Teachers and teaching assistants working together : collaboration, support and inclusion in a secondary school
Devecchi, Maria Cristina
University of Cambridge
Faculty of Education
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
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Devecchi, M. C. (2007). Teachers and teaching assistants working together : collaboration, support and inclusion in a secondary school (Doctoral thesis). https://doi.org/10.17863/CAM.11667
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This study set out to explore what is 'special' about the notion of collaborative support, namely the way adults work together to support the academic and social inclusion of those children who are labelled as having difficulties in learning, in one secondary school. In particular, it has focused on teachers and teaching assistants, (T As) classroom practices, and more specifically on how teachers and T As collaborated to support the children; and on how the school supported them. This environmental and socially located view was grounded in the assumption that although the inclusion of the children is a paramount goal, this can be better achieved when the school is effectively able to include all its members of staff. The study is topical for a number of reasons. Firstly, the topic of adults' collaboration and support is timely because different and contrasting policies aimed at both excellence and inclusion have resulted in a steady increase in the number of T As employed in English schools. There is, therefore, a need to investigate whether their presence is supportive of the teachers or, as some commentators argue, undermining teachers' professional identity. Second, it is timely to explore how TAs, individually, and TAs and teachers together can support and facilitate the inclusion of children labelled as having difficulties in learning. Finally, the study aims to fill a conceptual gap in the knowledge about the dynamics of collaboration and support between teachers and T As. Through the use of a collaborative and critical ethnographic approach a variety of methods, including observations, interviews, questionnaires and school policy analysis, were used to involve the participants in exploring their supportive and collaborative practices. The main findings show that collaboration is beneficial and possible to achieve, but that it has to be part of a whole school approach to inclusion, and staff development. In tum this requires the school to challenge nruTow performative criteria in favour of a more person-centred ethos based on notions of trust, care and respect. In terms of professional practice, the study challenges traditional views about professional identity in as much as when teachers and T As collaborate and are supportive of each other they construct a new and dynamic professional relationship. In so doing they redefine lines of professional authority, autonomy, competence and responsibility towards each other and the children.
This record's DOI: https://doi.org/10.17863/CAM.11667