Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Teaching & Learning


This qualitative study was designed to answer the question: "What happens when a paraprofessional is assigned to provide individual, direct service to a student with disabilities in an inclusive classroom?" Selection of the primary participants, paraprofessionals, was completed by securing the cooperation of three paraprofessionals identified as successful by the school principals and the special education teachers supervising the paraprofessionals. Three paraprofessionals were observed in inclusive classrooms one morning and one afternoon per week throughout the fall semester of 1997. Interviews were conducted with the 3 paraprofessionals, 3 special education teachers, 11 general education teachers of inclusive classes, 3 middle school students with disabilities, and 6 high school students with disabilities. The data obtained from the observations, interview transcripts, and diagrams drawn by interviewees were initially analyzed using NUD'IST, a qualitative analysis software package, to generate the themes. Analysis was completed with the use of word processing software as a slightly more automated version of the typical index card sorting and categorizing process used by qualitative researchers.

The two major themes arising from the study are deficits in communication and deficits in preparation/training for inclusion. These deficits were most prevalent in the interactions, and lack of interactions, between paraprofessionals and general education teachers, and between special education teachers and general education teachers. The areas of communication deficit concern (1) paraprofessionals' roles, responsibilities, and preparation, (2) general education teachers' responsibility for paraprofessionals, and (3) interpretation of goals of inclusion. The deficits in preparation/training were noted in (1) appropriate use of paraprofessionals to foster social inclusion of students with disabilities, (2) opportunities for on-the-job-training and modeling for paraprofessionals, (3) inservice about inclusion for general education teachers, and (4) supervisory training for special and general education teachers.