Module 2


Duties and Responsibilities of Educational Assistants (EAs)

Please access the Forms Manual of the GSSD website to view AP 431 – Duties and Responsibilities of Educational Assistants.

  • —In your workbook, document what you feel are the primary duties and responsibilities of the Educational Assistant in the classroom. (Module 2:  Question 1)
  • As part of this conversation with your teacher partner,  discuss your strengths and possible challenges in completing these roles and responsibilities.

Examples of appropriate EA responsibilities include:

  • include reading aloud to students
  • monitoring behavior according to a contract or plan
  • reviewing spelling and vocabulary words
  • organizing note books with students
  • setting up or plugging in Assistive Technology Devices
  • scanning reading material
  • assignments or tests for use with a ‘read aloud’ program such as Word Q
  • checking the batteries in hearing aids
  • clarifying classroom instructions with students
  • listening to students read aloud and working on a reading strategy with them
  • walking a student around the halls or to a designated cool down space when escalated
  • providing for any personal care needs
  • helping students write assignments in agendas
  • making up rhymes or phrases to help students remember information
  • dictating individualized spelling lists
  • while the classroom teacher teaches, an EA can support instruction by moving around the room monitoring students, checking their work, reinforcing instruction, answering questions, checking for understanding, and highlighting important points for students who require this support.
  • EAs can also complement instruction by leading a short discussion or demonstrating skills such as using a dictionary or index, note taking, visual cues, modelling appropriate social skills for working in a group, or by reinforcing skills already taught by the teacher in centres or small group instruction settings.

Please note it is not appropriate for EAs to be expected to:

  • —Teach new concepts or skills
  • —Be given full responsibility in planning for students’ instructional or personal needs
  • —Prescribe educational activities or materials for students
  • —Be solely responsible for a classroom or other professional service
  • —Be responsible for preparing lesson plans or assigning grades
  • —Discuss student progress with parents
  • —Be asked to attend an IIP meeting in place of the classroom teacher
TEAM Introductory Video (Please obtain from your SSC)

  • —For this section of the orientation, play the orange DVD “Training of Paraeducators” featuring Dr. Nancy K. French.
  • The total length of the video is 35 minutes.
  • —As a team, it is strongly encouraged to pause the video to discuss the questions written in the workbook as they appear (please note the workbook does not include every question posed in the video). (Module 2: Question2)
  • —For questions about evaluation (posed at 8 min, 50 seconds in the video), please note the GSSD policy outlines that school principals in consultation with staff, complete EA evaluations every second year.  This information is outlined in AP 435 found in the Admin. Procedures Tab.  Corresponding forms can be found in the Forms Section (435-1 and 435-2).  It is important to review this information so you understand how you will be evaluated.

Optimizing Student Behaviour Through Positive Behavioural Support

The video makes reference to Positive Behaviour Support (PBS).  What does PBS do?

  • —PBS aims to replace challenging behaviours with prosocial behaviours
  • —PBS does this by helping parents and school staff create and maintain a safe, supportive learning environment, promote positive life skills and reduce negative behaviours so that all children can succeed in school
  • —PBS addresses both individual behaviour and environmental factors. It focuses more on building skills rather than punishing the student
  • —PBS may address issues such as social skills training, resilience building, and discipline. It focuses on creating and sustaining school-wide, classroom, and individual supports that make the challenging behaviour less rewarding and exhibiting the desired behaviour more functionally effective for the student

—As a TEAM, take a moment to discuss some of the positive behavioural supports presently in place at the school level, in the classroom as whole, and if appropriate, for some of the students you will both be working with.

Common Pitfall:  Over Supporting & Staying Too Close to a Student

The video discussed different roles for Educational Assistants in a variety of settings.  Regardless of the setting, one common pitfall of EAs is working in too close of proximity to a student and over-supporting them.  Ensure you avoid this pitfall as it can have long-term negative implications for a student.

“Too close” may include the following behaviours:

  • maintaining physical contact with the student (eg. shoulder, back, arms, hands) on a near constant basis
  • sitting in a chair immediately next to the student
  • having the student sit on the EA’s lap while the classmates are sitting on the floor
  • having the EA accompany the student to virtually all areas of the school; including the classrooms, hallways, bathrooms, and school grounds etc.

