Back to School Series: Training Paraprofessional in the Special Education Classroom

Training is crucial but often overlooked in special education classroom.  Read about the different steps for effective staff training to ensure that traing is effective and a good use of time.


Training our staff is one of those things that necessary for a well-run classroom that we receive no training ourselves on.  When there’s so much to do in the classroom and getting your students to sit and be engaged feels like you’re herding cats, it’s so easy to see why training falls to the wayside.  Instead, paras end up getting brief and/or vague explanations of systems that frankly, need to be done correctly.  Not being done the way they’re meant to can mean data gets skewed, students are not making progress on goals, and we are not holding out classroom up to a high standard.
So you can see why you NEED to make the time to train.  It can be really hard, but it’s the only way to know for sure that your staff is doing what they need to do the right way.  It may be hard to let yourself carve out this time, especially if you have kids that really need the staff engaged with them to do any work.  I’m giving you the permission right now to let the kids get some time that maybe is not so intensive for the sake of training staff.  If engaging independently means letting your kids on the computer or tablet, that’s okay!  If it means coordinating related service providers to push-in/pull-out your students simultaneously, don’t be afraid to ask for some help.
How do we make use of the time we’re given with our staff?  It definitely helps to make a good plan.  One method of training staff consists of discussing, modeling, rehear, al and feedback. 

Discuss- Explain the skill you will be teaching them.  I find it helpful to also discuss WHY this skill is important to know and master.  You might also want to give them a guide to what exactly you want them to do (such as a task analysis) so they have the steps to refer to.

Model- Show them exactly what it will look like.  Most of us are visual learners and benefit from seeing the skill performed.

Rehearsal- Give your staff ample opportunities to practice.  I can’t tell you how many time I have been in trainings where a presenter discusses and models a skill.  I feels so confidently just observing the skill that I feel like I could do it in my sleep, only to find myself tripping up once we get to the rehearsal part.  This part is super important, because different things might pop in your head when you are rehearsing and the best time for somebody to ask questions and troubleshoot is when the instructor is right there.  Also, you want staff to be doing these skills to fluency

Feedback-  Make sure you tell your staff what they did great and what they need to change.  Make sure feedback is immediate and you are correcting errors as you see them happening, rather than waiting until the end of rehearsal.  You want to be giving ample praise so that they stay motivated and they know exactly what they can keep doing the same.  When giving constructive feedback, make sure you are describing the desired behavior.    Constructive feedback should tell the receiver what they need to be doing differently and why it needs to be done that way.




Parsons, M. B., Rollyson, J. H., & Reid, D. H. (2012). Evidence-Based Staff Training: A Guide for Practitioners. Behavior Analysis in Practice5(2), 2–11.

Read more from this blog series:
Week 3: Training Staff
Week 4: Handling Conflict with Staff



Training is crucial but often overlooked in special education classroom.  Read about the different steps for effective staff training to ensure that traing is effective and a good use of time.

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