged out of perceived necessity and parental pressure
6


(Giangreco et al., 1997; Haas, 1997; French & Pickett, 1997). Fourth, paraeducators often get to know the students they support better than anyone else at school (Coots, Bishop & Grentot-Scheyer, 1998; Giangreco et al., 1997; Hanson et al., 1997; Marks et al., 1999). Fifth, paraeducators typically live in the community in which they work and thus have opportunities to interact with the students and their families in, as well outside of school (Chopra et al., in press; French & Chopra, 1999). Finally, paraeducators have been recognized as important links or liaisons in parent-school-community relations (Chopra et. al, in press; French & Chopra, 1999; French & Pickett, 1997; Genzuk & Baca, 1998; Miramontes, 1990; Nittoli & Giloth, 1997; Pickett, 1989; Rubin & Long, 1994; Rueda & DeNeve 1999).
1.3 Conceptual Framework
The complex process of conceptualizing a study involves the interplay of personal observations with a theoretical rationale that leads to focusing on the research question, and making decisions about where to go, what to look for, and how to move to real world observations (Marshall & Rossman, 1999, p. 32). I have chosen to use the conceptual funnel illustrated by these authors to describe the conceptual framework for this study (see Figure 1.1). The large end of the funnel represents the general conceptual focus in terms of the theoretical basis of the study, the middle section of the funnel narrows down to the real world observations,
7


experiences, and issues, and finally, the small end of the funnel closely focuses on the research question.
Figure 1.1 The Conceptual Funnel
8


1.3.1 The Wide End of the Tunnel
Bogdan and Biklen (1998) define theoretical orientation as a loose collection of logically held together assumptions, concepts, or propositions that orient thinking and research (p.30). The theoretical orientation that influenced this study is Social Constructivism. Social or Vygotskian or Sociohistoric constructivism, professed by Lev Vygotsky, a Russian psychologist and philosopher in the 1930s and grounded in the democratic themes, emphasized education for social transformation and the importance of the influences of cultural and social contexts in learning (McCaslin, & Hickery, 2001; Richardson, 1997). Social constructivism suggests that schools need to be transformed from bureaucracies into problem solving entities where democratic themes of voice, collaboration, and inclusion are clearly present (Skrtic, Sailor, & Gee, 1996; Gray, 1989). Advocating from the same school of thought, Reich (1990) recognized the place of collaboration in school reform and stated that learning organizations are holistic, constructivist entities in which invention occurs when the "combined skills and insights (of interdisciplinary team members) add up to something more than the sum of their individual contributions" (p. 202).
Collaboration and inclusion are inseparable themes in social constructivist school reform efforts; neither is possible without the other. In short, the social constructivist school reform agenda emphasizes that promising practices for all students are evidenced when team members from education and related disciplines,
9


families, and communities come together to collaboratively create successful, inclusive classrooms and schools.
This research topic surfaced in part from my beliefs entrenched in social constructivism. I strongly believe that inclusive education provides the place and the channel through which parents, paraeducators, school professionals, and students converge their efforts to create quality, democratic, and inclusive schools. I also believe that collaboration, diversity, equality, and democratic practices are the key to success for all in schools.
1,3.2 The Middle of the Funnel: Tacit Theories, Research,
and Literature
In addition to my beliefs stated above, personal understandings, and tacit theories, my position as a professional in the field of paraeducator training and employment in special education also played a role in conceptualizing this research. LeCompte and Preissle (1993) define tacit theories as the informal explanations we use to guide our daily life as well as hunches we have about why things work the way they do (p.121). During the course of my work related to training of personnel who support children with special needs, and my personal communications with teachers, paraeducators, and parents have frequently revealed information that points to this topic. I have learned that:
10


* Parents live in the community, often know paraeducators as neighbors, and share close relationships or friendships with them.
* Parents request and sometimes demand inclusion and paraeducator support for their children.
* Parents respect paraeducators for how much they do for their child in light of how little they are paid.
* Paraeducators communicate with parents more than school professionals do on a daily basis.
* Parents and students become overly dependent on paraeducators who work with them on a consistent basis for a long period of time. This can lead to hesitance or even unwillingness on their part to work with other school personnel.
* School professionals sometimes are left out of the loop in the communications that take place between parents and paraeducators. This can potentially lead to misunderstandings and resentment among concerned parties and can negatively impact effective service delivery to students.
The review of the existing literature, discussed in detail in Chapter 2, revealed limited but sufficient evidence that substantiated some of these observations and established a case for further investigation into the relationship between parents and paraeducators (Bennett et al., 1997; Chopra et al., in press; French & Chopra, 1999;
ll


French & Pickett, 1997; Giangreco et al., 1997; Marks et ah, 1999; Nittoli and Giloth, 1997).
1.3.3 The Narrow End of the Funnel: The Focus of the Study
The interplay of the overall theoretical approach and my personal experience and observations coalescing with empirical research on the role of paraeducators and parents, benefits of inclusion, and collaboration in inclusion brought me to the main focus of the study: collaboration between parents of children with severe disabilities and paraeducators who support these children in inclusive settings.
1.4 Research Questions
Given the above background and current lack of research around the chosen topic, the primary research question that this study addressed was:
What are the different perspectives on parent-paraeducator collaboration in the context of children with severe disabilities in inclusive classrooms? Participants whose perspectives were sought included parents, paraeducators, special education teachers, and general education teachers.
Subsidiary questions related to this research question were:
> What kinds of relationships exist between parents and paraeducators?
> What factors lead to the existing relationships between parents and paraeducators?
12


> What impact do the existing relationships between parents and paraeducators have on the implementation of successful inclusion?
> How is successful inclusion described?
> What factors contribute to successful inclusion?
> How does parent-paraeducator collaboration fit into the big picture of collaboration for successful inclusion?
1.5 Purpose and Importance of the Study
Examining the parent-paraeducator relationship from the perspectives of the parents, paraeducators, and school professionals will result in potentially useful information. This new information will result in expansion of the existing knowledge base in the literature around the use of paraeducators in inclusion and in establishing effective collaborative practices for inclusion. The study identifies and documents means and methods that could lead to effective collaboration among major stakeholders, resulting in the improvement of inclusive education for children with severe disabilities. The findings of the study make a valuable contribution to the field by revealing practices that may be replicated by parents, paraeducators, school professionals, and others who have a stake in the inclusive education of students with disabilities.
13


1.6 Definitions
With the focus of the study in mind, this section provides definitions for the terms paraeducator, inclusive education, and collaboration.
1.6.1 Paraeducator
The terms paraeducator, teacher assistant, teacher aide, instructional assistants/aide, and paraprofessional are synonymous and are used to denote persons who serve alongside teachers and other professional educators as technicians, "just as their counterparts in law and medicine are designated as paralegals and paramedics" (Pickett, 1989, p.l). Throughout the nation, the above and many more titles or labels are assigned to persons working in this role. In this study, the term paraeducator was used based on the following broad and comprehensive definition by the National Center for Paraprofessionals in Special Education and Related Services:
A paraeducator is an employee: (1) whose position is either instructional in nature or who delivers other direct or indirect services to students and/or parents; and who works under supervision of a teacher or other professional staff member who is responsible for the overall conduct of the class, the design and implementation of individualized educational programs, and the assessment of the effect of the programs on student progress (Pickett, 1989, p.2).
1.6.2 Inclusion
Inclusion and inclusive education as terms have been defined with several variations by different authors (McGregor, 1997; Walther-Thomas et al., 2000). Most
14


of them agree that inclusive environments are those in which everyone belongs, is accepted, supports and is supported by his or her peers and other members of the school community in the course of having his or her needs met (Stainback & Stainback, 1990, p. 3).
For the purposes of this study, the above definition was accepted with the following elaboration by York, Doyle, and Kronberg (1992):
Inclusion is students with disabilities (a) attending the same schools as siblings and neighbors, (b) being in general education classrooms with chronological age-appropriate classmates, (c) having individualized and relevant learning objectives, and (d) being provided with the necessary support. Inclusion is not students with disabilities who (a) must spend every minute of the school day in general education classes, (b) never receive small-group or individualized instruction, and (c) are in general education classes to learn the core curriculum only (p. 3).
1.6.3 Collaboration for Inclusion
Like inclusion, there are several definitions of collaboration in the literature, yet no one seemed complete by itself. However, one major similarity among all these definitions is the nature of the interdependent interactions of the collaborators (Villa et al., 1996). In the context of this study, the concept of collaboration in inclusive schooling is a compilation of the following basic elements identified by several authors (Friend & Cook, 1996; Idol, Nevin, & Paolucci-Whitcomb, 1994; Pugach &
15


Johnson, 2000; Sands et al., 2000; Thousand & Villa, 1992; Villa et al.; 1996; Walther-Thomas et al., 2000).
Collaboration is an interactive process that enables people with diverse expertise to generate creative solutions to mutually defined problems by:
> Recognizing the need for joint effort to achieve complex goals
> Agreeing to view all members as possessing the unique and needed
expertise
> Acknowledging the diverse expertise that generates increased creativity through joint efforts
> Enjoying the social nature of joint problem solving, even though difficult
> Valuing individual intellectual growth of participants
> Reflecting about professional practices and changing procedures based on deliberate analysis of merits and pitfalls
> Sharing accountability
> Sharing responsibility for decision-making
> Sharing resources
> Valuing personal interactions, expression of trust, and experience of an evolving sense of community
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1.7 Methodology
The nature of the research questions posed demanded a qualitative method because in-depth information was needed to study a topic on which not much is known.
1.7.1 Sample Selection Procedure
For site and sample selection, I used purposeful sampling techniques because the aim was to choose participants who would generate rich information to meet the exploratory expectations of the study. In qualitative research, purposeful sampling is considered a powerful strategy for the researcher to select participants who are information-rich for in depth study (Patton, 1990). I used my own judgment and recommendations from qualified people to identity information rich cases (Rubin & Rubin, 1995). The school district was selected on the basis of my personal knowledge of the district through my work as well as my conversations with other professionals and parents, who knew the district well. It has a reputation of being effective in terms of its implementation of inclusion policies, paraeducator training, and parent involvement.
The sites for the study were Significant Support Needs (SSN) programs at three schools. These programs are especially designed for students with severe/significant special needs. The district level coordinator of these programs, whose title is Significant Support Needs Specialist, helped in the identification of the
17


