Paras and remote learning data collection

How paraprofessionals can help teachers collect data on student behaviors and progress when students are engaged in distance learning
By: | January 20, 2021
Getty Images, JakovoGetty Images, Jakovo

As many schools continue with remote and hybrid learning, the importance of good data collection is paramount. Being able to keep records of student progress during this time can help educators ascertain the impact of virtual learning on a student and help districts down the road if parents decide to pursue legal action for compensatory education.

Paraprofessionals are supporting teachers in any way they can, says Cindy Collier, an autism consultant at the Center for Autism and Related Disabilities at Florida State University. Here’s how you can use your paraprofessionals to help teachers with data collection for students who are learning remotely.

• Train paraprofessionals on technology. Make sure paraprofessionals are pretty well versed in necessary technology, such as how to use Zoom. “A lot of times paraprofessionals get left out of that loop,” she said. Make sure paraprofessionals are trained on the platforms your district uses, Collier says.

• Focus on academic data. The only goals and objectives that can be monitored reliably during remote learning will be in the academic area. “Even time-on-task goals, independence goals, being able to be independent without a certain number of prompts, won’t be able to be monitored,” she says. “The only data collection I see that will be true, valuable, and reliable will be academic data.”

For example, if a student has a goal in math to add two-digit numbers together at a certain rate over a certain amount of time, he can still work toward that goal in a virtual setting. Provide the student with the same document he would use in a face-to-face setting and the paraprofessional would score the student in the same way, Collier says.

• Train parents to work with paraprofessionals. We don’t know what happens on the other end of the computer screen, Collier says. Train parents or whoever will be working with the student during virtual learning on how to collect data. “The parents and the paraprofessionals are going to both be trained,” she says. “Then rely on them and their integrity on how they’re implementing [the data collection].”

For example, if a student is doing flashcards with her teacher on Zoom, the parent can collect the data based on the student’s responses. Or, the parent can work with the student on the flashcards and take data. Either way, provide the parents with a simple datasheet to use that they can fill out and return to the paraprofessional, who can then summarize the information for the teacher, she says.

• Remain consistent. Make sure that paraprofessionals taking data during remote learning sessions are asking questions in the same consistent way as they would during in-person sessions with students, Collier says. For instance, paraprofessionals can meet with students via Zoom and use cold probe datasheets for data collection. They could analyze the data week by week to see if the student is making progress on whatever his goal is.

Florence Simmons covers Section 504, paraprofessionals and transportation for Special Ed Connection, a DA sister publication.