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Supporting effective teacher aide practice

http://inclusive.tki.org.nz/guides/teacher-aide-practice/

The teaching, learning and wellbeing support provided by teacher aides is integral to including all students in schools. 

This guide helps school leaders take a systems approach to providing the support that teacher aides need to be effective in their roles.

The roles, responsibilities, and systems of support recommended in this guide are underpinned by current research. Content will be most useful for primary and intermediate schools, and also has relevance for secondary contexts.

NB. The terms teacher aides, support staff, teaching assistants and TAs are used interchangeably reflecting the different language used by schools.

Categories

Specifically about
Learning support team
Highly relevant to
Inclusive curriculum
Peer relationships
Leadership
Also related to
Behaviour
Transitions

Reviewing how teacher aides can support learning and wellbeing and improve attainment throughout the school

Teacher aides can have a positive impact on student confidence, behaviour, self esteem, and motivation, and on teacher workload, job satisfaction, and stress levels.

Teacher aides can positively contribute to teaching and learning when they have the support they need to be effective in their roles and responsibilities.

Video source: Ministry of Education, teacher aide effective practice (NZ)

Closed captioning available in player

Suggestions and resources

Research recommendations

Recommendations from the extensive research project The Deployment and Impact of Support Staff, undertaken in United Kingdom schools:

 

  1. TAs need to add value to what teachers do, not replace them.

  2. TAs can support students to develop independent learning skills.

  3. TAs need to be fully prepared for their role.

  4. TAs need on-going professional development in evidence-based interventions.

  5. Teacher aides can deliver high quality, one-to-one and small group support, using structured interventions when they have been trained to do so.

  6. Explicit connections need to be made between learning from everyday classroom teaching and structured interventions (such as stand-alone reading, literacy, or numeracy programmes).

  7. Avoid expecting TAs to be an informal teaching resource for students requiring additional support.

Source: Adapted from Making Best Use of Teaching Assistants: Guidance Report by Jonathan Sharples, Rob Webster and Peter Blatchford, Education Endowment Foundation (2015).

Research recommendations
Guidelines for school leaders

According to a 2016 literature review, teacher aides are most effective when school leaders:

  1. consider teacher aides as part of the total school system that is focused on student achievement

  2. have management processes and systems in place to support them

  3. include teacher aides in the annual performance management cycle

  4. prioritise professional learning for school leaders and teachers on how to effectively manage and partner with teacher aides

  5. familiarise teacher aides with school policies and documents that clarify their role and responsibilities, and the procedures for accessing support if they need it

  6. encourage teachers to value the knowledge teacher aides have of (assigned) students

  7. provide regular, relevant professional learning for teacher aides to assist teachers to deliver the planned learning programme.

Source: Teacher Aides: Draft Practice Guidelines: Ministry of Education (2016)

Guidelines for school leaders
Reforming systems (image)
A teacher aide works with a group of students.
Effective systems of support

The focus needs to shift from the need for teacher aides to ensuring that teacher aides are effectively supported.

Source: Ministry of Education

Reforming systems
Most effective approaches

The area of research showing the strongest evidence for teacher aides having a positive impact on pupil attainment focuses on their role in delivering structured interventions in one-to-one or small group settings.

Crucially, these positive effects are observed only when teacher aides work in structured settings with high-quality support and training. When teacher aides are used in more informal, unsupported, instructional roles, we see little or no impact on pupil outcomes.

This suggests that schools should consider using well-structured interventions with reliable evidence of effectiveness.

Jonathan Sharples, Rob Webster, and Peter Blatchford ; Source: Making Best Use of Teaching Assistants: Guidance Report
Most effective approaches
Maximising impact
  1. Schools have a clear strategy about how and when teacher aides work with students.

  2. Teachers take responsibility working with groups and individuals, including those who need the most support.

  3. Teachers are prepared for their role as manager of other adults in the classroom.

  4. Teacher aides and teachers have allocated time to discuss planning and student progress.

  5. Teacher aides are provided with information about lesson content, their role in the lesson, the students they will work with, and expected outcomes. There is a mechanism for teacher aides to feedback information.

  6. Teacher aides are provided with regular professional learning opportunities.

  7. Teacher aides are regularly observed, given constructive feedback, and included in the performance management cycles.

Source: Adapted from: Maximising the Impact of Teaching Assistants: Guidance for School Leaders and Teachers by Rob Webster, Anthony Russell and Peter Blatchford (2015)

Maximising impact

Resources and downloads

Making best use of teaching assistants: Guidance report

This is a practical, evidence-based UK guide for primary and secondary schools to support effective practices for working with teacher aides. It contains recommendations based on the latest research examining the use of teacher aides in classrooms.

Acting on the evidence

This checklist supports UK school leaders to action school-wide strategies that promote the effective practice by teacher aides.

Teachers and teachers’ aides working together: School leaders

This is a professional development resource for NZ schools, which includes nine modules that teachers and teacher aides can complete together. Downloadable PDF.

Maximising the impact of teaching assistants: Guidance for school leaders and teachers

This UK, field-tested guide supports school leaders and primary and secondary teachers to rethink the role, purpose, and contribution of teacher aides. It provides practical strategies to implement in the classroom and includes templates and links to online resources.

School support staff: Collectively making resources count

This NZ report was commissioned by the Support Staff Working Group (SSWG). It includes seven case studies of schools that use effective management practices for their support staff.

Gaining an overview (image)
DSC 0203
Surfacing practice

Create opportunities to observe and interview the teachers and teacher aides in your school about how they work together and their roles and responsibilities.