sites on the basis of a pre-determined criteria that is discussed in Chapter 3, Methods. The Significant Support Needs teacher at each site participated in the study and identified the rest of the participants from their respective sites.
1.7.2 Key Respondents
I interviewed a total of 21 persons at three program sites. The participants at the three sites included: the three SSN teachers, six parents (four mothers and both parents of one child), six paraeducators (who either worked exclusively or shared responsibility of the child with another paraeducator), and four classroom teachers who worked with four of the children; the classroom teacher of one student chose not to participate in the study. In addition, a private duty nurse of one child and the SSN Specialist who assisted in the sample selection were also interviewed.
1.7.3 Data Collection and Analysis
I conducted individual interviews with each participant using an interview guide comprised of predetermined questions on identical themes for each category of participants. This was done to ensure that the focus for each interview remained the same and consistency of information sought was maintained among different sources.
I tape-recorded all interviews and they were transcribed verbatim. In addition, I took field notes during the interviews and recorded reflective notes after listening to each tape. To make sense of the data, I listened to each taped interview and read each transcript several times while writing common themes in the margins of the
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transcriptions. Next, I transported them to the QSR*NVivo, a computerized qualitative data analysis program for further analysis. Based on the research questions and themes identified through the manual analysis of the data, I created a coding tree and coded each document. I created reports on each theme with all the quotes included in it. This resulted in re-examination of data and reorganization of themes. Re-visitation of data and reexamination of the themes continued throughout the writing process and eventually resulted in rich interpretation of the data.
1.7.4 Overview of the Remaining Chapters
Chapter 2, Review of Literature, presents a synthesis of the existing literature on the evolution of the ideology of inclusion, the role of parents and paraeducators in inclusion, and collaborative practices for inclusion.
Chapter 3, Methodology, describes the research design and includes a rationale for choosing the qualitative approach to study the problem. This chapter also presents other methodological details such as sample and site selection, data collection and data analysis techniques, along with strategies that were used to establish quality and trustworthiness in this research.
Chapter 4, Results, presents the findings of the study under themes that emerged from the analyses of the three sites where a total of five parent-paraeducator relationships were studied.
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Chapter 5, Discussion, summarizes and discusses the findings related to each of the research questions and examines the results in the light of their similarities with existing evidence in the literature, as well as the new knowledge they offer to the field. This chapter also includes implications for future research and practice.
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2.0 Review of Literature
This study aimed at gaining an understanding of parent-paraeducator collaboration and its impact on the education of children with significant disabilities in inclusive settings. This chapter is divided into six sections.
2.1 Inclusion
2.2 Parent Advocacy and Inclusive Education
2.3 Paraeducators and Inclusion
2.4 Collaboration in Inclusion
2.5 Summary
2.6 Research Questions
2.1 Inclusion
The section provides an overview of the history of inclusion with a focus on the shift in philosophies and the educational programs for students with disabilities. This chapter also includes literature on the benefits of and contributing factors to inclusion.
2.1.1 Introduction
The driving force for including students with disabilities in general education classrooms results from the compelling belief that education is a human right and persons with disabilities should be a part of schools, which in turn, should modify
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their operations to include all students. Ensuring educational opportunities for students with disabilities has been and continues to be a hard fought battle; however, this battle has led to transformed programs for students with disabilities (Karagiannis & Cartwright, 1990; Lipsky and Gartner, 1989, 1997; Stainback & Stainback, 1984,1992; Villa & Thousand, 1991). A brief history of special education including the shift towards inclusive schooling is presented below to provide a sense of how programs for students with disabilities have evolved and continue to develop and change.
2.1.2 Historical Perspective
Special education began in the United States in the 1820s in the form of segregated institutions for the persons with disabilities. During the late 1800s until the mid 1900s, institutions for individuals with severe disabilities continued to grow in numbers as well as size. This practice of segregating people with disabilities from the rest of society was dehumanizing and resulted in social stigma and rejection (Bogdan & Taylor, 1982; Edgerton, 1967; Snell, 1991).
In 1945, a panel at the Council for Exceptional Children convention recommended that students with educable mental retardation be included in general school settings (Lipsky & Gartner, 1997). This resulted in the use of special classes in public schools as the preferred educational delivery system for students with disabilities in the 1950s and 1960s. During this period of time, parents of children
22


with disabilities and several special education leaders began advocating for the rights of students with disabilities to be educated in more normalized school settings (Dunn, 1968; Dybwad, 1964; Golberg & Cruickshank, 1958; Hobbs, 1966; Reynolds, 1962). Stainback and Stainback (1996) describe this period as follows: For the first time, and on a fairly wide basis, the restrictions imposed by segregated institutions, special schools, and special classes were presented as problematic. The wheel of change had been set in motion (p.21).
The pressure from parents, courts, and legislators resulted in the Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975 (PL94-142), enacted in 1978. This law extended the right to a free public education to all children, regardless of disability, in the least restrictive environments. Propelled by the passage of PL94-142, by 1976 all states had made laws promoting public school programs for students with disabilities.
Despite the legislation and strong advocacy movement of the 70s, the implementation of PL94-142 took place mainly in the form of existence of two separate systems general and special education within the same school; hence, full access to schools and communities for persons with disabilities continued to be a struggle until the mid 1980s. In 1986, the dual system of general and special education was challenged and advocacy for merging the two gained momentum (Stainback & Stainback, 1984,1996). The US Department of Education Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services issued the Regular Education Initiative
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(REI) to develop ways to serve students with disabilities in general education by encouraging special education programs to develop partnerships with general education (Wang, Reynold & Walberg, 1994; Villa & Thousand, 1991). By the late 1980s attention to the need to educate students with significant disabilities in the mainstream of education intensified. This period experienced a heightened advocacy for the participation of children with special needs in general education classes, whether part or full time (Lipsky and Gartner, 1989,1998; Stainback, et al., 1989; Stainback & Stainback, 1996; Villa & Thousand, 1988; Villa, Thousand, Stainback,
& Stainback, 1992). In 1988, The Association for Persons with Severe Handicaps (TASH) adopted a resolution calling for the integration of general and special education to create a unified system (Lipsky and Gartner, 1989; Stainback et al., 1989).
The movement supporting inclusive education gained unparalleled impetus in the early 1990s. Several laws and court rulings declared segregation in schools illegal. The Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975 (PL94-142) was reauthorized as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) in 1990, and then again in 1997. The IDEA not only favored placement of students with disabilities in general education but also placed profound emphasis on individualized programs for each child with disabilities (Lipsky & Gartner, 1997). Promotion and support of inclusion by its advocates and courts have positively influenced the public
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attitude, school policies, and practices, and made inclusion a part of the wider school reform movement (Karagiannis, Stainback & Stainback, 1996).
2.1.3 Definition
In recent years, there has been a conspicuous shift from concepts such as
mainstreaming and integration towards inclusive education. Terms like
mainstreaming and integration have been abandoned because they denote merely
physically placing previously excluded students in the mainstream of the school and
the community (Stainback, Stainback, & Jackson, 1992). Inclusion allows students
with disabilities to spend the vast majority of their time in classes with typical peers,
where appropriate curricular adjustments are made to meet their individual needs
(Giangreco, Cloninger, Dennis, & Edelman, 1994; Walther-Thomas et al., 2000;
Stainback & Stainback, 1992). Inclusive environments are those in which everyone
belongs, is accepted, supports and is supported by his or her peers and other members
of the school community in the course of having his or her needs meet (Stainback &
Stainback, 1990, p. 3). York et al. (1992) elaborated on this definition as follows:
Inclusion is students with disabilities (a) attending the same schools as siblings and neighbors, (b) being in general education classrooms with chronological age-appropriate classmates, (c) having individualized and relevant learning objectives, and (d) being provided with the necessary support. Inclusion is not students with disabilities who (a) must spend every minute of the school day in general education classes, (b) never receive small-group or individualized instruction, and (c) are in general education classes to learn the core curriculum only (p. 3).
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2.1.4 Research in Inclusive Education
Given the large body of existing literature about outcomes of and issues in inclusion, this section reviews the research related to the target group of this study, students with severe disabilities who are included in elementary level general classrooms. The existing research in this area can be divided into four major themes: Effects on Academic Achievement, Effects on Social Competence and Relationships, Attitudes and Factors that Impact Inclusion, and Parent Advocacy in and Parent Perceptions of Inclusion. The focus of the research under the final theme relates more to section 2.2, Parents and Inclusion, and therefore can be found in that section.
2.1.4.1 Effects on Academic Achievement
Only a few studies have been conducted that investigate the effect of inclusion on the educational achievement of elementary grade students with severe disabilities. According to Hunt and Goetz (1997) the lack of research on learning outcomes could be due to the fact that the inclusion of students with severe disabilities in general education was grounded in human rights and ethical considerations, rather than in theories of learning or research on effective teaching (p. 11).
In one such study Sharpe, York, & Knight (1994) studied the effects of inclusion on the academic performance of the students without disabilities. No significant differences were found between the academic or behavioral performance
26


of students who were members of classes that included a child with significant disabilities and classes that did not.
Another study on the effects of inclusion on educational achievement focused on both the achievement of Individualized Education Program (IEP) objectives of the students with multiple and severe disabilities and the related academic performance of classmates without disabilities in cooperative learning groups (Hunt, Staub, Alwell, & Goetz, 1994). The study revealed that the students with disabilities achieved targeted communication and motor skills and IEP objectives without negatively impacting the performance of the students without disabilities.
2.1.4.2 Effects on Social Competence and Social
Relationships
The studies in this area provide evidence that inclusive placement of students with disabilities enhances the social competence of all students, results in social acceptance of students with disabilities, and encourages social relationships and interactions among students.
Hunt, Farron-Davis, Beckstead, Curtis, and Goetz (1994) evaluated two different program placements for students with severe disabilities: a full inclusion model of integration and the special class model. Findings revealed that the regular class placements for the students with disabilities were found to be superior to placements in special education classes. The former resulted in IEPs with more
27


