Improving Paraprofessionals Fidelity of Implementation of Discrete Trial Training for Students with Moderate-to-Severe Developmental Disabilities
Paraprofessionals who serve children with developmental disabilities are often tasked with implementing complex instructional strategies (Brock & Carter, 2013). Despite increases in paraprofessionals responsibilities, they are given limited training to implement such practices with fidelity. One reason for lack of training, is the time and resources intensiveness of high-quality trainings (Mason et al., 2017). Thus, approaches for training paraprofessionals that are time and cost-effective, and that can be embedded into ongoing classroom routines are critical for delivering high-quality trainings. Practice-based coaching (PBC) is an effective approach for staff training that includes goal development, action planning, observations, and feedback (Snyder et al., 2015). PBC has been shown to be an effective method for training teachers and paraprofessionals new skills. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the impact of PBC on paraprofessional implementation of discrete-trial training (DTT).
What we did
Step 1:Before coaching began, members of the research team observed the paraprofessionals during their ongoing classroom routines. Researchers recorded the number of steps of the DTT procedure that the paraprofessionals implemented correctly.
Step 2: Each paraprofessional completed an online training module on DTT. The module took approximately 1.5 h to complete and included a pre-test, case examples, video examples, and a post-test.
Step 3: Classroom teachers were trained in the PBC procedure. Teachers were trained to use a PBC protocol that contained nine steps.
Step 4: Teachers and paraprofessionals met for coaching meetings twice per week. Before each coaching meeting, the classroom teacher watched a video of the paraprofessional implementing DTT and recorded the number of steps the paraprofessional implemented correctly. Coaching meetings began with the classroom teacher asking the paraprofessional to reflect on her use of DTT. Next, the teacher provided feedback on the paraprofessional’s performance. In cases where the paraprofessional was implementing steps incorrectly, the teacher used a combination of instructions, modeling, role play, and feedback to reteach those steps. The coaching phase ended when the paraprofessional was able to implement the steps of the DTT procedure with at least 80% accuracy.
What we found
During the initial observations, all paraprofessionals were implementing the DTT procedure with less than 80% accuracy. After completing the online instructional module, increases in accuracy were observed for some paraprofessionals. However, accuracy was still below 80%. For all paraprofessionals, the introduction of coaching was associated with immediate increases in accuracy of the DTT procedure. All paraprofessionals were able to reach the 80% mastery criterion with the addition of coaching.
What this means
Coaching can be an effective tool for teaching paraprofessionals to implement evidence-based instructional strategies. Despite increases in responsibilities, paraprofessionals are often given little training in effective instructional practices. This study demonstrates how a feasible and cost-effective can be used to significantly improve paraprofessionals use of high-quality instructional practices. Teachers and paraprofessionals working with elementary school students with moderate-to-severe developmental disabilities, may consider using this coaching procedure.