Source: Ministry of Education

Gaining an overview
Information gathering approaches
  1. Surveying staff (anonymously) for their views and experiences.

  2. Inviting teacher aides to keep a diary to record information about the tasks they undertake in their working time.

  3. Observing and asking questions about teachers’ decision-making about teacher aides’ deployment.

  4. Using photos or video to document teacher aides’ interactions with students.

  5. Conducting a skills audit to collect details of teacher aides’ qualifications, training, experience, specialist skills, and talents.

Source: Adapted from Making Best Use of Teaching Assistants: Guidance Report by Jonathan Sharples, Rob Webster and Peter Blatchford, Education Endowment Foundation (2015).

Information gathering approaches
Reflective questions for teacher aides

Questions to identify areas of strength and support needs

Role in the school

  • What do you see as your role in the school?
  • What do you see as your role in the classroom?
  • Have you other school responsibilities?

Support received from school

  • How are you supported in your role?
  • Who provides support?
  • Do you get planning time with the teachers?
  • How are you involved in planning your programme?
  • Are you given a programme to use?

Perception of the role

  • What have you done with students that you are proud of?
  • What is most satisfying in your work?
  • What is most difficult in your role?
  • Have you any frustrations or issues?
  • What else would you like to mention?

Source: Adapted from: Working with English Language Learners: A Handbook for Teacher Aides and Bilingual Tutors, Ministry of Education (2008) pp. 12–14.

Reflective questions for teacher aides
Identifying tasks (image)
Sorting out who does what – a workshop activity for teachers and teachers’ aides
Sorting out who does what

This sorting activity helps to clarify roles. It works best when it is done by teachers and teachers’ aides who work together.

Source: Teachers and teachers' aides working together: Module 1 – Teachers and teachers aides: Who does what? Ministry of Education

Identifying tasks

Resources and downloads

Making the best use of teaching assistants: A self-assessment guide

This guide describes “ineffective”, “improving” and “exemplary” practice for evidence-based recommendations on the effective use of teacher aides. It is from Maximising the impact of teaching assistants (2nd edition), a UK resource.

Teachers and teachers’ aides working together: Our roles

These three NZ modules provide clarity on the teacher and teacher aide roles, and promote effective working partnerships.

Survey questions on the deployment of teacher aides in and away from classrooms

This survey has been designed to collect information on current practices in an educational setting. It is from Maximising the impact of teaching assistants (2nd edition), a UK resource.

Sorting activity

This activity supports teachers and teacher aides to clarify roles in the classroom. It is from Maximising the impact of teaching assistants (2nd edition), a UK resource.

Lesson observation schedule

This is an example observation table to support in-class observations of the teacher‘s and teacher aide’s roles within a set learning context.

Clear purpose

...rigorously define the role of teaching assistants and consider their contribution in relation to the drive for whole-school improvement.

These decisions on deployment are the starting point from which all other decisions about teaching assistants flow.

Jonathan Sharples, Rob Webster, and Peter Blatchford ; Source: Making Best Use of Teaching Assistants: Guidance Report
Clear purpose
Defining roles (NZ) (video)
Clarify roles and responsibilities

Make explicit the value teacher aides bring to your school, their roles and responsibilities, and how you will support them in their work.

Closed captioning available in player

Source: Ministry of Education videos, teacher aide effective practice (NZ)

Defining roles (NZ)
Expectations of the teacher aide role

The main role of a teacher aide is as an aide to a teacher or teachers.

Teacher aides assist teachers by carrying out a considerable range of tasks and roles including:

  • learning support
  • behaviour management
  • supporting student presence, social engagement, and peer interaction
  • supporting health procedures
  • assisting with physical positioning
  • administration.

A teacher aide may also be part of an individual student’s support team.

This team (family/whānau, teacher, RTLB, specialist, SENCO, and others)  collaborates to develop an Individual Education Plan (IEP) for a student. The teacher aide, guided by the teacher, actively supports the implementation of this plan.

Source: Teacher Aides: Draft Practice Guidelines, 2016: Ministry of Education

Expectations of the teacher aide role
Expectations of the teacher role

Teachers have full responsibility for the inclusion, well-being, learning, and behaviour of all the students in their class. They are responsible for the planning, implementation, and ongoing monitoring and evaluation of all students’ learning and behaviour.

Teachers are the leaders of all the adults in their class. They are responsible for structuring, guiding, and supervising the work of teacher aides. They neeed to regularly observe and give constructive feedback to teacher aides.

Learning decisions are made by the teacher, not the teacher aide. Teacher aides add value to, and do not replace, teachers.  They are part of the collaborative team around a student. They are not the team or the plan for a student.

Teacher Aides: Draft Practice Guidelines, 2016: Ministry of Education ;
Expectations of the teacher role
What funding covers
  1. Teacher aide funding is a contribution towards learning and support for students.

  2. Schools can use teacher aide funding flexibly to support the well-being, learning, and inclusion of students.

  3. It is important that time is made available for teachers and teacher aides to regularly meet, train, plan, monitor, and evaluate together within a teacher aide’s hours.

Source: Teacher Aides: Draft Practice Guidelines, 2016: Ministry of Education

What funding covers

Resources and downloads

Teachers and teachers’ aides working together: Our roles

These three NZ modules provide clarity on the teacher and teacher aide roles, and promote effective working partnerships.

The role of the teacher’s aide: Information for parents and caregivers

This information sheet for NZ parents explains the role of teacher aides in schools.

