Activity

6.5: Working effectively with teaching assistants

Time allocation

60 minutes

Instructions

  • The ideas for practice below will help you work effectively with TAs and other adults.
  • Six ideas for practice are given. Choose two or three of these to try. 
  • Implementing the ideas for practice will require some additional planning either individually or in collaboration with colleagues. 
  • You should also evaluate their effectiveness and impact in discussion with your mentor.

The intended outcomes of this activity are for you to:

Learn that
5.7 Pupils with special educational needs or disabilities are likely to require additional or adapted support; working closely with colleagues, families and pupils to understand barriers and identify effective strategies is essential.
8.5 Teaching assistants (TAs) can support pupils more effectively when they are prepared for lessons by teachers, and when TAs supplement rather than replace support from teachers.
8.6 SENCOs, pastoral leaders, careers advisors and other specialist colleagues also have valuable expertise and can ensure that appropriate support is in place for pupils.
Learn how to
Develop an understanding of different pupil needs, by:
5c Working closely with the Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator (SENCO) and special education professionals and the Designated Safeguarding Lead.
Build trusting relationships, by:
7k Liaising with parents, carers and colleagues to better understand pupils’ individual circumstances and how they can be supported to meet high academic and behavioural expectations.
7l Responding consistently to pupil behaviour.

Working effectively with teaching assistants

By trying these activities, you will…

Learn that: 

  • 5.7 Pupils with special educational needs or disabilities are likely to require additional or adapted support; working closely with colleagues, families and pupils to understand barriers and identify effective strategies is essential.
  • 8.5 Teaching assistants (TAs) can support pupils more effectively when they are prepared for lessons by teachers, and when TAs supplement rather than replace support from teachers.
  • 8.6 SENCOs, pastoral leaders, careers advisors and other specialist colleagues also have valuable expertise and can ensure that appropriate support is in place for pupils.
If this is happening in your classroom, you will see…
  • All adults with a designated role and purpose in each lesson.
  • Adults being clear about their contribution to pupil learning.
  • All pupils having the opportunity to work with the teacher and other adults.
  • All pupils gaining an equal share of the teacher’s time.
  • Pupils being supported appropriately based on assessment of their needs to best improve their learning.
  • Pupils benefiting from engaged and enthused adult support.
  • Teaching that is adapted to knowledge and assessment of pupil learning.
  • Teaching and intervention that leads to gaps in achievement being narrowed.

Practise…

Building trusting relationships

Getting insights and feedback from a range of professionals in your school can be really beneficial to your development. Draw on their expertise by asking the TA to give you feedback about specific aspects of your teaching, such as:

  • Which pupils did I spend most time with this lesson? Were there any pupils I should have spent more time with?
  • Did I ask a range of different question types?
  • Was I consistent in my approaches across different pupils and/or different lessons?
  • Can you suggest any colleagues who I could observe in relation to one or more areas of development?

Equal time allocations

TAs should supplement, not replace, support from teachers. Try this activity to review how much time you spend with pupils compared to the time they spend with the TA:

  • Look at a series of lessons (a week or half term).
  • Plan your own role within each lesson and which groups of pupils both you and the TA(s) or other adults will work with.
  • Estimate what proportion of your time is spent with each group and what proportion of the TA(s) or other adults’ time. 
  • If each pupil is not gaining an equal share of your time, adjust your planning to change this. 

Sharing planning

The TA will support pupils more effectively when you prepare for lessons with them. Try this series of planning steps to help with this:

  • Ensure the TA or the other adults you work with in lessons have copies of your lesson plans.
  • Arrange a time to discuss your plans. Make this a regular meeting and keep the time short: having a consistent approach will keep the meetings focused. 
  • In advance of each meeting, make a list of key points and questions to discuss with them, including how this lesson fits into the sequence of learning, the intended outcomes of the lesson, the ways in which you will work together and your expectations of their role.
  • Together, agree the specific intentions for the pupils they will be working with, and how you will evaluate the outcomes of the lesson for these pupils.
  • Respond to any questions they have, especially in relation to the subject knowledge of the lesson, and check that you are both clear on your roles and how you will work together in the lesson. 
  • Seek support from your mentor if there are logistical factors that make shared planning difficult. 

Pupils’ investment in learning

The TA and other adults often build long-term relationships with pupils and therefore understand their prior experiences of success and failure. Identify a pupil or group of pupils who the TA knows well and ask them:

  • What prior successes has the pupil experienced?
  • What prior failures?
  • What have you learned about the pupil’s learning based on this?
  • What conversations could we have with pupils to help them articulate their long-term goals?
  • How could we use this information in our lessons to help the pupil to experience greater success in their learning?

Supplementing teacher support

The TA and other adults should be given constructive, concrete roles in pupils’ learning. Their role should not be just “manage Josie’s behaviour” or “sit with Sun-Yee”. Instead, plan their role to be one or more of: 

  • Working with pupils as a “talk partner” to discuss thinking and answers.
  • Providing appropriate scaffolding using the “least first” principle (see Mentor Handout 6.5b).
  • Supporting pupils to help them make improvements to work based on your feedback.
  • Challenging the learning of pupils who are achieving well by asking them to explain their answers to questions.
  • Recording evidence of pupils’ responses to aid assessment.
  • Following up learning from last session with specific targeted questions, which you write together.
  • Working as part of a “double act” with you to address misconceptions or worked examples, such as the TA asking you further questions to help you model how to find the answer to a problem, working from a script you have devised together before the lesson.

Using information from assessment 

The TA and other adults will gain vital information about pupils’ learning. Find out about this by: 

  • Arranging a time soon after each lesson/day for brief, informal feedback about pupil learning. Together use this time to identify achievement in relation to intended learning and appropriate next steps.
  • Arranging a regular time once every half term for a longer feedback and review session. Use this to jointly agree targets for pupils for the next period.
  • Jointly, use your assessments to identify gaps and misconceptions in learning and plan activities that will support these pupils to overcome their misconceptions and fill gaps in their learning.