Moving towards a profession? International Perspectives on the Role of (para)professional Assistance in Inclusive Education between Autonomy and Dependency
Paraprofessional support in inclusive schools has become an inherent feature of educational organizations, whereas questions about the professionalization and conceptualization persist. The aim of this symposium is to analyse paraprofessionals in view of the rapid changes they have undergone and the possibility that their support role is moving towards a profession in three different countries (England, Canada and Germany). Our working hypothesis is that the international role of paraprofessional support in inclusive schools has not only undergone massive transformations to date, but is also taking place in an area where different expectations are in conflict. We are interested in any underlying tendencies of dependency and/or autonomy in the context of paraprofessional assistance. By offering international perspectives from qualitative social research projects, we will discuss overarching characteristics of paraprofessional support, in addition to country-specific frameworks.
Presentations of the Symposium
Students’ orientations on learning and social interaction in school under the circumstances of received paraprofessional support
The research of students‘ orientations on acting in educational settings can be positioned between two differential traditions of research, namely child research and educational research. The use of a sociologically-oriented child research method (cf. Honig et al 2009) for analysis in the field of education provides the opportunity of approaching the child’s perspective in educational practices, namely the students’ perspective as well as the perspective of their peers (cf. i.a. Krüger 2006). In the context of national german studies concerning (para)professional support in inclusive education the perspective of the students has yet not been adressed (cf. Köpfer & Böing 2017). The presentation deals with the methodological and methodical approaches of a study taking up this lack in research in order to reconstruct the students’ orientations on learning and social interaction in school under the circumstances of received paraprofessional support in inclusive primary schools in Germany.
Honig, M.-S. (2009): Ordnungen der Kindheit. Problemstellungen und Perspektiven der Kindheitsforschung. Weinheim, München: Juventa.
Köpfer, A. & Böing, U. (2017): Die Perspektive der Schülerinnen und Schüler mit Assistenzerfahrung auf Schulassistenz. In: Sonderpädagogische Förderung heute 62 (2017/1). 20-32
Krüger, H. (2006): Forschungsmethoden in der Kindheitsforschung. In: Diskurs Kindheits- und Jugendforschung Heft 1-2006, S. 91-115
The role of bilingual teaching assistants in the inclusion of refugee children in secondary education: Findings from an English case study
This paper discusses the findings from a case study at a secondary school in England, which examined refugee children’s access to formal education. The discussion focuses on the role of bilingual teaching assistants (TAs) in supporting the educational inclusion of refugee students for whom English is an additional language (EAL). The analysis is based on interviews with TAs to understand their experiences of supporting refugee children and the challenges they encounter when performing their role. Evidence is also drawn from interviews with students, with teachers who collaborate with TAs, and with the Head Teacher.
Preliminary findings indicate that the inclusion of refugee students with EAL in classroom practices is heavily reliant on the support offered by the TAs. Teachers, and often the students themselves (for a range of reasons which include their limited knowledge of the kinds of support available in the English educational system), seem to consider TA support as sufficient overall. However, in practice this support relates mainly to the translation by TAs of teaching material and teachers’ instructions. Significant as it may be, translation is only one of a wide range of needs (educational, social, emotional) that the students have and for which TAs might be unable to cater. The paper includes suggestions made to schools for the design and provision of holistic support to refugee students and for appropriate training and use of TA support.
Ethnographic perspectives on paraprofessional support in inclusive schools in Britain, Canada, and Germany
Internationally, paraprofessional educators employed in a variety of ways have become an important pillar within the support systems of inclusive schools. For example, to assist students with Special Educational Needs (SEN) in their learning and behaviour or to provide assistance for the needs of the whole class and the teacher. Countries such as Britain and Canada have a tradition of delivering support roles in schools.
This paper focuses on a comparison of the role of ‘teaching assistants’ (UK) and ‘teacher assistants’ (Can), which focus on support within the teaching context, and support for teachers respectively. These roles are discussed in relation to the support roles offered in German inclusive schools.
The body of examples for comparison comprises two ethnographic field studies conducted in Canada (Köpfer), the UK, and Germany (Fritzsche). The paper systematically compares supporters’ perspectives and practices by asking underlying questions, such as:
How are the roles performed and support provided by paraprofessionals in inclusive classrooms? Whom are the supporters aiming to support? Which different tendencies of dependency and/or autonomy can be traced to their professional roles?
Finally, the differences examined are further explored in relation to divergent organizational frameworks, professional background, and/or other variables, and we discuss which transformations paraprofessional support roles will undergo in the future in all three countries.