Slide 1: This webinar is titled, “Helping with Instruction in General: The Role of the Paraprofessional.” Its purpose is to provide an overview of the instructional cycle, the activities teachers perform at each phase in the cycle, and the way paraprofessionals can help teachers at each phase.
Slide 2: My name is Aimee Howley. I am retired from Ohio University, where I was a faculty member in the Educational Studies department.
Slide 3: On this slide you can see the five phases of the instructional cycle. It starts at the top with the planning phase; then it proceeds to the teaching, evaluating, reflecting, and planning again phases, each in turn. Each phase builds on what the teacher does and what he or she learns at the preceding phase.
Slide 4: The first phase involves planning. Teachers need to know what to do each day and for each student. Experienced teachers may do some of their planning in their heads or just jot down a few key ideas about the plan, but writing down a plan in detail is helpful for future reference. Whether or not the teacher creates a detailed written plan, he or she will think about the connection between students’ needs and the significant learning that the teacher wants to promote. He or she may use a set of written standards as a guide or consult each student’s individual education plan (that is, the students’ IEPs). Whether the teacher is planning for one student or a class, the teacher will typically design an instructional sequence known as a lesson. If the teacher believes that several lessons are needed in order for students to learn a particular concept or skill, he or she will develop a series of lessons to comprise an instructional unit. Each lesson typically includes learning objectives, activities to help students achieve the learning objectives, and tools for evaluating students’ learning.
Slide 5: This slide shows an abbreviated lesson plan on rhyming words. Notice the parts of the lesson—the learning objectives, the activities, and the evaluation. Think about the details you might add if you were writing this lesson plan for use with a group of young students.
Slide 6: The next phase of the instructional cycle is teaching. Teaching typically involves some teacher-talk, perhaps an explanation of a concept or a review of a concept that was previously learned and on which new learning depends. It also involves some activities in which students participate. In the lesson presented on the previous slide, the student activity involves listening and hand-raising to identify pairs of rhyming words.
Slide 7: Following the teaching phase is the evaluating phase. Teachers need to know how well the students in general learned the new skill or concept presented in the lesson and how well each individual student learned the new skill or concept. A short evaluation that is part of one lesson provides formative feedback because it gives the teacher (and also the students) information about individual and class progress toward mastery. For this reason, the process of evaluating a lesson or series of lessons is sometimes called “formative assessment.”
Slide 8: Once the teacher has some information about how well the students are learning a skill or concept, he or she can reflect on what might be going on. For example, if most students seem to be learning but a few are not, the teacher might explore possible reasons for the difference between the groups. If everyone mastered the concept very rapidly, the teacher might ponder whether or not he or she started an instructional unit with a lesson that was too easy. Similarly, if no one seemed to master the concept, the teacher might consider whether or not the lesson was too hard. I think it’s important to see the reflecting phase as distinct from the planning again phase because teachers need to take time to figure out what evaluation data are really telling them.
Slide 9: At the planning-again phase of the instructional cycle, the teacher uses the ideas that surfaced during the process of reflecting on evaluation data in order to decide what to do next. Should he or she reteach a skill or concept? Do all students need to participate in another lesson on that skill or concept, or just some students? And can some students move onto something else? For those who need additional learning, what new way of teaching the skill or concept is more likely than the original approach to help students master it? With answers to these questions in mind, the teacher then charts out the next steps in the instructional sequence.
Slide 10: Paraprofessionals can help at each phase of the instructional cycle. They can play a crucial role on the instructional team. The next slides show some possibilities for how paraprofessionals can help.
Slide 11: Paraprofessionals often spend time observing and helping particular students, so they have first-hand knowledge of those students’ levels of skill and concept development. At the planning phase, they can, therefore, share insights about those students’ academic needs and good entry points for building on existing skills and concepts. They can also search for resources that the teacher will use for creating an engaging and successful lesson. In addition, paraprofessionals can help the teacher develop learning materials that ensure universal access to important knowledge and skills. Charts, pictures, review sheets, outlines, and study guides are some of the types of materials that can increase universal access.
Slide 12: Paraprofessionals can also help with the teaching of a lesson. If a student needs to see a demonstration of a concept or skill after it has been presented once by the teacher, the paraprofessional can repeat the demonstration. A paraprofessional can also help one or more students with note-taking or other method of recording new information. He or she can observe students to make sure they are performing a skill correctly and can provide feedback. The paraprofessional can also gather more systematic observation data using a form or process developed by the teacher. And he or she can help students organize their practice work or interpret the feedback provided by the teacher.
Slide 13: To help the teacher with the process of evaluating, a paraprofessional can monitor an assessment session. The session might, for example involve a written test, an oral recitation, or the completion of a product. As requested by the teacher, the paraprofessional might watch to make sure that students understand the evaluation tasks, perhaps also answering students’ questions. He or she might then proctor the session to ensure academic honesty. The paraprofessional might also help the teachers score students’ work, record their performance, or chart their work on a graph.
Slide 14: Especially when a paraprofessional has helped plan, teach, and evaluate a lesson, he or she will have useful insights to contribute at the reflecting phase of the instructional cycle. For example, he or she may have observed problems that some students were encountering as they tried to practice a new skill. Or the paraprofessional may have observed events that distracted some students—events that the teacher may not even have seen. When paraprofessionals and teachers have very strong working relationships, sometimes the teacher will ask the paraprofessional to play the role of critical friend and give the teacher feedback about his or her teaching. For example, the teacher might ask a paraprofessional to observe his or her use of a model to demonstrate a new skill or concept; then after the lesson is over, the paraprofessional can indicate whether or not the model seemed clear or might need to be modified for future use.
Slide 15: If paraprofessionals have participated in the other phases of the instructional cycle, they will be well-positioned to help teachers when they reach the planning-again phase. In fact, they will have even more insights about student learning than they did the first time they helped the teacher with planning. And as they did before, they can find useful resources and help the teacher prepare materials that will give all students access to high-quality learning opportunities.