Educating Identities: Teaching, Learning and the Paraprofessional Self

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This qualitatively based study explores the connections between tertiary and workplace learning by analyzing how paraprofessional educators conceptualize and perform their professional identities in a university setting. In both written texts and structured interviews, paraprofessionals who are beginning university study were encouraged to reflect upon their role in K-12 education. The researchers will use their responses to answer two central questions: How do paraprofessionals perform/construct themselves as educators, and how can these constructions be used to support their agency and understanding as present or future educators? Peripheral questions include: As status and titles change, how does perception of professional identity shift? What kinds of educating selves emerge through their written and spoken responses? What kinds of educating selves are suppressed? How does their identity as classroom practitioners compare with/connect with their identity in the university or college setting?

We believe that this study will support the value of providing all contributors to the educational process with opportunities for reflection. Initial data suggest paraprofessionals conceptualize their roles within a pragmatic educational hierarchy rather than within theoretical or research based frameworks. Nonetheless, the same data reveal that paraprofessionals have accumulated considerable experiential wisdom and therefore can engage with theoretical literature in new and provocative ways. As such, paraprofessionals have much to gain from, and to contribute to, educational partnerships in which both workplace and academic learning are constructed as ongoing, collaborative inquiry. Further, given that the data generated in this study represent the paraprofessional subjects’ first opportunity for structured reflection, the researchers speculate that more systematic use of reflection among paraprofessionals will yield valuable data not only about their educating identities, but also about the experiential wisdom they have accumulated in practice. Finally, then, this study points to the value of bringing paraprofessional educators into the tertiary teacher education pipeline.


Keywords: Identity, Paraprofessional, K-12 education, Workplace Learning, Experiential Learning, Educational Partnerships
Stream: Adult, Vocational, Tertiary and Professional Learning
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: A paper has not yet been submitted.


Dr. Cathy Leaker

Assistant Professor, Cultural Studies, Empire State College
New York, NY, USA


Dr. Tina Wagle

Assistant Professor, Educational Studies
Graduate Programs, Empire State College

Buffalo, NY, USA


Ref: L09P0222