Making the best use of teaching assistants: A self-assessment guide

This guide describes “ineffective”, “improving” and “exemplary” practice for evidence-based recommendations on the effective use of teacher aides. It is from Maximising the impact of teaching assistants (2nd edition), a UK resource.

School support staff: Collectively making resources count

This NZ report was commissioned by the Support Staff Working Group (SSWG). It includes seven case studies of schools that use effective management practices for their support staff.

Back to top

Developing systems and processes for teacher aide recruitment, induction, and ongoing professional learning

At the outset of employment, make explicit your school's commitment to inclusion and your investment in resources to support the induction and ongoing professional learning of your teacher aides.

Find the right people who want to be part of your community and who share a vision for the success of all students.

Video source: Ministry of Education, teacher aide effective practice (NZ)

Closed captioning available in player

Suggestions and resources

Target to needs (NZ) (video)
Recruiting to support transitions

Take a flexible approach to finding the right people to meet the changing needs of your community of learners.

Closed captioning available in player

Source: Ministry of Education videos, teacher aide effective practice (NZ)

Target to needs (NZ)
Affinity for inclusion (NZ) (video)
Sharing your vision

Search out staff who have an affinity with your vision for your learning community.

Closed captioning available in player

Source: Ministry of Education videos, teacher aide effective practice (NZ)

Affinity for inclusion (NZ)
Value experience (image)
DSC 1083
Skills in inclusivity

Recruit new teacher aides who have high expectations of all learners and will be able to build relationships that foster independence.

Source: Ministry of Education

Value experience
Value language skills (NZ) (video)
Supporting ESOL students

Teacher Bridget Harrison explains the benefits of the teacher aide speaking in Tongan with a student to support their writing.

Closed captioning available in player

Source: Enabling e-Learning (NZ)

Value language skills (NZ)
Valuing community connections

Consider recruiting teacher aides who are parents of students or who live in the community, who will bring knowledge and understanding that results in:

  1. a culture of greater understanding and respect

  2. an improved level of engagement and trust with the local community

  3. a window into the needs and priorities of the community

  4. personal introductions to community members or activities that can provide support and advice

  5. student success.

Source: Adapted from School Support staff: Collectively Making Resources Count. Ministry of Education (2011).

Valuing community connections

Resources and downloads

Employing and managing staff

This Ministry of Education resource provides comprehensive information about a range of different topics that can with employment issues and staff management.

Teachers and teachers’ aides working together: Module 4 – What do we think about disability and diversity?

This NZ module includes a workbook and presentation for teachers and teacher aides to work through together to examine key beliefs and assumptions about disability and diversity.

Induction actions

Checklist for inducting new teacher aides

  1. The teacher aide job description matches the knowledge and skills of the teacher aide.

  2. The roles of teachers and teacher aides are clearly defined.

  3. The teacher aide has an induction to the school that includes introductions to key people, to policies such as the policy on confidentiality, and to resources, classrooms, playground areas, and rules.

  4. The teacher aide’s initial and ongoing professional learning programme is planned.

  5. Ongoing appraisal and feedback systems are set up for teacher aides.

  6. Communication systems are agreed.

  7. A process for inducting teacher aides into the classroom is agreed with teachers.

Source: “Directing Paraprofessional Work” by M.F Giangreco and M.B. Doyle in Including students with Severe Disabilities. Eds. C.H. Kennedy and E.M. Horn (2004)

Induction actions
Sharing experiences and motivations

During induction, create opportunities for new teacher aides to share some of their own insights and experiences.

Background

  • What did you do before this?
  • Have you been involved in this kind of work before?
  • What made you want to be a teacher aide?
  • What skills do you bring to this role?
  • Have you had any professional development for being a teacher aide? If yes, when and what kind?
  • How has previous training helped your work?

Perception of the role

  • What activities have you done with children that you are proud of?
  • What is most satisfying about your work?
  • What is most difficult in your role?
  • Have you any frustrations or issues?
  • What else would you like to mention?

Source: Adapted from: Working with English Language Learners: A Handbook for Teacher Aides and Bilingual Tutors, Ministry of Education (2008) pp. 12–14.

Sharing experiences and motivations
Communication channels

Establish a range of communication channels to keep TAs plugged into school news and important information.

  1. Social media, such as Facebook or SMS messaging.

  2. Noticeboards.

  3. Email, when support staff have access to computers.

  4. Daily verbal notices and staff meetings.

  5. Distribution of minutes from meetings.

  6. Bulletins.

  7. Newsletters.

Source: Adapted from School Support Staff: Collectively Making Resources Count Ministry of Education (2011)

Communication channels
Confidentiality protocols

 At the outset of employment outline and illustrate your school's confidentiality protocols, for example:

  1. Discussions about students happen in private spaces, such as an office or classroom when students are not present.

  2. If a discussion arises in a public space, the conversation is stopped and moved to an appropriate space.

  3. Students are discussed only with people who require information about them for their work.

  4. Staff members, school issues, or student issues are discussed only with those in school directly involved in the situation.

  5. When teacher aides have responsibilities for discussing information about students with specialists, visiting teachers, and family/whānau, this is agreed and documented.

  6. School guidelines are followed when accessing or contributing to information about students for data collection, e-portfolios, or special needs registers.

Source: Teachers and Teachers’ Aides Working Together – What does confidentiality mean? Module 2: Activity 4 (p. 25). Ministry of Education

Confidentiality protocols
Student health care plans (image)
Checking sugar levels
Keeping everyone safe

Provide training for teacher aides when they are required to assist with medication, physical, and/or personal care for students.

