The total number of TAs working in English schools is down for the first time ever – but encouraging signs from the MITA project show how a strategic focus on TAs can unlock their potential.
The Teaching Assistants' Talk Studies
We now know the extent to which TAs play a key pedagogical role in supporting learners with SEN and take responsibility for instruction. Their support is primarily through verbal differentiation of teacher talk or printed materials. While they have ample opportunities for individualised and group interactions, TAs are rarely adequately trained and prepared to know how to make the best use of them.
Our collaborative research and development work with schools on the interactions between TAs and pupils have produced new insights into the nature and quality of TAs' talk, and highlighted the enormous potential for improvement. Using the process of conversation analysis to examine large datasets from three studies, we propose 'scaffolding' as the key theory to reform and inform TAs' discourse with pupils.
Our most recent work sets forward a robust, classroom-tested framework on which to build a role for TAs that focuses on developing pupils’ independence and their ownership of learning, and complements and adds value to what teachers do in classrooms.