academic objectives, greater social interaction with schoolmates who were not disabled, less time spent alone, and more time spent in general education classrooms and community settings.
Fryxell and Kennedy (1995) reported similar findings in their study on the effects of placement in general education versus placement in self-contained classrooms. The salient findings of this study were that the students placed in general education classrooms: (a) had higher levels of social contact with schoolmates without disabilities, (b) were provided higher levels of social support, and (c) had much larger friendship networks composed primarily of schoolmates without disabilities.
Friendships between typical students and their classmates with moderate to severe disabilities were the focus of a study conducted by Staub, Schwartz, Gallucci, and Peck (1994). The resulting Four Portraits of Friendships revealed the following similarities: (a) the friendship was a give-and-take relationship, with the two students sharing equal roles; (b) the parents of the students without disabilities, teachers, and other school personnel encouraged and supported the friendships; and (c) each of the students without disabilities brought both strengths and needs to the relationships.
Evans, Salisbury, Palombaro, Berryman, and Hollo wood (1992) also studied the interactions between classmates with and without severe disabilities in an inclusive classroom. They found that (a) the level of acceptance of the children with
28


disabilities was not related to their level of social competence, nor was it associated with the number of social interactions initiated or received and (b) the students with disabilities more often responded to approaches from classmates, rather than initiated them.
In another study, Kozleski and Jackson (1993) examined the experiences of educators and children as they participated in full educational inclusion of one child with severe disabilities over a period of three years. They found that opportunities for social relationships and friendships improved for the child over the span of three years. They also reported positive changes in the child's adaptive skills and independent living skills.
2.1.4.3 Attitudes and Factors that Affect Inclusion
This section includes studies of inclusive settings and the development of inclusive educational practices that provide insight into the factors and attitudes that support successful inclusion of students with disabilities.
York-Barr et al. (1996) explored the perspectives of key people involved in the process of change that resulted in the development of inclusive educational programs for students with moderate to severe disabilities in a school district. Salient elements for a successful inclusive program reported by the participants included: (a) belief in affective outcomes of inclusion such as respect, getting along with others, caring, and helping among all involved; (b) recognition of inclusion as a moral
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imperative, and positive regard for the students with disabilities by all involved; (c) development of positive working relationships by bringing individuals together and facilitating their growth to take on new roles and responsibilities; (d) allocation of resources and strategic planning of resources to facilitate systems change; (e) sharing success stories; and (f) collaborative leadership that fostered the positive nature of collegial interactions among supervisors and other educators so that no one felt isolated.
In their study, Salisbury, Palombaro, and Hollowood (1993) also found that the driving force behind the development of inclusive education in an elementary school was consensus based on the belief that inclusive education "meant that all members of the school and neighborhood community were 'connected' and 'belonged"' (p. 78). The factors that helped were the presence of special education support staff in the general education classroom, collaborative teaming, and a change in teaching approach from a parallel curriculum model to the use of a curricular adaptation model that promoted instructional inclusion through regularly scheduled planning meetings. According to the authors: "The momentum for systems change became more of a shared agenda as staff worked collaboratively with administration to articulate their vision of inclusion (p. 83).
Hunt and Farron-Davis (1992) addressed attitudes of special education teachers in their study on the quality and curricular content of IEP objectives written
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for students with severe disabilities when placed in a special class versus a general education class. The researchers found that students placement in inclusive classes resulted in IEPs that contained more references to best practices than students in segregated classes, and that these students were less likely to be engaged in isolated activities and more likely to be engaged with other people in the classroom.
General educators recognized the importance of positive attitudes, such as teacher willingness to interact with special education students and increase their knowledge to support children with significant disabilities in their classrooms, in a study conducted by Giangreco, Dennis, Cloinger, Edelman, and Schattman (1993). Other supporting factors perceived by the teachers were relationships that emphasized teamwork and a shared framework and goals among all team members. The teachers reported to have experienced personal growth in terms of awareness of the importance of themselves as positive models for the other students, a sense of pride for being open to change, and an increased level of confidence in their teaching ability. The social benefits of inclusion perceived for the students with and without disabilities were similar to what has been found by other researchers.
Giangreco, Edelman, Cloninger, and Dennis (1993) studied the perceptions of parents of typical children who were members of a class that included a child with severe disabilities. The authors concluded that positive attitudes of parents favorably influence the attitudes of their children toward their classmates with disabilities. The
31


majority of parents in this study perceived that having a classmate with significant disabilities had been a positive experience for their childs social/emotional growth and the inclusion of a classmate with disabilities did not interfere with their child receiving a good education.
The study conducted by Kozleski and Jackson (1993), already mentioned in the preceding section, 2.1.4.2, also found that positive attitudes and flexibility on the part of the classroom teachers were important factors in overall improvement of the students skills.
By and large, all research available today supports inclusive education except for a few studies that take an alternative stand and claim that inclusion does not work. These studies report situations in which students are placed in general education classrooms without proper supports (Baines, Baines, & Masterson, 1994), or are in regular classrooms but not receiving special education with curricular adaptation, as defined by law (Zigmond & Baker, 1995).
2.2 Parent Advocacy and Inclusive Education
This section reviews the literature with regard to the role of and advocacy on the part of the parents of children with disabilities.
2.2.1 Introduction
In the last century the emphasis on the parental role has moved from principal problem source or causative factor to principal agent of treatment and change for
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children with disabilities (Turnbull & Turnbull, 1997). In recent years, inclusive classrooms and strong parent involvement have been widely endorsed as two important components of best practices in the education of children with disabilities (Bennett et al., 1997; Hilton & Henderson, 1993; Ryndak, Downing, Jacqueline, & Morrison, 1995). This is a remarkable shift from parents situations as recently as a few decades ago.
2.2.2 Historical Perspective
In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, families bore the entire burden of the person with disabilities with virtually no available resources. The eugenics movement (1880-1930) condemned and blamed parents, asserting heredity was the cause of disability in their children (Scheerenberger, 1990). These children were shunned by society and labeled uneducable by the education profession because of their disability. With such beliefs and practices being prevalent during that period, the only support offered to parents of children with moderate to profound disabilities was state institutions. However, this option meant parents were to forget about the existence of their children as they placed them in inhumane environments (Biklen, 1992; Blatt & Kaplan, 1966; Kliewer, 1998; Martin, 1991). Frustrated and angered by societys treatment of their children and themselves, parents of children with disabilities began to organize at the local and national level in the 1940s and 50s. The National Association of Parents and Friends of Mentally Retarded Children was one of the first
33


such efforts (Kliewer, 1996). This organization was later known as the Association for Retarded Citizens (ARC), and was recently renamed as the Association for Community Living (ACL).
In the early 1960s, parents of students with disabilities in Pennsylvania filed a lawsuit to obtain a free appropriate public education and training for their children. This became one of the major advocacy landmarks in the history of special education. The success of this lawsuit was followed by similar right to education suits in almost every state, with the end result in favor of parents and children (Lipsky & Gartner, 1997; Turnbull and Turnbull, 1997). At this juncture, professional organizations began to acknowledge and support the advocacy efforts of parents of children with disabilities and began seeking federal legislation mandating free appropriate public education for all children.
The combined efforts of coalitions of parents, professionals, and humanitarian voluntary organizations led to the Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975, PL94-142. IDEA and its amendments in 1978, 1983, and 1986 not only guaranteed appropriate education and services for all children but also active participation of parents in the education of their children with special needs, along with an increased parental right to expect supports and services from the public school system (Newman, 1991).
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The growing trend toward inclusion in the 1980s and 1990s also largely
resulted from parents requests for the increased participation of their children in
regular education classrooms (Bennett et al., 1997; French & Chopra, 1999; Marks et
al., 1999). Subsequently, the 1997 amendments to IDEA placed a greater emphasis on
inclusive opportunities. These amendments require that supplementary aids and
services be provided in regular education classes and specifically considered by teams
that include parents while developing the IEP (Etscheidt & Bartlett, 1999). This
guaranteed an active role for parents in the decision making process for the education
of their children (French & Chopra, 1999; Sands et al.,2000).
2.2.3 Research: Parent Perspectives on Advocacy for and Impact of Inclusion
In research, parental advocacy and involvement have repeatedly emerged as essential components and major forces for effective inclusive schooling. In this section, an overview is presented of the studies that had parents of children with severe disabilities as the key respondents. Once again, keeping in mind the focus of this study, only the research that targeted parents of elementary school children with severe disabilities in inclusive classrooms has been included.
Grove and Fisher (1999) analyzed the process of inclusive education experienced by parents of children with severe disabilities and found that for parents, the process of inclusion goes beyond their initial decision about placement of their
35