Discuss and agree responsibilities with students, parents, teachers, and teacher aides.

Source: Pixabay.com

Student health care plans

Resources and downloads

Teachers and teachers' aides working together: Module 1 - Who does what?

This module from the NZ resource, Teachers and teachers aides working together, includes a workbook for teachers and teacher aides to work through together to develop a shared understanding of their roles and to build an effective working partnership.

Teachers and teachers' aides working together: Module 2 – Keeping our work professional, confidential and safe

This module from the NZ resource, Teachers and teachers aides working together, includes a workbook for teachers and teacher aides on ways to ensure confidentiality and student safety.

Health conditions in education settings: Supporting children and young people

These guidelines help NZ schools and ECE services to support children and young people with health conditions. The guide and forms from the guide can be downloaded from this web page.

Personalising learning (NZ) (video)
Meeting the learning needs of all support staff

Match the learning preferences of support staff with the professional learning options you offer. Be creative and partner with local networks.

Closed captioning available in player

Source: Ministry of Education videos, teacher aide effective practice (NZ)

Personalising learning (NZ)
Modelling to support coherence (NZ) (video)
Building knowledge

Support teachers to create opportunities for in-depth professional learning within the context of the classroom.

Closed captioning available in player

Source: Ministry of Education videos, teacher aide effective practice (NZ)

Modelling to support coherence (NZ)
Appraisal and learning (image)
Diagram of an appraisal cycle
Identifying needs through appraisal

Appraisal can identify the professional development and training needs of support staff.

The process of appraisal and negotiating job descriptions needs to be timely, transparent, flexible, and agreed to.

Source: TENZ

Appraisal and learning
Cluster support

The manager of support staff and the support staff have found different solutions [for professional learning], depending on the needs of the individual and their role.

These have included:

  • getting skilled staff to run workshops for their colleagues
  • attending cluster meetings at neighbouring schools
  • participating in networks related to their area of work, with their time and travel paid for
  • investigating how other schools do things
  • setting up buddying systems to share skills.

The manager is clear that although there is a place for training courses, cluster groups and networks usually provide the greatest value and are the most cost effective.

Ministry of Education ; Source: School Support Staff: Collectively Making Resources Count
Cluster support
Professional learning expectations

Create opportunities for teacher aides to learn more about:

  1. the New Zealand Curriculum

  2. subject areas and cross-curricular approaches

  3. understanding the needs/characteristics of students

  4. scaffolding and questioning approaches

  5. facilitating interaction with peers

  6. behaviour management strategies

  7. detailed understanding of lesson plans and learning objectives

  8. detailed understanding of teaching approaches needed for specific programmes such as literacy or numeracy support programmes

  9. how to ensure their presence or proximity to a student does not stigmatise the student with peers

  10. providing physical and personal care.

Source: Teacher Aides: Draft Practice Guidelines, 2016: Ministry of Education

Professional learning expectations

Resources and downloads

Non-teaching staff appraisal booklet

This resource from Teaching Excellence New Zealand includes templates for a job description, a self-assessment checklist, appraisal interviews, and professional development discussion starters.

Teachers and teachers’ aides working together: Module 7 – Understanding the New Zealand Curriculum

This resource includes a workbook and presentation for teachers and teacher aides to work through together to develop a shared understanding of The New Zealand Curriculum.

Teachers and teachers aides working together: Module 3 – Supporting students with complex needs

This NZ module includes a workbook for teachers and teacher aides to work through together. It focuses on how teacher aides can provide extra support for students’ communication needs and their physical and personal care.

Example of survey questions on preparedness

This sample survey supports communication pathways between teachers and teacher aides. It covers feedback, interventions, and identifying opportunities for communication. It is from Maximising the impact of teaching assistants (2nd edition), a UK resource.

Planning for changes to practice

This template form includes prompts to support teacher aides to identify the support required to facilitate changes in practice. It is from Maximising the impact of teaching assistants (2nd edition), a UK resource.

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Supporting and preparing teachers in their role

Teachers need to be well prepared for their role as manager of other adults that work with students in their class. Offer all teachers opportunities for professional learning in this area.

Teachers need to understand the pedagogical role of the teacher aide. They also need the confidence and ability to manage and work in partnership with teacher aides.

Video source: Ministry of Education, teacher aide effective practice (NZ)

Closed captioning available in player

Suggestions and resources

Introducing a new TA to students

Encourage teachers to set the tone for how a teacher aide will be received by students by:

  1. introducing the TA as someone who will be working in the classroom with the teacher to help everybody learn

  2. providing the TA with an opportunity to mihi mihi and introduce themselves and their interests to the class 

  3. outlining some of the responsibilities of the TA within the classroom

  4. supporting the TA to get to know all the students

  5. avoiding saying the TA is here “to help Sarah".

Source: Adapted from Welcome to the Classroom: An Information and Communication Guide for Teachers and One-to-One Paraprofessionals by Wendy Wallitt (2006)

Introducing a new TA to students
Introducing the classroom culture

Encourage teachers to take time to introduce a new TA to:

  1. an overview of the classroom philosophy

  2. confidentiality protocols

  3. the need for discretion when talking about students in their presence

  4. appropriate and inappropriate use of touch and force

  5. how you value and respect differences in culture, religion, gender, social class, and abilities

  6. agreed approaches for getting the class to listen

  7. agreed approaches for motivating children to cooperate

  8. agreed approaches for managing conflict with or between students.

