THE IMPACT OF TEACHING ASSISTANTS IN SCHOOLS ON PUPILS’ SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT
I require a qualitative research design with the interviewing of teaching assistants and pupils as the tool for data collection.
The use of teaching assistants (TAs) to develop the academic and social skills of pupils in schools has in the past few years attracted a lot of research attention as researchers seek to examine the mechanisms through which the TAs improve the learning outcomes of the pupils.
Research outcomes suggest that a sensitive TA support system develops the social skills of students by engaging them in learning and social activities, facilitating interactions between the learners with their peers and teachers thereby enabling pupils to undertake self-directed milestones (Alborz et al., 2009, p. 1; Joyner, 2016).
It has also been ascertained that due to the close relationship the teaching assistants have with pupils, they are often better positioned to identify the unique learning needs of learners as well as the social and interactive needs, thereby providing a differentiated pedagogical approach to their learning and development (Literary Trust, 2016; Balshaw, 2013; Blatchford, 2012).
In essence, most empirical studies focus on the existence of teaching assistants as intermediaries between the teachers and the learners which positions them strategically in identifying the unique learning needs and communicating this to the teachers.
Moreover, empirical studies also suggest that the learning environment between the teaching assistants and the learner is much freer making it easier for the learner to provide feedback (Lachman et al., 2013; Open University, 2016). According to Lee (2003), teaching assistants improve the social skills of pupils through the provision of group task milestones that requires learners to work together in solving problems thereby improving their role play skills, negotiation and communication skills.
The use of teaching assistants to issue class assignments and their facilitating role when students undertake group assessments, therefore, contributes to the general improvement of the students’ social skills. Teaching assistants are particularly important in developing the social skills of pupils, especially new learners by supplementing the teachers’ efforts in improving the coping and socializing potential of such students as well as enhancing the compatibility of learning pedagogy (Yook & Albert, 1999, p. 2).
It is important to note at this point of the report that most empirical studies in this discipline employ the use of qualitative research because qualitative research enables researchers to measure objectively, human attributes that are in most instances very abstract and subjective constructs (Taylor et al, 2015; Lewis, 2015; Merriam & Tisdell, 2015).
Moreover, qualitative research design when used in a cause-effect study (like assessing the role of TAs in building social skills for pupils) is likely to facilitate flexibility in the research process to take into account factors that were not hypothesized therefore yielding a robust outcome (Hoepfl, 1997).
It is important, however, to recognize the challenges that researchers investigating the impact of different teachers or instructional curriculum on learning outcomes (cognitive or otherwise) such as the difficulty in ascertaining the improvement go through because such learning outcomes cannot be measured objectively
Nonetheless, other challenges lie in building on previous research investigating the TA-student outcome nexus since researchers “are caught up in a historic period in which the growth and accessibility of new information is forcing reappraisal of traditional ways of taking stock of accumulated knowledge” (Pollard, 2006, p. 11).
The outcomes of the reviewed literature in the earlier section of this paper will provide crucial insights into the hypotheses of a prospective qualitative study investigating the relationship between 5 pupils and a teaching assistant in a private school for children aged between 0 and 18 years in Northampton. Taking into account the challenges of research highlighted in the preceding section of the paper, the study will examine how the techniques employed by the TA influence the self-esteem and self-perception of the pupils. Nonetheless, research-based and standardized approaches will be employed to ensure a robust outcome of the research endeavour.
Alborz, A., Pearson, D., Farrell, P., & Howes, A. (2009). The impact of adult support staff on pupils and mainstream schools: A systematic review of evidence. London: Department for Children, Schools, and Families.
Balshaw, M. (2013). Teaching assistants: Practical strategies for effective classroom support. David Fulton Publishers.
Blatchford, P., Russell, A., & Webster, R. (2012). Reassessing the impact of teaching assistants: How research challenges practice and policy. Routledge.
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Lewis, S. (2015). Qualitative inquiry and research design: Choosing among five approaches. Health promotion practice, 1524839915580941.
Literary Trust, (2016), Teaching Assistants: A Guide to Good Practice. Oxford Primary. Retrieved on February 5, 2016, from https://www.literacytrust.org.uk/assets/0002/6756/osi_teaching_assistants_report_web.pdf
Merriam, S. B., & Tisdell, E. J. (2015). Qualitative research: A guide to design and implementation. John Wiley & Sons.
Open University, (2016). Role of Teaching Assistants. UNISON. Retrieved on February 5, 2016, from https://www.open.ac.uk/choose/unison/develop/my-understanding/role-teaching-assistant
Pollard, A. (2006). Challenges facing educational research Educational review guest Lecture 2005. Educational Review, 58(3), 251-267. Retrieved on February 5, 2016, from https://www.tlrp.org/conference/2007/documents/PollardEdReviewpaper.pdf
Taylor, S. J., Bogdan, R., & DeVault, M. (2015). Introduction to qualitative research methods: A guidebook and resource. John Wiley & Sons.
Yook, E. L., & Albert, R. D. (1999). Perceptions of international teaching assistants: The interrelatedness of intercultural training, cognition, and emotion. Communication Education, 48(1), 1-17. Retrieved on February 5, 2016, from https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Rosita_Albert/publication/248940107_Perceptions_of_international_teaching_assistants_The_interrelatedness_of_intercultural_training_cognition_and_emotion/links/55de5bd208ae79830bb58968.pdf