children to their active participation at the school. While articulating the advocacy role, the parents took it upon themselves to work with the school to ensure appropriate services for their children. As the authors stated, .the parents become entrepreneurs of meaning, shaping the definition and reality of inclusive education
(p. 208).
Erwin and Soodak (1995) studied the experiences of parents who were committed to the pursuit of inclusive education for their children. These parents crusaded unwearyingly until they were successful in obtaining part-time placement of their children in general education classrooms with supplementary aids. The parents described their personal transformation as they assumed an advocacy role that included development of a sense of purpose and an awareness of their strength as they advocated for their child.
A case study of a mothers challenge to have her child included in a general classroom also draws attention to the advocacy role of parents and strong parent school partnerships (Bennett, Niswander & Deluca, 1996). This parent recommended to other parents of children with disabilities that they must (a) keep in the forefront the vision they have for their childs future, (b) articulate their vision to the school, and (c) ensure that it becomes a shared vision for realizing long term, lifetime goals for their children. As already discussed in Section 2.4.3, attitudes of school personnel were recognized as being crucial for inclusion.
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One important conclusion that could be drawn from the above three studies is that laws and endorsements around the placement of children with disabilities in inclusive settings and parent involvement do not always get translated into practice without parent advocacy. Often times, parents have had to stand up to the system or as Hunt and Goetz (1997) put it, take on the system (p.35) to receive appropriate services for their children with disabilities.
In another study, Bennett et al. (1997) investigated the perspectives of parents and teachers of children with disabilities in inclusive settings regarding parent involvement and successful inclusion. Parents as well as teachers both recognized the need for shared commitment among all involved parties for inclusion to take place. Parents underscored positive attitudes towards persons with disabilities as essential to successful inclusion, while teachers focused on the need for supports and resources.
Ryndak et al. (1995) investigated perspectives of parents whose children were previously educated in self-contained classes and were later included in general education classrooms. The parents reported a dramatic growth in the speech, language, and communication skills of their children following placement in inclusive settings. They also believed that inclusion resulted in their children having more friends, more interactions with peers, and more appropriate social behaviors. The most frequently reported benefit of inclusive education reported by parents was acceptance of their children by others.
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2.3 Faraeducators and Inclusion
This section covers a review of the literature regarding the role of paraeducators in inclusion.
2.3.1 Introduction
Paraeducators have been employed in schools to fill critical gaps in the educational process and deliver an array of services related to the educational process for over 40 years. They now constitute the most rapidly growing portion of the education workforce and are among the personnel in greatest demand (Nittoli & Giloth, 1997). Nationally, there have been substantial increases in the employment of paraeducators and in the year 2000 almost 1.3 million people were employed as paraeducators in Americas schools (Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2000). In recent years, the social and legal ideology of inclusion of students with disabilities in regular education has been one of the most prominent factors leading to the dramatic increase in the numbers of paraeducators and the expansion of their roles in educational settings (French & Chopra, 1999; French and Pickett 1997; Giangreco et al., 1997; Haas, 1997; Wadsworth & Knight, 1996).
2.3.2 Historical Perspective on the Role of
Paraeducators
Initially, during the 1950s, paraeducators were hired to supervise classrooms when no teacher could be found due to post-war shortages (Lindsey, 1983; French &
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Pickett, 1997). At that time, paraeducators mainly functioned in largely clerical, non-instructional roles such as attendance, routine grading, money collection, typing, and duplication of materials all for the purpose of maximizing teachers' instructional time (Blalock, 1991; Turney, 1962). This paraeducator role was limited to that of secretaries for teachers (Turney, 1962). Following this, the 1960s and 70s was a period of heightened awareness around minority, ethnicity, and cultural issues. These expanding social needs and the political agenda of the war on poverty prevailing in the nation led to legislation establishing programs such as Head Start, Title 1, early childhood development and education, and bilingual education. These programs made funding available to schools and communities to hire paraeducators to support and facilitate the work of teachers (Nittoli & Giloth, 1997; Rubin & Long, 1994; Stiffler, 1993). During this period, paraeducators were recruited from the community to act as liaisons between home and school, because they understood the cultural and ethnic heritage of students. For the paraeducators, the liaison role further evolved into providing tutoring and direct instruction to students (Green & Barnes, 1989; Pickett, 1986).
The passage of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) in 1975 was one of the most significant factors in the dramatic surge of employment for paraeducators to provide individualized support to students with disabilities (French & Pickett, 1997; Giangreco, et al., 1997; Nittoli & Giloth, 1997; Pickett, 1994). To
39


meet the personnel needs generated by the mandates of the IDEA, schools began to employ paraeducators to fill shortages of qualified teachers and other related service personnel in special education (Pickett, 1989).
In the 1990s a growing trend towards inclusive education of children with disabilities was observed that led to further expansion of the use of paraeducators (French & Pickett, 1997; Giangreco, et al., 1997; Haas, 1997). The 1997 amendments to IDEA placed a greater emphasis on inclusive opportunities and the use of paraeducators who are appropriately trained and supervised as important support for the provision of special education and related services to students with disabilities (Etscheidt & Bartlett, 1999).
Inclusion is meant to provide opportunities for interaction with age-peers and typical curriculum in normal educational situations (Giangreco & Putnam, 1991;
Hunt & Goetz, 1997; McGregor & Yogelsberg, 1998; Karagiannis, Stainback, & Stainback, 1996; Sands et al., 2000; Villa et al., 1996). However, providing appropriate support in those settings can be challenging. Without appropriate support, special education teachers face difficulties in meeting the needs of students in multiple locations simultaneously. To prevent students with disabilities in the regular classrooms from facing failure or exposure to unacceptable health and safety risks, paraeducators, therefore, are frequently assigned on behalf of individual students and spend their time along side the student rather than along side the teacher (French
40


& Chopra, 1999). Paraeducators have now been prominently recognized as an integral part of the instructional process and critical supports for the success of the students in inclusive educational settings (Bennett et al., 1997; French & Chopra, 1999; Marks et ah, 1999; Pickett, 1994; Rubin & Long, 1994; Stiffler, 1993; Wadsworth & Knight, 1996; Wolery, Werts, Caldwell, Snyder, & Likowski, 1995).
2.3.3 Definition
For the purposes of this study, the definition of paraeducator was:
A paraeducator is an employee: (1) whose position is either instructional in nature or who delivers other direct or indirect services to students and/or parents; and who works under supervision of a teacher or other professional staff member who is responsible for the overall conduct of the class, the design and implementation of individualized educational programs, and the assessment of the effect of the programs on student progress (Pickett, 1988, pp.2).
2.3.4 New Roles of Paraeducators
In recent years, the role of the paraeducator has changed dramatically, becoming more complex and challenging, as local education agencies have been seeking to meet national and state mandates for individualized services and the inclusion in general education of students with disabilities (French and Pickett, 1997; Haselkom & Fideler, 1996; Jones, & Bender, 1993; Marks et al., 1999; Wadsworth & Knight, 1996). Paraeducator roles, particularly for those working in inclusive settings, have extended way beyond being the clerical support person or secretary for the teacher of 1960s (Turney, 1962). Literature, though limited, shows that paraeducators
41