Source: Adapted from Welcome to the Classroom: An Information and Communication Guide for Teachers and One-to-One Paraprofessionals by Wendy Wallitt (2006)

Introducing the classroom culture
Establishing collaborative relationships

Checklist for building collaborative working relationships between teachers and teacher aides

  1. Check school policies have been introduced to the teacher aide, including that on confidentiality policy and practice.

  2. Agree on communication methods.

  3. Explain classroom routines.

  4. Provide information about the students they are working with.

  5. Provide a daily written schedule of tasks, including plans to follow when implementing teacher-planned instruction.

  6. Demonstrate strategies for working with students.

  7. Schedule regular debriefings to discuss issues, answer questions, and reflect on student progress.

  8. Acknowledge and recognise the teacher aide’s work and give specific constructive feedback.

Source: Adapted from “Directing Paraprofessional Work” by M.F Giangreco and M.B. Doyle in Including students with Severe Disabilities. Eds. C.H. Kennedy and E.M. Horn (2004) (pp. 185–204). Boston: Allyn & Bacon

Establishing collaborative relationships
Supporting communication

Explore ways to keep communication flowing between regular meetings.

  1. Display schedules, rules, and other information on the classroom wall or whiteboard for quick reference by teacher aides.

  2. Teachers can make their classroom plans available to teacher aides in hard copy or digitally (for example, as a shared Google Doc) so teacher aides can see what is planned for the day/week/term/unit.

  3. Teachers can provide summaries or excerpts of classroom plans to teacher aides, indicating the teacher aides’ tasks.

Source: Adapted from Welcome to the Classroom: An Information and Communication Guide for Teachers and One-to-One Paraprofessionals by Wendy Wallitt (2006)

Supporting communication

Resources and downloads

Teachers and teachers’ aides working together: Module 2 – Identifying your connections activity

This NZ module includes a workbook for teachers and teacher aides on keeping their work professional, confidential, and safe. Download the workbook to access the Identifying your connections activity.

Standing back

We are willing and ready to connect with other kids, and adults must quietly step into the background, camouflaging their help as a tiger who may hide in full view. It’s the needed disguise of the adult who smoothes the way for friendship, then stands back in the shadows, observing the complicated dance of steps, taking you to the feeling of confidence.

Jamie Burke, a student with autism, who now attends Syracuse University ; Source: Tashie, Shapiro-Barnard & Rossetti (2008). p.185
Standing back
Listening to student preferences

I would like to get less support and I would like to decide who supports me … and in which parts of my schedule … If I were allowed to use the computer more, I wouldn’t need so much help at school. It’s not much fun having all these old ladies hanging around me all the time.

Snaefridur Thora Egilson and Rannveig Traustadottir ; Source: “Support for students with physical disabilities,” in Small-scale Research in Primary Schools (2011). Eds. Kimberley Safford, Mary Stacy and Roger Hancock
Listening to student preferences
Seeking guidance on personal care

When a student requires support for personal or physical care, it is the teacher’s role to ask a student and their family:

  • what information would you like us to be familiar with (for example, details of needs or medical conditions)?
  • how can we help?
  • what do you need us to do?
  • what don’t you want us to do?
  • what classes or break times you do not want to miss (so these can be worked around)?

The teacher is then responsible for briefing the teacher aide on how to provide practical support while respecting the student’s privacy and independence.

Source: Adapted from Springboards to Practice

Seeking guidance on personal care
Provide support only when needed

Encourage teachers to ask students and share with teacher aides the support (if any) that is needed when:

  1. moving between classes

  2. taking part in activities at morning tea and lunchtime

  3. eating and drinking

  4. going to the toilet

  5. taking medications

  6. going on school trips

  7. accessing playgrounds and buildings.

Source: Adapted from Springboards to Practice

Provide support only when needed

Resources and downloads

The teaching assistant’s guide to effective interaction

This is a practical, evidence-based UK guide to support classroom interactions between teacher aides and students. It contains practical strategies and reflective activities for both teachers and teacher aides.

The teaching assistant as scaffolder

This is a list of checkpoints to support teacher aides develop their skills scaffolding students’ learning. It is from a downloadable UK resource.

Springboards 2 practice: Enhancing effective practice in education

This is a summary of effective teaching practices for building capability in education for students who have moderate and high education needs.

Holding responsibility for learning

Learning decisions are made by the teacher, not the teacher aide. Teacher aides add value to, do not replace, teachers. They are part of the collaborative team around a student; they are not the team or the plan for a student.

Ministry of Education ; Source: Teacher Aides: Draft Practice Guidelines: Ministry of Education (2016)
Holding responsibility for learning
Outlining expectations (image)
A teacher explains a learning task to a teacher aide
Clear guidelines

Provide TAs with information about lesson content.

Outline their role, who they are working with, the data to be collected, and the expected learning outcomes.

Source: Ministry of Education

Outlining expectations
Realigning roles

Breaking away from a model of deployment where teacher aides are assigned to specific pupils for long periods requires more strategic approaches to classroom organisation.

Discuss with teachers alternative approaches to ensure all students receive equal time working with the teacher, the teacher aide, their peers, and independently.

Teachers need to consider how to give teacher aides a more visible and active role in teaching during whole-class delivery by, for example, inviting them to record answers on a whiteboard, or to demonstrate equipment.

Source: Adapted from Making Best Use of Teaching Assistants: Guidance Report by Sharples, Webster and Blatchford, Education Endowment Foundation (2015).

Realigning roles
Deliberate design of support (NZ) (video)
Planning for student well-being

Use classroom layout and TA support to encourage students’ learning and peer interaction.

