ERG SES E 05, Inclusive Education
How do teaching assistants (TAs) view their role in managing behaviour and what are their points of tension are in fulfilling this role.
• to interrogate the role of the TA in managing classroom behaviour in the UK and how this is evolving;
• to identify factors which UK TAs perceive both enable and constrain them when managing behaviour;
• to explore how TAs understand the teacher : TA boundaries in relation to managing behaviour;
• to model UK TAs’ perceptions of the relationship between TAs, teaching Staff and school behaviour policies.
The research aims were drawn from literature and experience working with TAs and are concerned with understanding and exploring tensions from TAs’ perspectives.
This paper will reflect on the specific challenges facing teaching assistants (TAs) in the UK when managing behaviour. It will consider existing research into this area and why the paucity of specific research is problematic. The paper will also highlight some of the conflicts in the UK which impact, either positively or negatively on TAs ability to manage behaviour. These include TA role definition, deployment and the wider pedagogical aspects of their evolving role.
These conflicts are not unique to the UK with the equivalent TA role in many developed countries also struggling with the issues highlighted. The Nordic countries (Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden) have developed a similar approach to England in the deployment of their TAs, providing pedagogical support to both individuals and groups of children. In recent years, with thirteen percent of the UK’s education budget (Sharples et al., 2015) spent on TAs'.
Prior to the landmark UK ‘Deployment and Impact of Support Staff’ (DISS) publication (Blatchford, Russell & Webster, 2012), the largest piece of research conducted into TAs worldwide there was a lack of exploration of TAs’ work in general. However, exisiting research resonates not only in the UK and Europe, but as far afield as Hong Kong (Trent, 2014) and the US. Yet, Giangreco et al. (2010) suggested that the available research did little to help answer questions related to ‘appropriateness’ or ‘effectiveness’ of TA deployment under the current model.
The outward display or ‘visible’ aspects of managing behaviour and the external presentation of the relationships which influenced TAs in their management behaviour were the foci of this research. A consideration of the multiple and differing realities of those involved (Robson, 2011; Savin-Baden & Howell Major, 2013), the ‘shared visions of knowledge’ which were constructed during the course of people’s ‘everyday lives’ (Burr 2003) and how this affected their understanding were needed to address the research aims. This view of knowledge as context based and relativist led to the constructionist epistemology which underpinned the research.
The research adopted a position which does not ‘add’ women in, ‘but begins from their perspective’, was ‘grounded in the daily experiences of women’ and the ‘goings on in women’s lives’ (Letherby, 2003). As a result of the issues which arose the research was required to place itself within a feminist context. This was exemplified by the entirely female cohort of the first group of UK TAs sampled and the largely female dominated role of the TA (with ninety two percent of all TAs in the UK being female (DfE, 2014). Its aims were also to be ‘contextual, inclusive, experiential, involved and socially relevant’ (Nielsen, 1990), which were achieved by the use of a range of qualitative methods focusing on the participant voice.
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