now play five important roles when they support students with severe disabilities in inclusive settings. These are: Instructor, Connector, Behavior Support Facilitator, Team Member, and Personal Care Providers.
2.3.4.1 Paraeducator as Instructor
One of the major roles that paraeducators perform is that of the students primary instructor or teacher which may include adapting curriculum and making instructional decisions (French & Chopra, 1999; French & Pickett, 1997; French, 1998; Harrington & Mitchelson, 1986; Stahl & Lorenz, 1995; Vasa, Steckelberg, & Ulrich-Ronning, 1982; Jones & Bender, 1993). In a recent study on the basis of the analysis of the Paraeducator Time/Activity Log developed by Vasa, Steckelberg, & Ulrich-Ronning, (1983), French (1998) found that paraeducators documented the following as their top five duties in rank order: 1) one-to-one instruction, 2) small group instruction, 3) large group instruction, 4) data collection, and 5) preparation and planning.
In the French and Chopra (1999) study on parent perspectives on the role of paraeducators in inclusion, parents viewed the paraeducators as their childrens primary teacher who met their daily immediate academic needs. Two other recent studies confirmed this finding from the perspectives of paraeducators themselves. Marks et al. (1999) found paraeducators identified this as a primary area of support in their job responsibilities that included designing and making adaptations to the
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curriculum, and in many ways, functioning as the student's primary teacher (p. 320). In the other study, paraeducators reported providing instruction on a one-to-one basis as well as for small and large groups of students. Often their instructional efforts were not limited to the student they were assigned to but also to other students in the classroom (Downing, Ryndak, & Clark, 2000). The paraeducators in both studies reported that the instructional duties included adapting and modifying curriculum to meet the individual needs of the students.
2.3.4.2 Paraeducator as Connector
Paraeducators are also considered as connectors or links, particularly in the context of children with severe needs. Parents regarded them as connectors between families and schools, between students and teachers, among students, and between the community as a whole and the schools (French & Chopra, 1999). Paraeducators also regarded themselves as connectors in all the above situations in another study (Chopra et al., in press). The participants in this study saw themselves as connectors between the student and curriculum and their description of this role overlapped with the instructor role as described above. Marks et al. (1999) called this role a "hub," or liaison between all the individuals involved in the student school life. Paraeducators in this study, by the virtue of their unique positions of working closely with the student, often negotiated, mediated, interpreted, and translated among the various members of the school team as well as students.
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2.3.4.3 Paraeducator as Behavior Support Facilitator
Literature points to another role for paraeducators; that of a behavior support facilitator (Downing et al., 2000; French & Pickett, 1997; Wadsworth and Knight, 1996). Paraeducators in the study conducted by Downing et al. (2000) who saw this as one of their major responsibilities reported that they kept students with disabilities from disrupting other class members because of inappropriate behaviors (e.g. aggression, self-injury, screaming, running away, refusing to work, leaving a group, making noises) (p. 3). Some of the participants in this study reported collecting behavior data and assisting in developing behavior support plans, in addition to responding to a students inappropriate behavior.
2.3.4.4 Paraeducator as a Team Member
Increasingly, paraeducators have been looked upon as important contributing members of the educational teams for children with disabilities.
Wadsworth and Knight (1996) recognized paraeducators as bridges to successful inclusion and underscored their importance in collaborative teams. They concluded that, the paraeducators partnership in this collaborative effort is critical (p.169).
Michael E. Giangreco and many other experts with whom he has coauthored refer to paraeducators as team members (Giangreco et al., 1993; Giangreco et al., 1994; Giangreco et al, 1997; Giangreco, CichoskiKelly, Backus, Edelman, Broer,
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CichoskiKelly, & Spinney, 1999; Ginagreco, Edleman & Broer, 2001). They emphasize that paraeducators should be acknowledged and given respect as members of the educational teams and should be given opportunities to contribute to the development of the educational program for students with disabilities.
In the French and Chopra (1999) study, the parents of students with disabilities identified "team member" as a major role for paraeducators. The parents insisted on paraeducator participation in the IEP process and the planning meetings with the teachers because they worked the closest to the children and knew them the best.
Paraeducators in the Downing et al. (2000) study confirmed the above findings and reported that they participated as members of school based teams for each student and attended regular team meetings with the other school professionals. Collaborative interactions with other team members included joint decision making about adapting materials, behavioral issues, and instructional strategies to meet the needs of the included students (p. 175).
2.3.4.5 Paraeducator as the Personal Care Giver
For students who have physical challenges, paraeducators often provide physical support such as, lifting, moving, diapering, and feeding, and they sometimes provide health related services like tube feeding, suctioning etc. (French & Chopra, 1999; Carroll, 2001). French and Chopra (1999) found that the parents in their study
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believed that their childrens welfare and safety depended on the presence of a paraeducator who provided physical care to them in school. Paraeducators in the Downing et al. (2000) study also described supporting personal care that included help at lunchtime and in the restroom as one of their roles with the students with disabilities.
2.3.5 Issues Regarding Use of Paraeducators in
Inclusion
As the employment of paraeducators has increased and their roles have grown, several issues have come to the forefront, particularly for those supporting students with significant support needs in inclusive settings.
2.3.5.1 Need for Training
The 1997 reauthorization of IDEA required states to address in-service and preservice preparation of all personnel who work with children with disabilities, yet formal training for paraeducators remains scarce. On one hand there is a growing appreciation for what paraeducators do, on the other hand, increasingly, the use of lesser-trained people to support students who have intense educational needs is being questioned (French, 1998; Giangreco, Edelman, Broer & Doyle, 2001; Giangreco, et al.,1997; Katsiyannis, Hodge, & Lanford, 2001). With their new expanded roles, the need for training of paraeducators in areas such as instructional strategies, teamwork, behavior management, facilitating interactions with typical peers, use of technology,
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maintaining confidentiality, fostering independence in students, and providing personal care is well-documented (Blalock 1991; Downing et al, 2000; French, 1998; French & Cabell, 1993; French & Chopra, 1999; Giangreco et al., 1997; Hanson, Gutierrez, Morgan, Brennen, & Zercher, 1997; Wadsworth & Knight, 1996).
2.3.5.2 Confusion About and Misuse of Paraeducator
Role
Increased use of paraeducators to support academic, health, and challenging behavior needs of students with profound disabilities has led to paraeducator roles that look more and more like those of special education professionals (French & Pickett, 1997). The National Joint Committee on Learning Disabilities (1999) has maintained the stand that paraeducators supplement not supplant the work of the teacher or service provider. While there is agreement about the rightful place for paraeducators on the educational team, there are serious questions about them performing tasks for which school professionals are held liable, such as making important curricular, instructional, and management decisions with regards to a student with disabilities. Legally, these tasks are responsibilities of the classroom teachers and special educators (French, 1998; Giangreco, Edleman & Broer, Doyle, 2001; Heller, 1997; Katsiyannis et al., 2000).
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2.3.5.3 Lack of Supervision
The issue of paraeducators assuming or being assigned roles for which they are not trained is further accentuated when the paraeducators work with teachers and related service providers who are reluctant to supervise paraeducators and are unprepared to work effectively with them (Logue, 1993; Morgan, 1997; French & Pickett, 1997; French, 1998; Wallace, Shin, Bartholomay, & Stahl, 2001). Frenchs (1998) investigation of the relationship between matched pairs of paraeducators and special education teachers revealed that many of the latter did not view themselves as the supervisors for the paraeducators and thus, preferred to consider paraeducators as peers rather than supervisees (p. 357). In a study conducted by Wallace et al. (2001), teachers attributed their lack of competencies to supervise the work of paraeducators to a lack of attention to the topic in preservice special education and general education certification or endorsement programs, as well as in-service professional staff development opportunities.
2.3.5.4 Effects of Paraeducator Proximity
This has been the focus of some recent studies on the paraeducator role in providing direct assistance and one-on-one support to students with severe disabilities in inclusive settings. Giangreco et al. (1997) reported that sometimes paraeducators who provide direct assistance assume too much responsibility for the student, bond with students to the point of being over-protective, and/or unknowingly or
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inadvertently interfere with students social interactions and instruction. Similar problems were identified by the parents in the study conducted by French and Chopra (1999) that focused on parent perspectives on benefits and issues around the paraeducators role in inclusion.
Shukla, Kennedy, and Cashing (1999) compared the use of a peer-support strategy to direct assistance from a paraeducator to support students with profound disabilities and reported favorable evidence for the use of peer-support. It led to (a) higher levels of social interactions between students with disabilities and peers without disabilities, and (b) increased social support behavior from those peers.
2.3.5.5 Other Related Issues
In the literature, concerns about low pay, low job satisfaction, lack of respect and recognition, and poor retention for paraeducators are documented from the perspectives of parents, professionals, and paraeducators themselves (Giangreco, Edleman and Broer, 2001; Hofmeister, Ashbaker, & Morgan, 1996; Passaro, Pickett, Latham, & HongBo, 1994). These issues, when combined with a lack of training and lack of supervision, raise serious concerns about the quality of education of children with disabilities (Logue, 1993; French & Chopra, 1999)
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2.4 Collaboration in Inclusion
This section of the chapter addresses what the literature divulges regarding the role of collaboration in inclusion in general, and collaboration between paraeducators and parents, specifically.
2.4.1 Introduction
Experts have emphasized that school reform is evidenced when all stakeholders come together to collaboratively create successful, inclusive classrooms and schools that meet the unique and diverse needs of these children and youth (Dunn, 1991; Jackson, Ryndak, & Billingsley, 2000; Rainforth et al., 1992; Stainback et al., 1989; Skrtic & Sailor, 1996; Thousand et ah, 1994). According to Villa et al. (1996), collaboration with families, across disciplines, and among agencies is not an option but a necessity that is entrenched within the education mandate of the IDEA.
All democratic initiatives have widely recognized collaboration as a vehicle to and foundation of inclusive education (Skrtic, Sailor & Gee, 1996; Walther-Thomas et ah, 2000). As already presented in Section 2.4.3 of this chapter, several investigations on inclusion involving participant groups that ranged from parents to classroom personnel to systems-level personnel, have identified collaborative team practices as imperative to achieving effective inclusion outcomes for students (Giangreco et ah, 1993; Salisbury et ah, 1993; York-Barr et ah, 1996).
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2.4.2 Definition and Features
The education literature offers many definitions of collaboration, each with a slightly different emphasis; however, one major similarity among all these definitions is the nature of the interdependent interactions of the collaborators (Villa et al., 1996). In the context of this study, the concept of collaboration in inclusive schooling is a compilation of the following basic elements identified by several authors (Friend & Cook, 1996; Idol et ah, 1994; Pugach & Johnson 2002; Sands et ah, 2000; Thousand & Villa, 1992; Villa et ah, 1996; Walther-Thomas et ah, 2000).
Collaboration is an interactive process that enables people with diverse expertise to generate creative solutions to mutually defined problems by:
> Recognizing the need for joint effort to achieve complex goals
> Agreeing to view all members as possessing the unique and needed expertise
> Acknowledging the diverse expertise that generates increased creativity through joint efforts
> Enjoying the social nature of joint problem solving, even though difficult
> Valuing individual intellectual growth of participants
> Reflecting about professional practices and changing procedures based on deliberate analysis of merits and pitfalls
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> Sharing accountability
> Sharing responsibility for decisions-making
> Sharing resources
> Valuing personal interactions, expression of trust, and experience of an evolving sense of community
Rainforth and England (1997) gave examples of situations that demonstrate collaborative values in inclusive schools. In such schools (a) parents of students with disabilities have a real voice in the education of their children; (b) general education teachers, special education teachers, paraeducators and related service providers work together on curriculum development, recognizing that their collective expertise benefits all students; (c) classroom teachers, concerned about student achievement and engagement, adopt strategies such as cooperative learning; (d) all members of a students educational team develop and commit to the Individualized Education Program with one set of goals and objectives to prevent each professional from pursuing separate outcomes; (e) all team members contribute to agenda items for team meetings, contribute information, opinions, and ideas, and take responsibility for decisions; (f) educational teams share responsibility for all students, rather than separating out some students and teachers who cannot belong; and (g) team members are open and committed to sharing information and skills, learning from others, letting go of old roles and strategies, and experimenting with new ones.
