Joni Burris

Date of Award

January 2014

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Teaching & Learning

First Advisor

Katherine Terras


Public schools across the country are facing a critical shortage of licensed special education teachers. For many reasons, paraeducators have been considered strong teacher candidates and have been recruited into the teaching profession intermittently for decades. Paraeducators who decide to obtain their teaching license often experience obstacles to this endeavor: money, time, family obligations, navigating the university system, and academics.

This research study examined and analyzed Minnesota paraeducators' perceptions of the barriers to obtaining their special education teaching license. It also assessed the perceptional differences between Minnesota paraeducators who have completed at least a bachelor's degree and those who have not. In addition, the study sought to determine a relationship between the paraeducators' demographic information and their perceptions to the barriers of obtaining their special education teaching license. The findings of this study revealed that Minnesota paraeducators perceived the barrier of time to be the most problematic, followed by the money barrier. The barrier of academics was the least concerning to them. Quantitative analyses indicated there was no evidence of a difference between those with at least their bachelor's degree and those without, in terms of their perceptions of the barriers. In addition, none of the demographic variables was a strong predictor of the barrier index, although the standardized coefficients were found to be higher for several of the factors.

Based on the findings, two broad-based conclusions were made. First, paraeducators in Minnesota are a strong potential source of future special education teachers. Second, paraeducators face several significant barriers while on their pathway to obtaining their special education teaching license.