What are the negative ramifications of working in close proximity to a student?

  • interference of ownership and responsibility by classroom teachers
  • separation from classmates
  • dependence on adults
  • interference with peer interactions
  • limited opportunities for instruction from other teachers
  • loss of student’s personal control
  • loss of gender identity; this is most commonly observed when a male student is taken into the women’s bathroom by a female assistant (boys should use the boy’s washroom)

As teachers and EAs work as a TEAM, the question on all team members’ minds should be, “What is the next step to independence?”

How do we avoid this common pitfall?

The ideal inclusive environment is one where all students have the support of each other, the teacher, and the EA.  Support that is too individual and intrusive can interfere with potential connections among students.  The EA’s role may be expanded to include:

  • supporting small group work.  The small group could possibly include the student with intensive support needs; in which case, peer interdependence can be nurtured.
  • supervising cooperative learning or other peer collaboration groups under the direction of the classroom teacher
  • having the opportunity to work with all students in the class
  • working with the large class group while the teacher spends individual time with the student with intensive support needs

Theoharis Golden Rule Article  – please read this informative article describing ways to facilitate independence in an inclusive classroom. (Causton-Theoharis, 2009).  Answer Module 2:  Question 3 in the Workbook.

How can I Promote Independence in the Students that I Work with?

—Completing tasks “all by myself” is a key component of one’s quality of life.  Strategies for promoting independence in all students include:

1.  Promoting Independence with Realistic Expectations— and Tasks just above the Student’s Current Skill Level:

Realistic expectations require:
  • Knowledge of the student’s current level of performance. Within this activity, note what the student can do independently and then provide a “just right challenge”.
  • Knowledge of the goals in the IIP
  • The ability to identify when the task needs to be broken down into smaller components (task analysis)

2.  Promoting Independence with Natural Supports:

The concept of natural supports is based on the understanding that relying on typical people and environments enhances the potential for inclusion more effectively than relying on specialized services and personnel.

—Natural supports include:
  • Staff roles (eg. teaming, teachers from other grade levels, counsellors)
  • Curriculum and instructional strategies (eg. cooperative learning, adaptations, changes in expectations)
  • Time (eg. extra time, scheduling considerations)
  • Space (eg. layout of classroom, placement within class, cooling off area)
  • Parents (eg. as guest speakers for disability awareness, information)
  • Peers (eg. peer assistance/buddies, peer tutoring, cooperative learning)
  • Materials (eg. signs, organized work space, easy to access materials, adaptations, natural environment for teaching life skills)

3.  Promoting Independence Using Visual Strategies & Supports:

—Visuals are a type of natural support that a student can use for as long as they need to process information.  Visuals help the student to focus and tap into relative strengths in concrete thinking, rote memory, and understanding visual-spatial relationships.  Visuals allow individuals to compensate for difficulties in abstract thinking, communication & attention.
  • Click HERE to watch a video on using picture and object schedules in the classroom
  • Click HERE to see a sample of how visuals can be used to teach a skill & enhance independence with a task

Visual Schedules provide information about events…. (what) and when.  The benefits include:

  • Easing transitions
  • Creating opportunities for choice making
  • Fostering independence
  • Accessibility to students
  • Management of leisure time
  • Enhances quality of life

Excellent Resource for Visual Strategies:

—4.  Promoting Independence by Teaching Skills for Self-Determination:

—Self determination means to have input into the decisions that affect our lives.  It is important to start early by teaching the student to:
  • Set goals
  • Identify options and make choices
  • Accept responsibility
  • Communicate preferences or needs
  • Monitor and evaluate own progress
  • Identify and use natural supports

5.  Promoting Independence by facilitating Social Interaction:

  • —Watch for budding relationships & foster their development
  • —Recruit students to “show the student the ropes”
  • Assist peers in problem solving collaboratively
6.  Promote independence by implementing strategies such as basic steps and always planning to reduce the amount of assistance provided:
  • —Explain
  • I do it
  • We do it together
  • You do it!

—This completes Module 2 of our TEAM Orientation Package.  Please ensure that you have completed the workbook portion.