Tips for Teachers: 8. Working effectively with teaching assistants

Jun 13, 2023 | Blogs

Tips for Teachers: 8. Working effectively with teaching assistants

Jun 13, 2023 | Blogs

If you are fortunate to have a Teaching Assistant (TA) in your classroom, you will be well aware that they can be ‘worth their weight in gold.’ They are often the unsung heroes in education, sometimes overlooked and certainly underpaid.

The Education Endowment Foundation has created a guidance report: Making best use of teaching assistants. Among its recommendations are:

  • Not using TAs as an informal resource for low attaining pupils – the best way to raise attainment is quality teacher-led learning.
  • Using TAs to add value to the work of the teacher, not replace them – aim to deploy your TA in ways which frees you to work with struggling pupils.
  • Use TAs to help pupils develop independent skills and manage their own learning – pupils who experience significant TA support are at risk of developing ‘learned helplessness’.
  • Ensure TAs are fully prepared for their role in the classroom – as a teacher you are responsible for ensuring the TA in your classroom is prepared and understands the tasks, activities and needs of the pupils they are supporting.
  • Use TAs to deliver high quality one-to-one and small group support – TAs often deliver interventions and ‘catch-up’ programmes outside the classroom, so it is essential you are aware of what they cover, obtain feedback from the TA delivering them and allow time to liaise to ensure connections are made between the interventions and everyday learning.

Other tips to ensure an effective partnership include:

  • Making any time you have efficient, for example structuring your conversations or using a checklist of discussion points.
  • Check your TA is not ‘over-supporting’ pupils. Ensure they know when to support and when to step back.
  • Provide models, scaffolds and prompts for your TA to record and feedback pupil performance to inform the next stages of learning.
  • Model and support TA-pupil interactions to ensure these are of high quality, move the learning forward and not task driven.
  • Use your TA to support whole-class delivery at the front of the class working as a team, for example by: encouraging pupil responses; observing, supporting and noting difficulties, misconceptions and achievement and feeding these back.
  • Use your TA to complete administration tasks or help in reducing disruption which allows you to teach.
  • Check they have the necessary skills and subject knowledge for in class support and the skills and knowledge needed when delivering interventions.
  • Ensuring they are confident with and respect the role and contribution of other professionals, parents and carers by being supported when liaising and working in partnership with them.

Lastly, remember many of our teaching assistants live locally to the school and whilst this can sometimes cause them conflict, it can on occasion be used to our advantage. They can be our eyes and ears as they often know how the school is perceived by parents and the local community.

Remember Schoolaspect has a number of templates which are useful for monitoring the work of teaching assistants.

This blog was written by Bretta Townend-Jowitt, Education Consultant and Trainer. 

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