Enhancing the quality of TA-pupil interactions

Key implementation challenges

Here are two of the major implementation challenges you can face when making changes to TA deployment at classroom level, alongside advice on how to deal with them. The action planning template below can provides a process by which you can structure your thinking around reframing the use of TAs, and developing action plan points to realise your vision. 

  1. Updated: 29th September, 2016

    9. Action planning template

    97 KB pdf - TA_Supplementary_Action_Plan.pdf

    Structure your thinking around reframing the use of TAs, and develop action plan points to realise your vision.

Challenge One: Organisational Issues

How do you move from a ‘Velcro-model’, where TAs are attached to one particular pupil, to a more flexible model in which they supplement the work of the classroom teacher? What does this mean in terms of teacher-TA liaison? How do you judge whether the changes are working?

Any alteration in working patterns throws up organisational issues. The key here is preparation. In advance of introducing the changes, work through them in detail with your teachers and TAs. Model what they will look like, specify why they will be introduced, and discuss the possible challenges that will result.

Diligence is the mother of good fortune. Hasty or ill-conceived changes will throw up more organisational issues which, in turn, present more opportunities to turn away from change. Careful preparation not only increases teacher and TA engagement, but so too does it minimise the prospect of challenges, and the chance of teething problems leading to disengagement.

Challenge Two: Overreliance on Task-Completion

As the Recommendation Three of the guidance notes, ‘TAs should, for example, be trained to avoid prioritising task completion and instead concentrate on helping pupils develop ownership of tasks.’ This follows research suggesting that many TAs can focus on task completion, inadvertently eschewing the development of thinking and learning in the process.

As you make changes to classroom-level deployment there is a risk that this focus persists. TAs will move from working predominantly with one particular pupil to supplementing what the class teacher does, but still focus their energies on promoting task completion.

Avoid this by ensuring you provide appropriate training and guidance at the same time as you make classroom-level deployment changes. Help your TAs to understand the difference between task completion and encouraging critical thinking and independent learning. Give them examples to work with, discuss and explore. Provide exemplar tools they can use – such as crib sheets covering key phrases to promote independent learning. Or set up coaching triads in which the express aim is to move away from task completion.

One of the best ways to support TAs is through using Scaffolding Frameworks. We have produced a practical framework below which can help TAs scaffold pupils' learning and encourage independent learning. TAs should move down the layers of the framework in turn. 

  1. Updated: 29th September, 2016

    12. Scaffolding framework

    435 KB pdf - EEF_-_TA_Supplementary_Scaffolding_Framework.pdf

    Help TAs scaffold pupils’ learning and encourage independent learning.

All of this helps ensure that changes in deployment go hand-in-hand with changes in how TAs interact with pupils. It means good practice is embedded from the start.

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Enhancing the quality of TA-pupil interactions

Take a look at the three resources: 'Acting on the evidence', the 'Action Planning Template' and the 'Scaffolding Framework.

Think carefully about how the move away from the ‘Velcro-model’ might be perceived by parents/carers of pupils with SEN, and consider how you will inform them of your new approach.

Identify the features of more effective classroom talk. Involve teachers. Develop a set of key phrases TAs can use with pupils that are consistent with developing their independence.