Paper Type

Doctoral Dissertation


College of Education and Human Services

Degree Name

Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership (EdD)


Leadership, School Counseling & Sport Management

NACO controlled Corporate Body

University of North Florida. Department of Leadership, School Counseling & Sports Management

First Advisor

Dr. Anne K. Swanson

Second Advisor

Dr. Christopher A. Janson

Third Advisor

Dr. Janice J. Seabrooks-Blackmore

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Angela R. Mann

Department Chair

Dr. Liz Gregg

College Dean

Dr. Diane Yendol-Hoppey


Paraprofessionals in self-contained settings are often involved in helping students to learn the skills to manage their behaviors. A need has been identified for paraprofessionals to join teachers in professional development opportunities in order to better meet the needs of the students who receive their services (Konza & Fried, 2012). By recognizing paraprofessionals as vital members of a student’s educational team (Boudreau & Twigg, 2011), informal professional development opportunities throughout the school day, such as professional conversations, may provide paraprofessionals with opportunities to share their experiences with each other and with their teachers, as well as to make collaborative decisions about how to support students’ efforts to meet their behavioral goals.

The purpose of this study was to explore the shared perspectives of teachers, paraprofessionals, and school administrators about professional conversations between teachers and paraprofessionals in self-contained classrooms for students with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and/or emotional and behavioral disorders (EBD) in supporting students’ efforts to meet their behavioral goals. Q methodology was chosen in order to take an exploratory approach to gain access to the viewpoints of teachers, paraprofessionals, and administrators about these professional conversations. This study involved 37 participants that included 15 teachers, 14 paraprofessionals, and 8 administrators from five schools with self-contained ASD or EBD classrooms. Four factors were found in this study. Natural Communicators seem to find opportunities throughout the day to communicate about behaviors. Guided Communicators seem to need structure to ensure that they join the conversations about behaviors. Expert Communicators seem to have learned how to put the necessary supports in place to promote professional conversations and remove the barriers that inhibit them. Hierarchical Communicators seem to value the role of the teacher as the classroom leader and the hierarchical structure found within school systems. With further research and an expansion of these factors into a more complete theory, this may be a worthwhile line of research to help administrators find a way to balance the needs of each member of their staff within self-contained classrooms for students with ASD and/or EBD and to ensure that professional conversations are occurring to improve student outcomes.