Closed captioning available in player

Source: Ministry of Education videos, teacher aide effective practice (NZ)

Deliberate design of support (NZ)
Directing the team (NZ) (video)
Working in partnership to support students

Encourage teachers to take time to model approaches and give clear direction to teacher aides.

Closed captioning available in player

Source: Ministry of Education videos, teacher aide effective practice (NZ)

Directing the team (NZ)

Resources and downloads

Teachers and teachers’ aides working together: Module 9 – Inclusive classrooms

This NZ resource includes a workbook and presentation for teachers and teacher aides to work through together to identify effective ways to create an inclusive learning environment.

Teachers and teachers aides working together: Module 3 – Supporting students with complex needs

This NZ module includes a workbook for teachers and teacher aides to work through together. It focuses on how teacher aides can provide extra support for students’ communication needs and their physical and personal care.

Approaches to finding time

For the teacher and TA partnership to be most effective, they need regular time for liaison and planning. Consider:

  1. freeing up the teacher when the TA is available – have someone cover the class once a week to give the teacher and teacher aide time to meet

  2. enabling the TA to spend 15–30 minutes less time in the class to allow time to meet after or before school with the teacher

  3. supporting teachers and TAs on a rotation basis to meet during combined class activities (for example, during assembly).

Source: Adapted from: The Paraprofessional’s Handbook for Effective Support in Inclusive Classrooms by J. Causton-Theoharis (2009). Baltimore, MA: Paul H Brookes Publishing

Approaches to finding time
Adjusting start times

Challenging the notion that in order to get the best value from teacher aides they should spend all their time working with pupils, the head teacher in one school amended teacher aides’ contracts (with consent) so that they started and finished half an hour earlier each day.

This created up to 2.5 hours per week of valuable time to meet the class teacher and prepare for lessons.

As a result teacher aides were more prepared, hence more effective when working with pupils.

Source: Teaching assistants: A guide to good practice: Oxford School Improvement, Oxford University Press (p. 14).

Adjusting start times
Utilise technologies (image)
A teacher photographs a student’s work
Documenting learning

Encourage teachers to show TAs how they can use digital technologies to capture information to support planning.

Source: Ministry of Education

Utilise technologies
Taking and sharing notes

Discuss ways teachers can keep communication flowing between themselves and the teacher aides, in between regular meetings.

Starting points for discussion:

  • Teacher aides can use sticky notes on students’ books and materials or comments in digital files to give feedback to teachers.
  • Designate a notebook (either digital or hard copy) so that each team member can enter information, observations, and questions and can read what others have written.
  • Email observations.
  • Take photos and annotate them.

Source: Adapted from Welcome to the Classroom: An Information and Communication Guide for Teachers and One-to-One Paraprofessionals by Wendy Wallitt (2006)

Taking and sharing notes
Active listening (image)
A teacher aide listens to a group of students engaged in a learning task.
Listening for learning

Encourage teachers to involve teacher aides in gathering specific data on students’ learning.

Source: Ministry of Education

Active listening
Utilising simple rubrics (image)
Formative assessment rubric
Recording observations

Invite teachers to share different ways teacher aides could use a simple rubric to support formative feedback.

 

Source: Adapted from The Teaching Assistant’s Guide to Effective Interaction: How to Maximise your Practice.

Utilising simple rubrics
Cycle of support (image)
Cycle of support 1
Effective partnership

Planning for learning is determined by the teacher.

Discuss with teachers how you can support them in adopting this approach.

Source: Adapted from Causton-Theoharis, J. (2009). The Paraprofessional’s Handbook for Effective Support in Inclusive Classrooms.

Cycle of support

Resources and downloads

Assessment for learning sheet

A downloadable observation sheet to support teacher aides with specific student observations. This is from The teaching assistant’s guide to effective interaction: How to maximise your practice.

Investing time in modelling (NZ) (video)
Supporting consistent teaching approaches

To effectively support student learning, teacher aides need teachers to model approaches and provide active mentoring.

Closed captioning available in player

Source: Ministry of Education videos, teacher aide effective practice (NZ)

Investing time in modelling (NZ)
Time with specialist teachers (image)
Teacher aide learning from NZSL specialist teacher
Maximise learning opportunities

Encourage teachers to support teacher aides to spend time with specialist teachers to develop needed skills.

Source: Ministry of Education

Time with specialist teachers
Utilising bilingual skills of TAs

Bilingual classroom assistants ... are uniquely placed to make links for children who share a cultural heritage similar to their own.

They are able to build on the form of knowledge and the cultural capital that children bring from home in ways in which few monolingual class teachers are able to do.

Yet …bilingual assistants have relatively few opportunities to engage in such classroom conversations with the children and even fewer opportunities to plan for such conversations….” . 

Martin-Jones M. & Saxena M. (2003) ; Source: Bilingual resources and funds of knowledge and learning in multi-ethnic classrooms in Britain. International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, 6 (3&4), 279.
Utilising bilingual skills of TAs

Resources and downloads

Working with English language learners

This is an NZ handbook and DVD training kit for teacher aides and bilingual tutors. The handbook is downloadable as a PDF, and the DVD can be ordered from Down the Back of the Chair.

Teachers and teachers’ aides working together: Module 9 – Inclusive classrooms

This NZ resource includes a workbook and presentation for teachers and teacher aides to work through together to identify effective ways to create an inclusive learning environment.

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Identifying areas to build teacher aide understanding and confidence

Build teacher and TA understanding of areas where TAs can make the most effective contribution. Invest resources strategically in building confidence and capability.

Take a coordinated approach to plan and support effective ways of working.

