Professional Development for Teaching Assistants
Effective Teaching Assistants are worth their weight in gold
Teaching Assistants (or Learning Support Assistants), in my opinion, are the best people in a school. I could not have taught without the support of countless TAs who provided 1:1 or whole-class support. When you have 30 kids in a class, another pair of hands is invaluable.
The most effective Teaching Assistants I came across were hard-working, diligent and listened - they were proactive in spotting pupils who needed help, and also worked with the assigned pupils doing the set work. They never did the work for the pupils but supported them in completing their tasks as independently as possible. My TAs would often take groups aside to do work with them, and yet I never saw them at any of our twilights or CPD sessions as they were not required to.
What courses are offered for Teaching Assistants?
Which leads me to ask the question, what is the training for school support staff? Beyond one-off, out of school training, there doesn’t seem to be much transformative CPD out there for TAs. There are HLTA courses, but what about TAs who aren’t on these courses? What provision is there for them?
When we first started planning OneStep CPD, I wanted it to be a tool for all teachers: classroom teachers, SLT, cover supervisors, and TAs. TAs often do a lot of direct delivery to groups, and yet few have formal CPD training or teaching qualifications.
During the tests for OneStep, we had one Teaching Assistant who tested our service for her regular session with a group of pupils with additional needs (you can read her case study here). Overall, she found her strategy did help some of the pupils she was supporting, and led to further questions. She also added during her feedback that OneStep “is a great method of CPD as it is personalised, there is accountability and also it is for a set period of time. All of these things are not necessarily true of other types of CPD”. For me this was great news, as it meant we had - to some extent - achieved our goal of a CPD service for all staff, not just classroom teachers.
5 ways OneStep can support professional development for teaching assistants
1. Individual targets and individual reports
A TA can choose something they want to work on to develop their own skills and expertise. At the end of the 6-weeks a case study is generated which highlights the impact the TA’s initiative has had on the pupils in the classes they support in.
As our service focusses on transformative rather than informative CPD, the vast majority of our process takes place during class time. We do require some documentation to encourage educators to reflect on their initiative. Our Plan takes on average 28 minutes to fill in, our weekly Progress Tracker 10 minutes, and our Evaluation and Sustainability Plan 35 minutes.
3. Supporting pupils with speaking and listening activities
As I mentioned before, I used to attach TAs to groups during speaking and listening activities. These could be high attaining pupils within the class who all wanted to get their word in and couldn’t delegate, to pupils who wouldn’t work effectively without supervision.
TAs could choose to focus on how they Set Ground Rules for Discussion (which the TA who took part in our test chose), or a similar strategy Collaborative Learning Guidelines. Depending on how much control they have over their group, they could also choose Pupil Talk which focuses on improving pupils’ communication skills and reducing teacher talk.
4. Behaviour Management
Due to the nature of the classes and pupils TAs are attached to, Behaviour Management is an obvious area for TAs to upskill in to make sure they have an arsenal of techniques and strategies they can draw upon.
5. Challenging high ability students
I have always maintained that the teacher should be with the weakest pupils, yet so many teachers choose to work with the strongest and leave the TAs with the pupils who need the most support.
This is also the point made by the Education Endowment Foundation: “TAs should not be used as an informal teaching resource for low attaining pupils”, amd add that unless the TA has had some proper training in supporting struggling pupils, the class teacher should be with these students.
Therefore being able to Challenge High Ability students is something every TA should be developed in. Or a TA could focus on their questioning and how they develop Metacognition or help pupils monitor their own learning.
We have plenty of free strategies, so if you’re a TA why not try something to develop yourself professionally this half-term? Work towards your personal goals with OneStep. If you want more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
OneStep CPD champions authors, teachers and pedagogists through our strategies, allowing everyone to test ideas and adopt what works. Our blog does the same, providing a platform for anyone with an interest in education to share good practice and great ideas.
All opinions are those of the author and not necessarily OneStep CPD.