OPEPP has developed and field-tested these modules for the widest possible use because few high-quality professional development (PD) opportunities for paraprofessionals are available. In fact, most programs that exist are completely local efforts. Asking local districts to invent the relevant materials—especially for the instructional role of parapros—is not a reasonable expectation.
The materials in these modules, therefore, are intended for adaptation and re-assembly to suit your local situation and its needs. They are accessible for use by anyone—and that use includes modifying the elements, altering activities a little, or adding additional supplementary resources. When you make such changes simply acknowledge OPEPP as the original source (a standard acknowledgment to use appears at the end of this guide).
Although the focus of the modules is on parapros’ work in helping to teach, units from the Communication and Collaboration module can be adapted to training programs that focus on other duties typical of the role (managing behavior, socialization, personal care). And units from the Helping with Instruction module can be adapted to a general orientation for newly hired paraprofessional educators.
In short, OPEPP encourages selectivity in the use of its modules. It’s not even advisable to use the modules as a total package. Local planning is required. By creating modules, OPEPP has done some of the work, but not most of it: choose what you need and plan the rest of the training carefully.
The challenges of delivering professional development for parapros are well-known:
- role definition is vague and supervision inconsistent;
- parapros are treated as low-status educators;
- local efforts to create and deliver PD are typically after-thoughts to other PD planning;
- access to high-quality PD from third-party sources is spotty at best; and
- PD for parapros is seldom a local priority because, with many demands on their time and other resources, local districts often place their attention elsewhere.
These challenges can be daunting. But your interest in using materials from the modules to begin a PD effort for parapros in your district or region is commendable. Just rushing into training by copying the materials and reviewing them in a group setting, however, is probably not the best approach. Thoughtful planning will be necessary in order to get the most out of the modules. You might want to take the following steps as you plan for PD opportunities using the materials in one or more of the modules:
- Conduct a brief needs assessment to see what instructional skills parapros themselves believe will help them in their jobs.
- Conduct a brief needs assessment to see what the teachers who supervise parapros believe would help parapros become more comfortable with the instructional helper role.
- Convene a planning team that reviews one or more modules to determine which units (or which activities within units) might be best for addressing the needs of parapros in your district or region.
- Develop a process for getting feedback from parapros who participate in PD derived from the materials in these units. A simple exit slip asking for “warm” and “cool” feedback might be sufficient.
- Review some of the slideshows that the OPEPP team has already developed for districts in Ohio. (See the section of the OPEPP site called “Training Packages.”)
It sounds like a lot to take on as a way simply to plan the training, but unless those who are planning the PD have a good grasp of (1) what they want parapros to learn and (2) how the training will improve parapros’ performance of the work they are expected to perform, the training effort might backfire. To help ensure the effectiveness of the effort, start small! Don’t plan a full day of training using these materials alone. Instead, select one or two relevant activities to use in a one-to-two-hour session. It’s also helpful to make the training feel like a special event by being attentive to the need for amenities, such as an inviting setting and snacks or meals.