The changing role of teacher assistants : where being a ‘mum’ is not enough

  • Rosemary Butt

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    This thesis explores the role, qualifications, skills and training needs of Teacher Assistants (TAs) in mainstream primary schools. The increasing employment and deployment of TAs in mainstream schools is a recent phenomenon that is often associated with the movement towards a more inclusive approach to education. While the number of TAs working in mainstream schools has increased, little research has been conducted in Australia on this growing employment sector. In addition, studies have focused on the perspective of school administrators and ignored the perspective of TAs. This thesis was conducted over three years in four stages across four school sites, and it is informed by the multiple perspectives of TAs, class teachers, school leaders including principals, supervisors of TAs, policy administrators and a vocational education teacher. A case study methodology was adopted, using research methods of focus groups, questionnaires, semi-structured interviews, observations, field notes and memos. In response to all stakeholders identifying a pressing need for training, Stages 1 and 3 consisted of the trial and evaluation of two training programs: Preliminary Teacher Assistant Training (PTAT) and Teacher Assistant Training (TAT). A grounded theory approach and a constant comparison method were used for data analysis, and key factors relating to challenges, qualifications, skills, training and benefits were identified. The findings identify the mismatched perceptions regarding the role, qualifications, skills and training requirements for TAs. Discrepancies in practices pertaining to the funding and employment of TAs are highlighted, specifically in public schools in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT). The findings are vital to future educational policymaking and school and classroom practice if education agendas are firmly focused on improved educational outcomes, specifically for students with disabilities and learning difficulties and all students in general. A policy review of the employment conditions of TAs and the processes and practices associated with their deployment is of the utmost importance and is long overdue to ensure the efficient use of resources and quality educational outcomes. The analysis indicates that the issues are not isolated to the ACT; thus, the findings have implications for policy-makers and education systems Australia wide. This study provides an alternative model for TA deployment to address the shortcomings in current practices. With the introduction of the proposed alternative model, the challenges facing TAs regarding their role at the school, class and student levels will be addressed, resulting in quality education and improved student learning.
    Date of Award2014
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorKaye Lowe (Supervisor), Chris Kilham (Supervisor) & Anita Collins (Supervisor)

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