This series of articles explains how Cooperative Learning will make the seven recommendations in the EEF Making best use of TAs Guidance Report a lived reality in your school, simply and cost-efficiently.
The seven recommendations are found in Section 5 of the report; This article discusses Recommendation IV:
In order to achieve this, the Guidance Report recommends schools “provide sufficient time for TA training and for teachers and TAs to meet out of class to enable the necessary lesson preparation and feedback.”
TAs & teacher training
In relation to training, Cooperative Learning CPD should always include all teaching staff, precisely because it reduces the need for shared PPA time, simplifying logistics of day-to-day school life and freeing the time allocated for more strategic objectives.
One of the main reasons I charge in batches of 20 delegates is to remove the temptation in schools to save money in the short term by sending only teachers to the training. It is simply a lot more cost-efficient on so many levels to include everyone, not least the value of support staff feeling that they are, indeed, part of the team. More on this pricing structure.
PPA time and/or visible modelling
Specifically, the Report notes that this allocated lesson preparation time should ensure TAs have the essential ‘need to knows’:
- Concepts, facts, information being taught
- Skills to be learned, applied, practiced or extended
- Intended learning outcomes
- Expected/required feedback.
Looking just at the Cooperative Learning, by attending the training, support staff fully understand each Cooperative Learning Interaction Pattern (CLIP) which is then replicated with different content, day in and day out, so they know exactly what good practice looks like.
A reminder here: The CLIPs need to fuse with your content to become an activity (e.g. just imagine a Think-Pair-Share with no question – not a lot to work with, is there?). Therefore, actual day-to-day practice requires an alignment of objectives, materials, and CLIPs. And this bit is, on the whole, the teacher’s responsibility as the objectives are taken from the lesson plans and the materials are often dictated one way or another, whether by last year’ s leftovers, by school policy, or something else.
Therefore, one would expect that in order for the TA to be “fully prepared for their role in the classroom” shared PPA time would be a requirement and, ideally, she should be a part of setting up sessions, as noted in Recommendation III. However, we all know that this is not always possible or convenient.
But because the TA is present in the class when the subject-specific task is injected into the CLIP, whether the TA or a pupil is “used” to model the interaction – she will also understand the unique subtasks, language or vocabulary required by children to complete the task.
As a result, as a TA, you can rush into the room five minutes late from some off-the-cuff behaviour intervention, follow the teacher’ s lead within the well-known structure of the selected CLIP to immediately assume a role almost on par with the teacher once the activity kicks off: “Remember, Robbie, in this exercise, you need to ask your teammates to actually count/spell/explain before answering your question” or “Do you remember what Mrs Harrington demonstrated with Mike? Make sure to tell your coaching-partner to keep his ruler horizontal when doing the X-axis.”
For examples of such phrases and vocabulary, enjoy this Boss & Secretary presented Gypsie and Sidney of Sheringham Primary Community School:
Peer-coaching: The TA as a mirror
For TAs looking for continuous professional development or planning a teaching career, there is an added bonus. Consider for a moment the ‘need to knows’ outlined in the report: “Concepts, facts being taught, Skills to be learned, Intended learning outcomes, Expected/required feedback”
Teachers will find they get a lot out of spending a bit of time with their TA looking at each of these points in turn, sharing reflections on the choice of CLIP to match intended learning outcomes, helping each other to pick the best vocabulary and phrases to facilitate conceptual understanding, foreseeing problems in the application of acquired skills, etc.
Especially given the fact that Teaching Assistants of have unique knowledge about individual pupil’s “quirks” – and these do become apparent when working closely with peers – he or she is in a unique position to anticipate problems which could be triggered.
Furthermore, because these discussions with the teacher give an understanding of how and when to use the CLIPs effectively, the TA will be a lot more confident when using Cooperative Learning in any out of class interventions.
We will look at this in more depth when we discuss the next two recommendations:
The following figure is found on page 19 of the Report. In the previous post, we discussed how Cooperative Learning will help TAs to evade these pitfalls.
Please do not hesitate to comment or ask questions directly by contacting me.