Are Teaching Assistants a valuable asset to the classroom?
By Neill Scott
Word Count – 2740 not including annexes.
“Are Teaching Assistants a valuable asset to the classroom"
What is action research?
Action research is a question used to sort out a problem or issue in your line of practice. We then use and evaluate action research to seek a solution. But the process can also be used as an attempt to understand practice better. What is most important in all approaches are, that you are open, honest and rigorous.
Carr and Kemmis (1986) describe action research as being about: • The improvement of practice;
• The improvement of the understanding of practice;
• The improvement of the situation in which the practice takes place.
As part of my resettlement from the Army, I have been working at a local secondary school as a Teaching Assistant (TA). During this time I have found myself being used in various guises from giving out paper to teaching small groups fraction work. Whilst I was at a morning brief the headmaster gave out a paper on whether TA’s were actually holding back the potential and progress of the very students they were there to support. I therefore decided I would look and see if teaching assistants feel that they are valued and if the teachers they support felt the same way. Also I wanted to see if and how any training they complete enables them to do their job more satisfactorily. There is also the assumption that most TAs were middle-aged females who had not done well at school themselves. The question I derived to answer from this is “Are Teaching Assistants a valuable asset to the classroom”?
During my research I have found many articles from different sources including academics, government, journalists and professional journals. Without proper training and supervision, teaching assistants could be doing more harm than good. (Teaching Times 2009) however with more onus being put on teaching support and the diagnosis of Specific learning difficulties becoming more and more common schools are reliant on the role and help the teaching assistant can give. The problem is support staffs tend to look after those most in need, reducing their contact time with the teacher. A lot of what is documented has come from a report commissioned by the Institute of Education and led by Professor Peter Blatchford, The Deployment and Impact of Support Staff in schools (DISS Sept 2009) was a 5-year project to look at the deployment and characteristics of support staff and the outcomes on student progress and teacher workloads. The effective deployment of classroom staff can be critical to ensuring a young person has the opportunity to reach their full potential. (Gov.uk April 2012) It is vital that teachers develop effective professional relationship with colleagues, knowing how and when to draw on advice and specialist experience. (Teaching Standards 2012) The research I carried out I did find conflicting, although the majority was for the use of TAs a lot seemed to rely on the teachers using them correctly and ensuring they are fully involved in the whole teaching process. The so-called broadsheet newspapers have also written many reports on teaching, teaching assistants and the day to day running of school classrooms.
During my research I have used many articles from various education and government sources to look at the argument and counter argument for the use of teaching assistants. Interestingly, I found many useful articles in the press. There are a number of issues to do with classroom leadership and control. The role of a teaching assistant is a common one. For example a headline in the Guardian (2009) said, “Pupils supported by teaching assistants do no better than those who are left alone, but TAs do improve classroom discipline...