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2.4.3 Benefits of Collaboration
There are several benefits of collaboration for inclusive education documented in the literature. In a truly collaborative environment, no single person needs to be an expert on every aspect of a child's educational needs. Rather, it is the shared expertise and ownership of problems and solutions that enable school personnel to meet diverse student needs more effectively (Laycock, Gable, & Korinek, 1991; Villa, et al., 1996; Rainforth et al., 1992).
Authors with a social constructivist orientation believed that collaboration shifts the organizational paradigm of schooling from a professional bureaucracy to ad hoc, problem-solving teams that mutually adjust members' collective knowledge and skills to invent personalized education for students (Meyen & Skrtic, 1995; Skrtic, 1991; Skrtic, Sailor, & Gee, 1996).
Collaborative instructional arrangements such as teaching teams provide a better chance for team members to address their basic human needs of survival and empowerment, freedom and choice, and a sense of belonging (Glasser, 1985, 1986; Phillips, Sapona, & Lubic, 1995; Rainforth & England, 1997). They have a built-in support network and can draw on the expertise and resources of many individuals. This sense of synergy helps them accomplish much more than they would have individually accomplished (Walther-Thomas, 1997; Walther-Thomas et al., 2000).
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2.4.4 Barriers to Collaboration
Difficulties faced by schools in collaborative practices for inclusion are also noted in literature. One of the major barriers is inadequate teacher preparation with no or very little emphasis on competencies for collaboration and/or inclusion in teacher education programs (Villa et al., 1996). Another barrier is that the culture, structures, and procedures of public schools, which are traditionally compartmentalized organizations, thwart, rather than promote collaboration (Meyen & Skrtic, 1995; Skrtic, 1991). Collaboration also becomes a challenge when people resist it because they do not want to abandon the familiar mentality of I work alone and my business is none of your business (Deal & Peterson, 1990, p. 7). One of the reasons cited for school intractability with regard to the installation of collaborative practice is that many leaders are naive and/or ineffective (Sarason, 1990). Sometimes leaders do not understand the complexity of the change process, the emotional struggles experienced by those involved in it, and the time it takes to institutionalize any change. Without this understanding, they are unable to work through its intricacies and may leave before the change they have championed has taken hold.
2.4.5 Facilitating Factors for Collaboration
To facilitate collaboration for inclusive schools, Villa et al. (1996) recommend that common knowledge and skills supportive of collaboration be imparted to all of the people who work for and with schools through higher education teacher
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preparation programs and state and local in-service training programs. Another important factor for collaboration is school restructuring efforts that promote shared decision making by creating time and opportunities for formerly separated general, special, and other educational and community-based support staff to unite and plan to contribute to collaboration in schools. This effort must be part of the school culture, schedule, and mission (Fullan & Stiegelbauer, 1991; Glasser, 1990). Such school restructuring efforts need to be led by individuals who understand the change process and recognize the resistance to change from a culture of isolation to that of collaboration. The leaders need the perseverance to be able to work through conflict, and contradiction and resistance in a focused and persistent manner (Villa et al., 1996).
2.4.6 Gaps in Collaboration Literature
In the review of literature on collaboration for inclusion, it is surprising how infrequently paraeducators were mentioned as members of collaborative teams. Only passing references were found with regards to collaborating with teachers and other school professionals in a handful of works on collaboration in inclusion (Thousand et al., 1994; Rainforth & England, 1997; Skrtic et al., 1996; Stanovich, 1996; Walther-Thomas, et al, 2000).
In contrast, the literature on the role of paraeducators in inclusion addresses and recognizes their role in the educational team in a greater depth as already
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discussed in Section Three of this chapter. Multiple authors and investigators have stressed the need for active participation of paraeducators in teams and meetings that plan for the academic, social, and physical environment where all children can feel accepted and competent. (Downing et al., 2000; French & Chopra, 1999; Giangreco, Dennis, et al., 1993; Giangreco et al., 1999; Giangreco et al., 1994; Giangreco et al., 1997; Giangreco, Edelman & Broer, 2001; Wadsworth & Knight, 1996). In addition to recognizing the paraeducator role as a team member, the literature discussed above stressed the need for training and preparation for paraeducators to collaborate and contribute effectively as team members.
Another related body of literature that ignores paraeducators is the literature on parent school collaboration or relations. The terms parent-professional partnership and parent-professional alliance are discussed in great length and depth in the special education literature (Dunst & Paget, 1991; Turnbull & Turnbull, 1997). The research on this topic has established that parent school collaboration is vital to student success. Parents and professionals, who work collaboratively, cooperate with each other and acknowledge that both parties possess certain skills or traits that benefit the partnership (Dunst and Paget, 1991; Dinnebeil & Rule, 1994; Dunst, Johanson, Rounds, Trivette, & Hamby, 1992). However, these discussions do not include parent-paraeducator relationships as a part of family school collaboration and these terms focus primarily on the relationship among teachers and other school
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professionals (psychologists, speech therapists, school nurses, school psychologists etc.) and parents of children with disabilities.
In contrast, evidence, though limited, of a relationship between parents and paraeducators, was found in the literature on paraeducators. In one study conducted by French and Chopra (1999), parents of children with disabilities revealed that they shared close and personal relationships with paraeducators. These parents reported that paraeducators were more accessible to them than were teachers, communicated more frequently, and provided more detailed information to them. The parents valued and appreciated their close relationships to the paraeducators because the relationships helped them and their children to participate more fully in the education process.
In a study on their role as a connector in community school relations, paraeducators confirmed the findings of the above research with regards to their personal close relationships with parents (Chopra et al., in press). Participants in this study admitted to being so close to families of the students they worked with that they considered themselves as friends of the family or members of the family. They believed that parents often approached them first to discuss problems related to their children and the school because parents trusted them and were appreciative of the support their children received from the paraeducators. They presented several reasons for the personal relationships they shared with parents: habitation in the same
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neighborhood as students and their families, easy availability and accessibility of the paraeducators as compared to the teachers, frequent communication between paraeducators and parents, and trust, faith, and appreciation for the paraeducator.
They believed that these relationships formed the basis of their connector role, addressed in Section 2.3.4.2, in school community relations. According to some participants, the downside to closeness to parents was when they found themselves tom between their closeness with students and their families and the confidentiality policies of the schools.
Marks et al. (1999) found further research evidence of paraeducators communicating frequently with parents. In their study, the paraeducators, by the virtue of their unique position of working closely with students, reported to be often approached by the parents for ongoing information as well as making educational suggestions regarding what they wanted their child to leam. The authors stated this tendency for parents to communicate through the paraeducator also appeared to contribute to the paraeducator feeling like they were the hub, or the liaison between parents and school personnel and between school service providers as well (p 11).
Paraeducators who participated in Downing et al.s (2000) study also reported that they communicated with parents regarding the students they supported. Their contact with the parents was limited and the content of the communication dealt with issues of student behavior, progress, and school activities in general (p. 6)
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Bennett et al. (1997), in their study on perspectives of parents of children with severe disabilities in inclusive classrooms on inclusion, found that for the parents, the paraeducator served as the person with whom they had daily contact regarding their childs performance. These parents considered paraeducator support as one of the essential aspects of successful inclusion for their children.
It is important to note that none of the above studies had parent-paraeducator relationships or collaboration as their focus; however, parent-paraeducator relationships surfaced as an important finding. This conclusion, along with those in the following section, present compelling reasons to study parent-paraeducator collaboration.
2.5 Summary
The purpose of the study was to gain an understanding of parent-paraeducator collaboration and its impact on the education of children with significant disabilities in inclusive settings. This section summarizes the literature in the preceding four sections and establishes the need and purpose of the study.
The first section provided an overview of the history of inclusion and the benefits of and contributing factors to inclusion. The general consensus is that through inclusion, students with and without severe disabilities achieve positive academic, learning and social outcomes. The research evidence clearly indicates that commitment, willingness to change and accept new ways of providing services, and
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positive attitudes on the part of the key persons such as teachers, administrators, support staff, and all other team members impact how successfully inclusion is implemented.
The second section reviewed the literature with regards to the role of and advocacy on the part of the parents of children with disabilities in the education of their children. The research presented in this section provided useful evidence that parents of students with disabilities had positive perceptions towards inclusive educational settings. Parents, as their childrens best advocates, often demanded inclusion for their children.
The third section presented a review of the literature regarding the role of paraeducators in inclusion. There is a general agreement among school professionals, researchers, and parents that paraeducators play crucially important roles in the education of students with severe disabilities. However, lack of clarification of their role, training, and supervision, and other related administrative issues impact the effective utilization of paraeducators in inclusive settings.
This fourth section of the chapter addressed the literature regarding the role of collaboration in inclusion in general, and specifically between parents and paraeducators. Literature strongly supports that collaboration is not an option but a necessity for successful inclusion of students with disabilities. However, this body of literature barely recognizes the role of paraeducator in school-based collaboration or
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parent-school collaboration. There is some evidence that paraeducators and parents communicate on a frequent basis, share close relationships, and children with disabilities benefit when parents and paraeducators communicate and get along with each other.
2.6 Research Questions
Given the above literature and the current lack of research around the chosen topic, this study focused on the following research question:
What are the different perspectives on parent-paraeducator collaboration in the context of children with severe disabilities in inclusive classrooms? Participants whose perspectives were sought included parents, paraeducators, special education teachers, and general education teachers.
Subsidiary questions related to this research question were:
> What kinds of relationships exist between parents and paraeducators?
> What factors lead to the existing relationships between parents and paraeducators?
> What impact do the existing relationships between parents and paraeducators have on the implementation of successful inclusion?
> How is successful inclusion described?
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> What factors contribute to successful inclusion?
> How does parent-paraeducator collaboration fit into the big picture of parent-school collaboration for successful inclusion?
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3.0 Methodology
This chapter describes the methodology of the study and includes the following eight sections:
3.1 Research Questions
3.2 Rationale for Choosing Qualitative Methodology
3.3 Sample Selection
3.4 Data Collection Techniques
3.5 Data Management and Protection Procedures
3.6 Data Analysis Procedures
3.7 Trustworthiness of the Research
3.8 Summary
3.1 Research Questions
Drawing upon the background, conceptual framework, and review of literature covered in the preceding two chapters, I created research questions to provide a focus and direction to the study but not to constrain or limit it (Miles & Huberman, 1994; Marshall & Rossman, 1999). During the course of the study, new issues appeared urging slight modification of the original research questions. Sufficient flexibility was built into the research design to accommodate such changes (Parlett & Hamilton, 1976; Marshall & Rossman, 1999). The scope and intent of the
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study is reflected in the main research question and several sub questions that are stated below:
The primary research question that this study addressed was:
What are the different perspectives on parent-paraeducator collaboration in the context of children with severe disabilities in inclusive classrooms? Participants whose perspectives were sought included parents, paraeducators, special education teachers, and general education teachers.
Subsidiary questions related to this research question were:
> What kinds of relationships exist between parents and paraeducators?
> What factors lead to the existing relationships between parents and paraeducators?
