Enhancing Progress With Teaching Assistants


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Beth Hartwell

Beth writes for the Teacher Toolkit site from a secondary perspective. She is currently a Lead Practitioner of Teaching and Learning at a school in York with a specialism of teaching secondary Science. She is currently teaching in a iPad school and is interested sharing...
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How do you deploy teaching assistants?

Teaching assistants (TAs) have a hugely positive influence in my classroom day in, day out. However, research analysed by the Education Endowment Foundation has shown that a general TA, on average, does not have positive impact on progress. This has no link to the quality of support by the teaching assistant, it is about how the teacher deploys the adult within the classroom.

Here are 4 roles for TAs to boost progress:

The independence giver

Independent learning is an essential skills for all pupils to succeed. For some pupils it can be an enormous challenge, however, the TA can assist in this by reducing the scaffolding within a task over time. For example, the teaching assistant could provide sentence starters, then the next lesson subtitles, then the next simply key words. Slowing building in more independence within a task can allow for greater ownership and it will ultimately create faster progress for the pupils.

 The mistake spotter

Having conversations with a TA about the most common mistakes within your subject can be a powerful strategy. In my subject, Science, pupils need to put units in the correct place in a table and we always write a conclusion in a certain manner. Now the teaching assistant knows this, they are prepared for their role, promoting good practice and embedding key skills.

The small-group supporter

Supporting a small group of students to carry out a task has shown a positive impact on progress. Scaffolding the task is a key to the success of this activity. This could be as simple as providing a success criteria for both the pupils and TA to work from. The pupils should be able to carry out the activity without the TA; their role is not to teach pupils the content but to support their independent learning.

The confidence builder

Some pupils need the assurance that they are doing it right. Deploying a teaching assistant to “check in” with a pupil every x minutes can ensure maximum progress. Allowing the pupils to have this kind of support builds independence and ultimately build their confidence so they can achieve great things. Slowly taking away this support promotes independence and maximises progress.

The strategies within this post are based on peer reviewed research; for more information see the EEF’s findings in “Making Best Use of Teaching Assistants


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