This post has been written by Ed Moss
Before starting here at Classroom Secrets, I worked for several years as part of a large team of teaching assistants at one of the largest schools in my area. Naturally, alongside classroom duties and being one of the two audience members for class assembly rehearsals (‘Project your voices… Don’t speak to your shoes… We’ll sort your wig later but for now just try to imagine you’re Charles II…’) I was asked to deliver lots of interventions. Some things I did well, others I could have improved on. What might I change about the way I delivered interventions if I was heading back into school tomorrow? What, as the blog title asks, makes a great TA intervention?
It’s important to say at the outset that as far as possible, it’s good to meet learning needs inside the class. A TA who has a great knowledge of the outcomes for a given lesson and strong relationships with every child in the class can assist the learning of children of all abilities. If they can avoid latching permanently onto a group who find the subject matter difficult, instead helping children across the class, they gift that struggling group more quality time with their teacher. This also prevents those children from feeling singled out from the rest of the class.
That is not to say that interventions outside the class don’t have their place. They are necessary for a myriad of reasons, and are highly effective, if carried out in a well-structured manner by a well-trained, well-supported TA. However, interventions which are inconsistent can actually have a detrimental effect on learning. A report published in 2015 by the Education Endowment Foundation makes the potential gains and losses very clear. Consider this quotation from the report’s summary:
Research on TAs delivering targeted interventions in one-to-one or small group settings shows a consistent impact on attainment of approximately three to four additional months’ progress (effect size 0.2–0.3). Crucially, these positive effects are only observed when TAs work in structured settings with high quality support and training. When TAs are deployed in more informal, unsupported instructional roles, they can impact negatively on pupils’ learning outcomes.
So what are some tips for ensuring interventions deliver the ‘three to four additional months’ progress’? Below are some recommendations from the report, things I saw were effective during my time as a TA, and the advice of more experienced educators working with me here at Classroom Secrets.
I hope the advice above is useful. It can sometimes feel like there’s nowhere near enough time for as much communication or planning as we might want when it comes to TA interventions. There are so many other things to do! Here at Classroom Secrets, our whole goal is to relieve the time pressure teachers and teaching assistants are under, freeing them up to them spend time on what really matters and restoring their life/work balance. Whether you spend the extra time created by our resources on discussing TA interventions or on putting your feet up and having a well-deserved rest is entirely up to you!