> What impact do the existing relationships between parents and paraeducator have on the implementation of successful inclusion?
> How is successful inclusion described?
> What factors contribute to successful inclusion?
> How does parent-paraeducator collaboration fit into the big picture of collaboration for successful inclusion?
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3.2 Rationale for Choosing Qualitative Methodology
I chose qualitative methodology because the study presented several important factors that various proponents of qualitative research have identified as compelling reasons for selecting this method.
First, all of the research questions that I asked started with what and how attempting to describe what is going on (Denzin & Lincoln, 2000; Creswell, 1997; Stainback & Stainback, 1989; Strauss & Corbin, 1990).
Second, this topic needed to be explored because variables could not be easily identified (Marshall & Rossman, 1999). My objective was not to verify a predetermined idea but to discover new insights (Sherman &Web, 1989).
Third, there was a need to present a detailed or close-up view of the topic; consequently, a wide-lens approach would not have answered my questions. I wished to understand all the parts of a phenomenon and how they work together to form a whole (Creswell, 1997; Merriam, 1988; Patton, 1990; Strauss and Corbin, 1990).
Fourth, I proposed to study participants primarily in their natural real life setting (LeCompte & Preissle, 1993; Miles & Huberman, 1994).
Fifth, with my constructivist orientation toward the problem, I believe knowledge is constructed, not discovered. Towards this end, I provided a detailed, rich account of what I found to the readers, allowing them to find their own meaning (Denzin & Lincoln, 2000; Schwandt, 2000).
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Sixth, I was trying to understand a phenomenon with a hope that what I found might be applicable to similar settings but I was not seeking generalizations (Patton 1990; LeCompte & Priessle, 1993).
Finally, I strongly believe there is a receptive audience for qualitative studies (Creswell, 1997). I have successfully led and conducted several robust qualitative studies and have also been able to publish some of that research (French & Chopra, 1999; Chopra et. al., in press). Thus, my audience also includes publication outlets with editors who are receptive to qualitative research.
3.3 Sample Selection
This section describes the sampling procedures and the criteria that were used to select the sites and key respondents for the study. This section has the following four subsections.
3.3.1 Purposive sampling
3.3.2 Selection of the School-District
3.3.3 District Description
3.3.4 Selection of Program Sites and Key Respondents
3.3.1 Purposive Sampling
I used purposive or purposeful sampling procedures for identifying program sites and key respondents for the research. The goal in qualitative research is NOT to make generalizations but to participate in an in-depth study of the problem in
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question (LeCompte & Preissle, 1993). Qualitative study involves in-depth study of small samples of people who can provide rich information in their natural context (Creswell, 1997; Miles & Huberman, 1994; Patton, 1990). It is therefore believed to be important that the researcher involved in qualitative inquiry uses his or her judgment and purposefully or purposively chooses cases that meet specific characteristics or criteria and can provide rich information (Mason 1996; Miles & Huberman, 1994; Rubin & Rubin, 1993). Based on the purpose of the study, sampling decisions were needed at two levels selection of the district and selection of the sites and key respondents.
3.3.2 Selection of the School-District
This study was limited to only one school district. This was done to avoid the effect of cross-district variations around inclusion policies and practices. The selection of the school district was completed based on recommendations from several experts in the field, personal knowledge, and the districts willingness to participate. The selected school district is represented on the Colorado Coalition -Training Opportunities for Paraeducators (CO-TOP) and I have been a member of this coalition in my capacity as the project coordinator of the CO-TOP project.
During my long involvement in this project, I have found that this district is one of the most committed to the issues of inclusion of children with disabilities and training of paraeducators who work with them. My professional colleagues in the coalition
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shared the same view of the district. I am also a member of the Colorado Paraeducator Advisory Council, which is comprised of knowledgeable stakeholders throughout the state, including the Colorado Department of Education. In several discussions during the course of the Councils meetings, references were made to this district as being effective in its inclusion polices and staff development efforts. Through my involvement in Parents Encouraging Parents (PEP) Conferences that are supported by the Colorado Department of Education and designed by parents for parents of children with disabilities, I have had the opportunity to talk to some parents from this district and they all spoke very highly of its practices.
Another factor that led to the selection of this district was the willingness and cooperativeness of the Significant Support Needs (SSN) Specialist, an active member of the CO-TOP coalition. He helped at all stages of the study, e.g. securing permission from the director of special education in the district, identifying the sites, introducing me to the Significant Support Needs teachers at each site, and finally, participating as an interviewee to provide information on the topic from his perspective.
3.3.3 District Description
The selected district spans almost 900 square miles of space in the central part of Colorado. The county in which this district is located is one of the fastest growing in the nation, with a growth rate of between 10 and 12 percent every year. According
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to Census 2000, the county exhibited 191% population increase between 1990 and 2000, making it nation's fastest growing county for the decade. Approximately 73% of the population lives in unincorporated areas. The estimated median household income for 1997 was over $75,000 (US Bureau of the Census, 2000). The county features a mix of rural and suburban areas, town centers and large plots of open space including ranches, greenbelts, public parks, and national forest lands.
The school district claimed to have maintained its position as a "lighthouse" district with many innovative programs and educational approaches. Each school has the flexibility to build its own instructional programs with support and coordination from the district level (School Districts Website; District Personnel, Personal Communication, January 19, 2002).
The mission statement of the district is, To provide an educational foundation that allows each student to reach his or her individual potential (2002 Profile, School District).
A brief from the districts Office of Communication elaborated upon the mission statement as follows:
We strive for small class sizes, a well researched, integrated and standards-based curriculum, a rich array of extra curricular offerings, strong community
involvement and a Board of Education that holds a vision of_1 county
being among the top school districts in the nation and the world.
1 To maintain anonymity of the district, the name was withheld.
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In the recent School Accountability reports, 86% of this districts schools were rated high or excellent; none were rated low or unsatisfactory. The district Colorado Student Assessment Program Scores (CSAP) were well above state averages and among the highest in Colorado (District Brief, 2002).
There were 39,926 students enrolled in the district, 3,218 of which were identified with special needs. Two hundred twenty eight of the latter were students with significant support needs.
3.3.4 Selection of the Program Sites and the Key
Respondents
For site and participant selection, I further limited the scope of the study to elementary schools in order to maintain consistency and minimize the risk resulting from variations in program implementation policies and procedures that exist at different levels of education. Within elementary schools, I short-listed only those with Special Significant Support Needs (SSN) programs because the study was focusing on parent-paraeducator collaboration in the context of children with significant needs. In this school district, all schools have special education programs and only a few schools have a SSN program. A SSN program is created when two or more schools close to each other in distance have students who require significant levels of support. The program is then aligned to one school but draws students from all of the schools it is paired with. The SSN Specialist, who assisted me in sample selection, supports
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and oversees all the SSN programs in the district. His job responsibilities include: maintaining consistency among SSN programs throughout out the district, monitoring the quality of the programs, supporting school professionals and paraeducators through training, materials, and resources, and being available as a resource to parents and administrators. Thus, he has a thorough knowledge of each site.
Next, I sought nominations of SSN programs where the following primary criteria were met:
1. Paraeducators worked one-on-one with the same students on a daily basis.
2. Paraeducators have worked with the same child for at least six months or more.
3. The significant /severe needs students were fully included (70% or more of the time) in regular classrooms.
4. The SSN teacher was willing to participate in the study and help in securing consent from other participants whose perspectives would be important for the study.
I contacted all five program sites that met the above criteria and sought meetings in person with the SSN teachers of each site to explain the purpose of the study and what their role would be if they participated. Their role included that they (a) agreed to participate, (b) secured the verbal consent of the parents (mother or father or both, depending on who was more actively involved in the education of their
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child), paraeducator, classroom teacher, and any other related service provider who could provide useful information for this study; and c) obtained their principals permission to use their program as a site.
Only three SSN teachers were able to meet all three conditions. They provided me with contact information for parents, paraeducators, and classroom teachers. The sample size and its composition from each site varied.
From the SSN program at Mount Evans Elementary2, a total of six persons participated in the study. These participants included: the SSN teacher, two paraeducators who rotated between two students, the mothers of the two students and a classroom teacher of one of the students. A total of five participants were from the SSN program at Riverside Elementary. They included: the SSN Teacher, two paraeducators who rotated between one student, the mother, and the classroom teacher of the student. Nine participants from the SSN program at Fox Trail Elementary included the SSN teacher, two paraeducators who supported two students, the mother of one student and both parents of the other student, classroom teachers of both students, and a private duty nurse who stayed all day in the school for one of the students but not necessarily with the student. She supported the student primarily out of the classroom with tube feeding and toileting.
To maintain confidentiality, pseudonyms were used for all schools that participated in this study.
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In addition to the above twenty subjects, the SSN Specialist also participated in the study as a respondent. Table 3.1 presents a summary of the categories and locations of the participants.
Table 3.1. Number of Key Respondents
Location Category of Participants Total
SSN teacher Para- educators Parents Class teachers Other
Mount Evans Elementary 1 2 2 1 6
Riverside Elementary 1 2 1 1 5
Fox Trail Elementary 1 2 3 2 Private Nurse 1 9
District level SSN Special- ist 1 1
Grand total 3 6 6 4 2 21
3.4 Data Collection Techniques
The primary technique of data collection for this study was semi-structured interviews. In addition, participants provided demographic data by filling out an information sheet prior to their interviews. The sub sections in this section are:
3.4.1 Participant Information Sheets
3.4.2 Interview
3.4.2.1 Interview Guide/Protocol
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3A.2.2 Interview process
3.4.1 Participant Information Sheets
The teachers and the paraeducators filled out one-page sheets that asked for information about their educational background, experience of inclusion in years, number of professionals/paraprofessionals they worked with, and level of the special needs of the students they worked with. Parents filled out one page information sheets that included questions about their family structure, income, level of needs of their child with disabilities, years of experience with inclusion, and number of paraprofessionals, professionals, and related service providers they worked with in the school as well out of the school. The participant information sheets used for each category of participants are included in Appendix A. Compilation of this information is included under the section on Background of the Participants for each site in Chapter 4, Findings.
3.4.2 Interviews
I used interviews to obtain in-depth information from several different perspectives to create a rich and detailed description that is presented in the next chapter. Interviews are one of the two most commonly used data collection techniques in qualitative research; the other technique being observation (Bogdan & Biklen, 1998; Miles & Huberman, 1994). Fontana & Frey (2000) consider the use of interviews in qualitative inquiry as one of the most common and powerful ways in
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which we try to understand our fellow human beings (p. 645). There are three basic techniques used in qualitative research interviews: Guided interviews, structured interviews, and informal conversations. These types are essentially based on the degree to which they are structured, the freedom they allow to the respondent, and control exercised by the researcher (Bogdan & Biklen, 1998; Fonatan & Frey, 2000; Patton, 1990). My focus was to hear the voices of the respondents and my intention, therefore, was to conduct interviews that provided complete freedom to the participants to express themselves, at the same time addressing all the research questions. To meet these needs, I used a guided interview approach in which I asked a set of open-ended questions to all participants and allowed for sufficient flexibility to include themes that surfaced during the interview process. This technique helped me to stay focused without being directive and make sure that the available time was used effectively to cover all predetermined themes as well as emergence of new themes relevant to the topic under study.
3.4.2.1 Interview Guide Protocol