Video source: Ministry of Education, teacher aide effective practice (NZ)

Closed captioning available in player

Suggestions and resources

Using agreed approaches (image)
A teacher aide working with a group of students
Valuing consistency

Encourage teacher aides to follow agreed ways of communicating with students. Ensure timers and cue cards are easy to access if needed.

Source: Ministry of Education

Using agreed approaches
Maintaining student dignity

Ways to respect students and treat them with dignity

Some students need help with eating, lifting, positioning, toileting, taking medication, and moving around the school.

This kind of support needs to be provided in unobtrusive ways that empower the student and respect their privacy and dignity.

 

Source: Teachers and Teachers’ Aides Working Together: Module 3 – Supporting Students with Complex Needs : Activity 2 (pp. 20–22)

Maintaining student dignity
Learning students’ languages (image)
A teacher aide learns NZSL along with students
Learning with the students

Support teacher aides to learn the languages of the students they work alongside.

Source: Ministry of Education

Learning students’ languages
Be unobtrusive

Students can feel singled-out when they are the only person getting help from a teacher aide. Encourage teacher aides to:

  1. make support available to all the students in the class

  2. leave space for students who need additional help to try things for themselves first, before jumping in to help

  3. use a quiet voice when providing support to any student.

Be unobtrusive
Coordinating consistent approaches

Encourage teacher aides to take a consistent approach when communicating with students.

  1. Communicate expectations positively and clearly.

  2. Use non-verbal cues, such as images, as well as words, to demonstrate expectations.

  3. Use “when–then” and “first–then” commands.

  4. Avoid negative commands, corrections, demands, and yelling.

  5. Redirect a disengaged student by using proximity, pre-arranged non-verbal signals, simple prompts, reminders, and pre-corrections.

  6. State requests or give directions to students, using brief descriptions of required positive behaviours.

Coordinating consistent approaches

Resources and downloads

Prompts for facilitating learning and thinking

This is a list of prompts to support teacher aides working with students. It is from a downloadable UK resource.

Questions and keywords for critical thinking

This is a list of prompts to support teachers and teacher aides facilitating students’ critical thinking. It is from a downloadable UK resource.

The teaching assistant’s guide to effective interaction

This is a practical, evidence-based UK guide to support classroom interactions between teacher aides and students. It contains practical strategies and reflective activities for both teachers and teacher aides.

Teachers and teachers aides working together: Module 3 – Supporting students with complex needs

This NZ module includes a workbook for teachers and teacher aides to work through together. It focuses on how teacher aides can provide extra support for students’ communication needs and their physical and personal care.

Teachers and teachers’ aides working together: Module 4 – What do we think about disability and diversity?

This NZ module includes a workbook and presentation for teachers and teacher aides to work through together to examine key beliefs and assumptions about disability and diversity.

Roving, scanning, and supporting (NZ) (video)
Matching the strategy to the need

Encourage teacher aides to provide the minimal amount of support needed.

Closed captioning available in player

Source: Ministry of Education videos, teacher aide effective practice (NZ)

Roving, scanning, and supporting (NZ)
Prompts for self management (image)
A student writes on page pre-marked with a sticky tab
What page am I on?

Under direction from the teacher, the teacher aide can use simple strategies, such as stickies, to signal where a student should begin working.

Source: Ministry of Education

Prompts for self management
Being part of a scaffolded approach (NZ) (video)
Planning for student well-being

Understanding how the role of the TA can be part of a scaffolded approach to support student wellbeing and their connection to peers.

Closed captioning available in player

Source: Ministry of Education videos, teacher aide effective practice (NZ)

Being part of a scaffolded approach (NZ)
Hierarchy of approaches

Build teacher aide understanding of strategies to support scaffolded approaches.

  1. Self-scaffolding

  2. Prompting

  3. Clueing

  4. Modelling

  5. Correcting.

Source: Adapted from The Teaching Assistant’s Guide to Effective Interaction: How to Maximise your Practice by Paula Bosanquet, Julie Radford and Rob Webster (2016).

Hierarchy of approaches

Resources and downloads

Scaffolding framework

A framework to help teachers and teacher aides visualise the use of scaffolding in supporting students’ learning. It is from a downloadable UK resource.

The teaching assistant as a scaffolder

This is a list of checkpoints to support teacher aides develop their skills scaffolding students’ learning. It is from a downloadable UK resource.

Prompts for facilitating learning and thinking

This is a list of prompts to support teacher aides working with students. It is from a downloadable UK resource.

Questions and keywords for critical thinking

This is a list of prompts to support teachers and teacher aides facilitating students’ critical thinking. It is from a downloadable UK resource.

The teaching assistant’s guide to effective interaction

This is a practical, evidence-based UK guide to support classroom interactions between teacher aides and students. It contains practical strategies and reflective activities for both teachers and teacher aides.

Encouraging students to share ideas (image)
Students work together on a learning task
Supporting students to participate in discussions

Share expectations that teacher aides will limit their talk time and allow plenty of time for students to explain their thinking.

Source: Ministry of Education

Encouraging students to share ideas
Giving feedback and feedforward

When providing feedback for students encourage TAs to:

  1. address feedback towards the specific goal the student is working on

  2. give feedback at the time

  3. be consistent; use the same framework or rubric to give ongoing feedback

  4. be specific – effective feedback is concrete, specific, and useful. For example, rather than saying “Great job”, say, “You used xxx strategy to solve that problem correctly.”

  5. frame comments so they are stated positively – state what the student has done well, and then one manageable thing to work on next.

