Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


School of Education

First Advisor

Linda Samek, EdD

Second Advisor

Eloise Hockett, EdD

Third Advisor

Greg Aldred, EdD


This qualitative research used a phenomenological method to foreground Washington State instructional paraeducator voices describing their experiences participating in state mandated professional development certification program. The participants all received a minimum of 14 hours, out of 98 hours, of the state’s required professional development for the paraeducator certificate program. An unstructured interview method was utilized to allow participants to openly describe their experience participating in the professional development and describe impacts the professional development had on how they understand their role and responsibility as a paraeducator. Analysis of the data was conducted through the lenses of two adult learning theories, transformative adult learning (Mezirow, 1991) and situated learning (Lave & Wenger, 1991), due to the shared element of communicative learning. Participants provided rich descriptions of their experiences of how their school district implemented the professional development along with comparisons and contrasts between three learning modalities: in-person, synchronous online, and asynchronous online. Due to COVID-19 putting in-person meetings on hold, synchronous online learning replaced in-person trainings and provided the unexpected opportunity to explore the participants’ experiences learning in that environment. These experiences revealed five emerging themes. Three themes related to impact on practice include confidence, purpose, and collaboration. Two themes of communicative learning and agency provide evidence of elements of the transformational and situated learning theories in the participants’ experiences. This study filled a gap in the literature by centering paraeducator voice in the experience of paraeducators participating in professional development. Implications for this research include the need to create more space for paraeducator voices when exploring their experiences, and further exploration of the emerging themes and new themes not yet identified.