The set of questions in the interview guides for all categories of participants covered the same themes but each one varied slightly in wording based on the participant being interviewed (see interview guides for each category in Appendix B). These themes included: general questions about the level of special needs of the children with disabilities, roles of parent/paraprofessional/professional in inclusion,
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relationships among team members with a special emphasis on parent-paraprofessional, including barriers and contributing factors, and definitions of inclusion and implications of these relationships on effective inclusion. In the interview guide, under each theme there were several predetermined questions that gave a basic direction to the interview. During the course of every interview more probing questions were added. These probes were different for each interview as they sought further elaboration of each participants unique response to a particular question.
3.4.2.2 Interview Process
In-depth interviews with 21 participants were conducted. To make sure the participants were not inconvenienced in any way, I had them choose the dates, times, and location of the interviews. At the time when interviews were scheduled, I explained the purpose of the study, importance of their input, and the extent of the time involvement to each person.
The first thing I requested the participants to do at the time of the interview was to read the consent forms (See Appendix C for informed consent forms for each category). This was followed by a quick review of the form where I emphasized the privacy and confidentiality aspects of the research. Encouraging them to provide their perspectives freely, I assured them that complete privacy would be maintained in all written materials resulting from this study and pseudonyms would be used for all
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study participants. They were also informed of their right to refuse to answer any questions for any reason or withdraw from the research if they wished.
They were encouraged to address any unanswered questions or concerns about the purpose of study at this point. After this trust building effort and before the interview began, I had each participant fill out the participant information sheet.
The duration of the interviews ranged between 45 minutes to 1 hour and 15 minutes. Throughout the interviews, I maintained the role of Wisdom Seeker described in section 3.3.7 of this chapter. I cautiously refrained from interrupting or adding any comments that could influence the participant responses. I followed Wolcotts (1990a) talk a little, listen a lot golden rule throughout the interview. This helped to stay focused, listen closely, and probe further when needed. Occasionally, when certain respondents would wander off in their train of thought and begin to give information that had no relevance to the study, I would gently remind them of the question, thus helping them stay on track. At the end of each interview, I offered the participants an opportunity to add any more information that was important to the topic but had not been covered during the interview. This offer generally resulted in a few more important comments from the participants.
3.5 Data Management and Protection Procedures
All interviews were tape-recorded using adequate recording procedures such as a microphone with a noise control instrument. In addition, I took notes that
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included my observation about body language and nonverbal messages that the tape recorder failed to pick up. Shortly, never later than a day after the interview, I listened to the tape and wrote notes if needed. All tapes were transcribed verbatim by professional transcription services.
To ensure that the data were accurately and safely maintained for each site with minimized public access, I took several steps:
1. I created a separate pocket binder for each site, clearly labeled it, and maintained it safely in my personal custody.
2. After the interview, I labeled each tape with the name of the person interviewed and the school or the site he or she belonged to and the date and time of the interview.
3. I created a log in each binder for keeping track of each tape pertaining to that site in terms of dates sent and received from transcription services.
4. Hard copies of the transcripts, notes taken during and after the interview, completed participant information forms and consent forms, and the original tapes were filed in each sites binder.
5. I saved the electronic copy of each transcript, which was a Microsoft Word document, in a separate folder for each site on my personal computer as well as my personal user server at work; only I had access to both these folders.
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6. To distinguish among transcripts of each of the three sites and to keep track of the origin of each statement, I assigned specific colors to the transcripts for each site e.g. black, red and green. In the electronic copies of each transcript the font colors were changed to the color assigned to the particular site.
7. I then converted each transcript which was a Microsoft Word document to rich text format (rtf) and transported it to QSR*NVivo, a data management and analysis software product specifically designed for qualitative research.
3.6 Data Analysis Procedures
Data analysis included manual as well as computerized analysis techniques. I have identified certain common features outlined by several authors (Bogdan & Biklen, 1992; Creswell, 1997; Miles & Huberman, 1994; Wolcott, 1990a) and utilized them in this study. The following nine steps describe the process of data analyses for this study.
First, I listened to each taped interview soon after it took place to detect if any new probes needed to be included in the next interview. During this process, I also made reflective notes about the prominent themes that emerged from the interview.
Second, with rich detail being the underlying focus of the research design for the study, each tape was transcribed verbatim, resulting in transcriptions that ranged between 20 and 35 pages.
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Third, I read all the transcriptions from each site thoroughly to obtain a sense of the data. I wrote down the categories of information that emerged as well as my reflective notes about them in the margins of the transcriptions. Following Wolcotts (1990a) message to immerse yourself into details to get a sense of it before you break it into parts (p.128), I read the first few transcripts several times to get an idea about the themes that repeated themselves across transcripts.
Fourth, if further clarification for precise meaning was needed, I listened to the tapes again to detect vocal and contextual clues and I referred again to my field notes.
Fifth, before I began the coding process, I created a major code or node in NVivo reflecting each of subsidiary questions under the primary research questions. I created two additional nodes for coding the background information for each respondent and the role they performed with reference to the child whose education was the focus of this study.
These eight major nodes were:
> Participant background
> Roles of participants with regards to the student
> Types of existing parent-paraeducator relationships
> Factors contributing to existing relationships
> Impact of existing relationships
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> Description of successful inclusion
> Factors contributing to successful inclusion
> Existing practices for collaboration
Under each major node or code, I created sub codes or what NVivo refers to as child nodes based on common themes detected during reading of the transcripts. For example, in the child nodes under the major code, Types of Relationships, I created four child nodes: Close relationships and friendships, routine limited interactions, routine extensive interactions, and minimal interaction.
Sixth, after the transcripts were transported to NVivo, I began the coding process, using the inductive approach of constant comparative analysis (Merriam, 1988) whereby I compared each unit of information with an existing node. If they matched, I coded them under the existing node. If they appeared to be different, I generated another node. NVivo allows the coder to code individual paragraphs, sentences, or phrases. The program is designed in such a manner that, at any given time, the list of codes and sub codes is available in a small window on top of the document that is being coded. Coding involves highlighting the paragraph, sentence, or phrase, and then clicking on the appropriate sub-code in the small window. New sub codes can be added to this window as new themes emerge.
Seventh, after all units of data were coded, I reviewed the identified themes and pulled together quotes from the transcripts related to each node including
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contrary or contrasting points. At this stage, I collapsed similar sub codes to make the data more manageable. Appendix D presents the final list of nodes that resulted after collapsing sub codes.
Eighth, using the Sets function of NVivo, I created three separate sets representing each of the three SSN program sites. This allowed me to integrate the coding of all documents belonging to a particular site. I chose to do this because preliminary analyses of the data made it very clear that each site was significantly different from the other and therefore, needed to be analyzed separately. Using the make coding report function of NVivo, I generated reports for each code. These reports compiled all units of raw data coded under each node for each set.
Finally, I converted coding reports into Microsoft Word documents. Before and during the writing process, I reexamined the reports along with field notes, as well as the interpretive and reflective remarks I had recorded about each interview to ensure that nothing was missed.
3.7 Trustworthiness of the Research
As a researcher with a qualitative orientation, it is important that my audiences find my research credible and authentic. The quantitative paradigm applies constructs of internal validity, external validity, reliability, and objectivity to establish trustworthiness of research (Lincoln, 1995; Merriam, 1998). These conventional
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criteria of trustworthiness work well for physical sciences but are inappropriate to the qualitative paradigm (Creswell, 1997; Howe & Eisenhardt, 1990; Wolcott, 1990a).
Denzin and Lincoln (2000) contend that in qualitative inquiry, Terms such as credibility, transferability, dependability, and confirmability replace the usual positivist criteria of internal and external validity, reliability, and objectivity (p. 21).
Table 3.2 compares the qualitative and quantitative perspectives in terms of these constructs and presents naturalists equivalents coined by Lincoln and Guba (1985). The table also includes the strategies I used to fulfill these constructs in this research.
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Table 3.2. Parallel Constructs for Trustworth in ess
Quantitative perspective Qualitative perspective Strategies used in this study to meet the criteria
Internal Validity or the truth value which means the degree to which the research findings match reality Credibility is establishing a match between the constructed realities of respondents and those of the researcher to ensure that the researcher actually represented the perceptions of the respondents. Triangulation Rich and thick description Demonstration of researchers familiarity with the data Inclusion of negative evidence
External validity or applicability means the degree to which the findings can be generalized across contexts, subjects, settings, and time. Transferability is the degree to which the theoretical framework, definitions, and research techniques are accessible to and can be understood by other researchers in the same or related field. Rich and thick description Detailed documentation of methods of data collection and analysis Inclusion of Negative evidence Triangulation
Reliability is synonymous with stability, consistency, predictability, and accuracy. This mainly means that findings can be replicated in similar contexts and circumstances Dependability is concerned with the stability of data over a period of time. Natural settings are unique and can never be precisely reconstructed, but the use of carefully chosen strategies can enhance the dependability of qualitative research. Triangulation Detailed documentation of methods of data collection and analysis Detailed description of participants
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Table 3.2 (Cont.)
Quantitative perspective Qualitative perspective Strategies used in this study to meet the criteria
Objectivity or neutrality means that the findings are determined by the respondents and not tainted by the biases, values, or interests of the researcher Confirmability refers to the assurance that findings and results are anchored in the context and respondents and are not contaminated by researchers bias. Peer review or debriefing Rich thick description (with quotations from participants) Clarification of researcher bias and role Detailed documentation of methods of data collection and analysis
While experts in the field recommend the use of at least one of the several strategies identified in literature for establishing trustworthiness of qualitative research (Creswell, 1997), for this study, I used the following eight strategies.
3.7.1 Triangulation
Triangulation refers to cross-checking of specific data items (Guba & Lincoln, 1985). I triangulated data across sources in order to understand the nature and meaning of relationships between parents and paraeducators and the implications of these relationships for inclusion. The primary four sources were: parents, paraeducators, Significant Support Needs teachers, and general educators or
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classroom teachers. Using interview guides with questions on identical themes, I examined the research question from different angles and gathered different perspectives, thus corroborating evidence using different sources of data (Creswell, 1997; Miles & Huberman, 1994).
3.7.2 Demonstration of Researchers Familiarity with
the Data
The researchers thorough familiarity and deep involvement with the data are critical to strengthening the credibility of qualitative research (Wolcott, 1990b). To meet this requirement, I conducted all of the 20 interviews personally, listened to each taped interview more than once, read each transcript several times before and during the complex process of data analysis, and conducted all data analyses myself. By the time I reached the stage of writing the findings, I was so familiar with the data that if a quote from any one of the 20 transcripts was pulled out and presented to me I was able to identify its source.
3.7.3 Peer Review or Debriefing
For a study with one investigator, peer review provides an external check of the research process (Glesne & Peshkin, 1992; Lincoln & Guba, 1985; Merriam, 1988), much in the same spirit as interrater reliability in quantitative research (Creswell, 1997, p. 202). As I was the sole researcher in this study, my advisor (and the chairperson of the dissertation committee) took on the role of the peer debriefer
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