Paraprofessionals are able to deliver group-based mentoring as effective as psychology graduate students

Strait, GG, Turner, J, Stinson, D, et al. Paraprofessionals use of group school‐based instrumental mentoring: Examining process and preliminary outcomes. Psychol Schs. 2020; 57: 1492– 1505.

Summarized by Harry Bayly

Notes of Interest:

  • The study compared undergraduate student volunteers, “paraprofessionals,” with psychology graduate students who acted as mentors to sixth graders in a middle school.
  • The mentors instituted an intervention called Group-AMPED.
  • There were no differences in student engagement or implementation behaviors between the paraprofessionals and the psychology graduate students.
  • Middle school students who took part in Group-AMPED had significantly higher grades in the second semester. 

Introduction (Reprinted from the Abstract)

Many schools use paraprofessionals to implement and monitor interventions. Though paraprofessionals are cost‐effective, many questions remain about the training and skills they need to implement a wide array of school‐based interventions. In this study, we compare paraprofessionals’ (i.e., under-graduates) implementation of the Group‐Academic Mentoring Program for Education Development (Group‐AMPED) to school psychology graduate students’ implementation of Group‐AMPED. Ten paraprofessionals and five school psychology graduate students provided approximately eight sessions of Group‐AMPED to 35 sixth‐grade students. Results indicated no significant differences between middle school students’ engagement when groups were led by either school psychology graduate students or paraprofessionals. Similarly, self‐reports of fidelity and supervisor post-session implementation confidence indicated no difference between paraprofessionals and graduate students’ implementation of Group‐AMPED. Follow‐up measures indicated that mentors and proteges perceived Group‐AMPED as feasible, acceptable, and understandable. Most importantly, middle school students participating in Group‐AMPED had significantly higher second‐ semester grades in comparison to a small control group.

Implications (Reprinted from the Discussion)

Group interventions suitable for paraprofessionals to implement have the potential to maximize the number of students receiving interventions and harness the cost‐efficiency of paraprofessionals. However, there is a need for interventions that not only produce a significant change in student outcomes but are feasible for paraprofessional implementation. Therefore, we evaluated process, treatment acceptability, and academic outcomes of Group‐AMPED—an instrumental mentoring program that integrates components of MI, HOPS, and CBT in a group setting. The results of this study indicated that paraprofessionals and school psychology graduate students maintained high‐levels of student engagement (i.e., exceeding 90%) and fidelity (i.e., exceeding 90%). These factors are critical in terms of the viability of Group‐AMPED. Specifically, Group‐AMPED was developed from the one‐on‐one version of AMPED which has evidence of significantly impacting middle school students’ academic grades and school connectedness (McQuillin & Lyons, 2016; McQuillin et al., 2015). However, a common problem in mentoring is recruiting enough mentors to implement one‐on‐one programs (Herrera et al., 2002). Group mentoring programs minimize the number of mentors needed but at the risk of reducing student engagement. Fortunately, this study indicates that high levels of student engagement and fidelity are possible with groups sizes of 2–4.

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