For all stakeholders the deployment of the teaching assistant within the classroom is critical but even more so to the success of the teacher’s performance management in relation to the the ‘lesson observation’ against the Ofsted performance grade as outlined in the Ofsted: School Inspection Handbook (2013).
Quality of teaching grade descriptor – good
Teachers and other adults create a positive climate for learning in their lessons and pupils are interested and engaged.
Quality of teaching grade descriptor – outstanding
Teachers and other adults authoritatively impart knowledge to ensure students are engaged in learning, and generate high levels of commitment to learning across the school.
Statistically speaking a teacher is 80% likely to have a teaching assistant within the classroom during an Ofsted lesson observation (ATL survey of teaching assistants (2013)). This means that it is the teacher’s responsibility to ensure that the teaching assistants are using their knowledge and skills to creating, developing and maintain a positive learning climate where pupils are engaged within the learn experience.
The knowledge and skills which the teaching assistant brings to the classroom was highlighted by teachers as a major concern (Neill (2002)) arguing that the teaching assistant lack of subject specific knowledge creates more issues than they solve. I would argue that it is not the responsibility of the class teacher to train the teaching assistant within the subject rather it is the school’s responsibility to ensure that the teaching assistant has these skills, knowledge and drive for the subject.
Bourke (2009) suggested that training should reflect a collaborative process which focuses on “reflection on learning” and “sharing meanings and understandings about effective support of all students.” However, it is assumed that the teaching assistant has the subject specific knowledge and that the teaching assistant is given time to participate within shared planning.
Interestingly, Farrell et al. (2010)) found that the deployment of teaching assistants needs to be carried out with specific focus to the individual learning needs of each student rather than a small group of children scattered across the classroom. This suggests that the deployment of the teaching assistant should be focused on sitting with an individual student or a small group sitting together within the classroom. Where the teaching assistant would be responsible for the creation and maintenance a positive learning climate where the student is engaged and interested. However, if the teacher assistant does not give the students time to work independently during the lesson then the student will become reliant on this support creating a situation of learned helplessness.
To support this Blatchford et al. (2011) concluded that teaching assistants need to undertake training which focuses on the pedagogical skills as these are the critical skills which teachers rely on when deploying the teaching assistant within the classroom. The teachers assistant application of their pedagogical knowledge and skills are vital in establishing the engaging and interesting learning experience which teachers are required to deliver to achieve a ‘good’ during an Ofsted lesson observation.
Therefore, the deployment of the teaching assistant within the classroom is influenced by the subject specific knowledge and (pedagogical) skills which the teaching assistant brings. Once in the classroom the teaching assistant needs to be placed in a location where they can target intervention without moving around the classroom whilst offering an opportunities to foster independent learning skills within the students. In doing so, allowing the teaching assistant to apply their pedagogical knowledge and skills to maintaining an engaging and interesting learning experience.