Enhancing the quality of TA-pupil interactions

Key implementation challenges

Below are two implementation challenges that schools regularly face when making changes to TA deployment at classroom level.

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.

The Action planning template below provides a process by which you can structure your thinking around reframing the use of TAs, and develop achievable steps to realise your vision. 

  1. Updated: 24th February, 2020

    Action planning template

    336 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.

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: Over-reliance 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 way to support TAs in their interactions with pupils is through using Scaffolding Frameworks, which can help TAs scaffold pupils' learning and encourage independent learning. 

  1. Updated: 24th February, 2020

    Scaffolding framework

    207 KB pdf - EEF_-_TA_Supplementary_Scaffolding_Framework.pdf

    Help TAs scaffold pupils’ learning and encourage independent learning.

TAs should move down the layers of the framework in turn. The initial expectation is that pupils self-scaffold whilst the TA observes their performance. TAs should then intervene appropriately when pupils demonstrate they are unable to proceed. It is important the tasks set by teachers, and supported by TAs, provide pupils with the right level of challenge.

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.


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.