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Easy Ways to Use Teaching Assistants More Effectively

Getting the most Out of your teaching assistant

Teaching Assistants (TAs) are amongst the most valuable resources school have within their armouries. As a former teaching assistant turned teacher, I know the value that TAs bring to schools through their patience, expertise and versatility. But do teachers always make the most of their TAs?

Sadly not according to the Education Endowment Foundation who claims that ‘the typical use and deployment of TAs, under everyday conditions, is not leading to improvements in academic outcomes’.

So, how can TAs be better deployed to ensure improved academic outcomes for pupils? Read these 3 easy ways to get the most out of your teaching assistant to find out!

  1. Enable TAs to work with a range of ability groups

TAs are typically found working with low attainers in an instructional role whereby the objective of the TA was simply to get these pupils to complete tasks rather than deepening the pupils understanding of a task. Instead, TAs should be working with other ability groups including the most able children in the class and not just the least able pupils.

Having deployed TAs in this way before, I can say wholeheartedly that it makes a difference to the classroom dynamic in so many ways. For example, the least able children with the teacher’s guidance, begin to develop greater independence and an ability to take risks with their learning whilst the more able relish the presence of an adult to push the envelope of their learning. Observers from SMT and OFSTED seem to enjoy seeing this approach too.

2. Give them the tools and the instructions they need to be more effective

When I was a teaching assistant, I too often felt that I was trying to navigate myself and a group of pupils through lessons using only my own instinct and intuition. Often, I had only a limited understanding of what needed to be accomplished having barely been able to speak to the class teacher prior to the lesson.

Whilst Teaching Assistants are professionals who can function well under their own initiative, it’s poor practice for teachers to expect them to regularly guess what the teacher wants and what the pupils need.

Teachers must make explicit to the teaching assistant the outcomes of the lesson.. TAs must also be made aware of what resources they are expected to use with their groups as well as being instructed about the key vocabulary and key questions to be used.

The best, most manageable way of doing these things is to provide your teaching assistant with written instructions. I use my ‘TA Assessment and Feedback Sheet’, the use of which OFSTED and senior managers have praised following lesson observations.

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    Simply fill out the form before a lesson and ask your TA to make notes about the progress of the children they are working with during the lesson. Easy peasy.

    3. Engage them in the lesson

    As a former teaching assistant, the best lessons were ones where the teacher involved me during every stage of the lesson. Similarly, the best lessons I have taught as a teacher were ones were I openly communicated with the TA throughout the lesson and engaged them to take an active role in the lesson.

    Communicate with your TA during the lesson. Ask questions about the progress of the pupils they’re supporting. This makes it known to all children that you’re monitoring all of them and that none are discounted once you send the TA to support them.

    Engage them in the lesson. Invite them to choose good examples of work or to choose children to answer questions. Often, your TA will notice things you don’t so make the most of this.


    1. Don’t always send them to work with the least able. The more able pupils could benefit too.
    2. Make learning outcomes explicit and make sure they’re aware of how you plan for pupils to progress.
    3. Openly communicate with the TA about pupil progress during the lesson and get them involved in questioning and delivering inputs and plenaries.

    I hope these tips help you to get the most of your TA. We always welcome ideas from our subscribers so why not pop your best ones in the comments section below?



    By | 23 October, 2016 | Blog, CPD

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