Giving feedback and feedforward
Supporting pairs (image)
Students work together observed by a teacher aide
Partner students with students

When students are working in pairs, encourage TAs not to be part of a pair. The TA can support the student partnership but not be a replacement peer.

Source: Ministry of Education

Supporting pairs
Students supporting each other (image)
A teacher aide facilitates a mixed-ability student group
Facilitating support

One of the many benefits of students working in mixed ability groups is that students are able to support each other. A teacher aide can support these interactions.

Source: Ministry of Education

Students supporting each other
Facilitating student participation

Support teacher aides to:

  1. encourage students to ask their peers, a buddy, or a partner when they need help

  2. encourage students to share their understandings. For example, “Amy, can you show Sonia how you solved that problem?”

  3. wait and prompt students only if they are off task

  4. wait and prompt students only to ensure everyone has a turn, when students are working in a group with specific roles.

Facilitating student participation

Resources and downloads

Scaffolding framework

A framework to help teachers and teacher aides visualise the use of scaffolding in supporting students’ learning. It is from a downloadable UK resource.

Teachers and teachers’ aides working together: Module 5 – Identifying students’ strengths

This NZ module includes a workbook for teachers and teacher aides to work through together. It focuses on using narrative assessment and student profiles.

The teaching assistant’s guide to effective interaction

This is a practical, evidence-based UK guide to support classroom interactions between teacher aides and students. It contains practical strategies and reflective activities for both teachers and teacher aides.

Aim for peer support (image)
Students work together on a learning task
Valuing interdependence

Build students’ skills to seek peer support.

Aiming for interdependence leads to a “double-win” as students achieve success and have meaningful interaction with peers.

Source: Ministry of Education

Aim for peer support
Standing back

Guidance for teacher aides supporting an individual student in a subject class.

  1. You are there to support the student, not to do the work for them. You won’t be judged on the student’s performance.

  2. Avoid sitting next to the student all the time. Students can feel singled-out when they are the only person getting help from a teacher aide.

  3. Let the student attempt tasks and activities before offering any help. Allow enough time for them to persist and problem solve by themselves, with a peer, or with the teacher.

  4. Don’t assume the student needs your assistance. Ask before helping.

  5. When the student doesn’t want your help, respect that. Offer help to other students.

  6. When the students work in pairs, don’t pair up with a student. Support them to work in a pair with another student or move around the class supporting all the pairs.

  7. Sometimes doing less is doing your job.

Standing back
Make space for independence (image)
A teacher aide observes a student sharpening a pencil.
Allowing learning

Encourage teacher aides to wait and watch.

Build their confidence to step back and make space for learning.

Source: Ministry of Education

Make space for independence
Increasing access to teacher and peers (image)
Teacher aide supporting students to focus on the teacher
Reduce one-to-one time

Support teacher aides to aim to increase the student’s access to quality engagement with their teacher and peers, rather than replace this.

Source: Ministry of Education

Increasing access to teacher and peers

Resources and downloads

Prompts for facilitating learning and thinking

This is a list of prompts to support teacher aides working with students. It is from a downloadable UK resource.

The teaching assistant’s guide to effective interaction

This is a practical, evidence-based UK guide to support classroom interactions between teacher aides and students. It contains practical strategies and reflective activities for both teachers and teacher aides.

Scaffolding framework

A framework to help teachers and teacher aides visualise the use of scaffolding in supporting students’ learning. It is from a downloadable UK resource.

Standing back

We are willing and ready to connect with other kids, and adults must quietly step into the background, camouflaging their help as a tiger who may hide in full view. It’s the needed disguise of the adult who smoothes the way for friendship, then stands back in the shadows, observing the complicated dance of steps, taking you to the feeling of confidence.

Jamie Burke, a student with autism, who now attends Syracuse University ; Source: Tashie, Shapiro-Barnard & Rossetti (2008). p.185
Standing back
Fostering peer interaction (NZ) (video)
Strengthening connections

Demonstrate to teacher aides the different ways they can support peer interaction.

No captions or transcript available

Source: Ministry of Education videos, teacher aide effective practice (NZ)

Fostering peer interaction (NZ)
Leave space for peers (image)
A teacher aide and student work together alongside other students.
Keeping to the side

Ensure the teacher aide is positioned alongside students, not (unwittingly) creating barriers between students and their peers.

 

Source: Ministry of Education

Leave space for peers
Supporting friendships
  1. Encourage students’ attempts to make friends by offering guidance about communication approaches and talking about feelings.

  2. Be a positive role model and respect individual differences. Model respect, caring, patience, and positive interactions.

  3. Promote connections around common interests.

  4. Provide opportunities for ongoing student connections.

  5. Help students to join ongoing group activities by identifying possible roles they can take.

  6. Help keep student interactions going – explain the actions of students whose social skills are just developing.

  7. Share information about emergent friendships with parents so that they can arrange for students to get together outside class.

Source: Adapted from Promising practices to support friendships in inclusive classrooms by Barbara Davis Goldman

Supporting friendships

Resources and downloads

Teachers and teachers’ aides working together: Module 8 – Fostering peer relationships

This NZ module includes a workbook for teachers and teacher aides to work through together. It focuses on on ways to foster students’ connections to peers and school.

The teaching assistant’s guide to effective interaction

This is a practical, evidence-based UK guide to support classroom interactions between teacher aides and students. It contains practical strategies and reflective activities for both teachers and teacher aides.

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Building a world-leading education system that equips all New Zealanders with the knowledge, skills, and values to be successful citizens in the 21st century.