The use of paraeducators has increased as a main mechanism to include more students with disabilities in the public schools in the U.S. Although the utilization of paraeducators is intended to be a supportive service delivery option, many concerns and challenges have resulted. The purpose of this study was to examine the role of the paraeducator in the general physical education environment from the perspectives of special education, physical education, and adapted physical education teachers and paraeducators. Data were collected from a phenomenological approach using questionnaires, interviews, and observations. Results indicate concerns about the clarity of the role of the paraeducator in physical education. Emerging themes include elastic definitions of student protection and teacher backup, contradictory expectations and mixed acceptance, and paraeducators’ role ambiguity. Findings regarding the role of the paraeducator are essential in determining both best practice and legal policy for the appropriate utilization of paraeducators in physical education.
At the time of this study, Rebecca R. Bryan and Jeffrey A. McCubbin were with Nutrition and Exercise Sciences at Oregon State University. Hans van der Mars is with the Physical Education Teacher Education Program at Arizona State University-Polytechnic Campus.