The new academic year is always a good time to begin assessing our skills. We have started to get to know the children in our new class. Relationships are forming within staff groups and we are settling into a routine once more.
Maybe there has been a change of staff, a change of routine, or a change to working practice. Perhaps we feel, with the coming of Autumn, that we need to fill those longer evenings with something productive. Whatever the reason, it’s fair to say that many of us will be starting training courses at this time of year.
The standards set out what is expected from our role. We can clearly see what effective TAs should be able to do and to understand. Chances are you will be embarking upon either the Diploma, Certificate or Apprenticeship in supporting teaching and learning in schools. These level 3 qualifications are all based upon the National Occupational Standards. Whichever path you choose, you will end up with a valuable qualification under your belt.
The qualifications are made up of units. There are mandatory units and optional ones. I’d like to focus on the mandatory units first and so will be breaking down each one into chunks to aid understanding.
Let’s start with the Support Learning Activities unit. It’s a role we all undertake, whether we are employed to support one child or a whole class full of children, this unit is common to us all.
Level 3: Support Learning Activities
The unit has six learning outcomes. This means that you will need to show that you are able to:
- Contribute to planning learning activities
- Prepare for learning activities
- Support learning activities
- Observe and report on learner (pupil) participation and progress
- Contribute to the evaluation of learning activities
- Evaluate your own practice in relation to supporting literacy, numeracy and ICT
These learning outcomes are further broken down into achievable steps – called assessment criteria – so if you cover all the assessment criteria, it follows that you will have completed the learning outcome.
Some of the assessment criteria are there for you to show off your knowledge, some show your performance skills.
Let’s look first at learning outcome 1: Contribute to learning activities
To cover this learning outcome you will need to:
- 1.1 Explain how a learning support practitioner may contribute to the planning, deliver and review of learning activities
- 1.2 Evaluate your own strengths and weaknesses in relation to supporting learning activities and how these (strengths and weaknesses) may impact on the support that can be provided
- 1.3 Use knowledge of the learners and the curriculum to contribute to teacher planning
- 1.4 Offer constructive suggestions for your own role in supporting the planned learning activities
- 1.5 Identify and obtain the information required to support learning activities
Let’s break it down a bit more.
1.1 Explain how a learning support practitioner may contribute to the planning, delivery and review of learning activities. You need to explain how TAs contribute to the planning, delivery and evaluation of learning activities. Don’t say that YOU don’t do this because I know for a fact that you do – or you should do.
Could be as simple as – when the teacher plans for an activity they may ask you which resources are available. They may allocate small groups of children to work with you to aid differentiation. They may ask you about the group dynamics to consider who works best together. They may ask you what went well, which children got the most from the activity, who will need to revisit the learning outcome. That kind of thing.
Think about how you support planning, how you support delivery, how you support evaluation. Also explain why it is important to evaluate learning activities.
1.2 Evaluate your own strengths and weaknesses in relation to supporting learning activities and how these (strengths and weaknesses) may impact on the support that can be provided
For this, I think you could keep a reflective journal. Reflect on three different learning activities. (Personally, I’d do literacy, numeracy and ICT.) Think about how your support helped the learning. Maybe your expertise – or lack of it – had an impact upon the learning. Consider what you would do differently next time. Or you could devise a skills evaluation where you look at the skills needed in order to be a good TA and rate yourself against it. Or do both!
1.3 Use knowledge of the learners and the curriculum to contribute to teacher planning 1.4 Offer constructive suggestions for your own role in supporting the planned learning activities 1.5 Identify and obtain the information required to support learning activities
These assessment criteria are asking you for actual performance evidence. You need to show that you actually do this. This could link to an observation. You could give a brief overview of the children you will be supporting when you are observed, what their needs will be, do any of them have additional needs? What suggestions have you made to help with the planning for this activity? What resources will you be need to get ready? Explain how you will be supporting the children during the activity. How does this link with what the teacher has planned? How does the lesson link to the curriculum? How do you know what your role will be? Where did you find out what you will need? What suggestions have you made to the teacher (about your own role) that will help the learning activity be successful? Generally – what will your role be?
Learning outcomes 2 and 3 are about you doing the job of supporting children. These may be covered using observed evidence. An assessor will observe you supporting during a learning activity and will identify which criteria you have covered. They will usually ask you to write reflective accounts if there are some gaps. This doesn’t mean you are a rubbish TA! This does mean that certain things weren’t seen ON THAT OCCASION. An observation is a great way of assessors getting evidence from you without you having to write reams so try to relax and just do your job.
There will be some written evidence needed. Where you are asked to ‘explain’ this is clearly knowledge evidence. 3..2 ‘Explain how social organisation and relationships may affect the learning process’ asks you to write a little bit. You should consider social groupings and group dynamics for this.
3.6 This asks you to identify the sorts of problems that might occur when you are supporting learning activities and how you might deal with these problems. You will need to consider problems relating to the learning activities, problems relating to the learning environment, problems relating to the resources, problems relating to the learners AND problems relating to the assessment of learning. You could make a list of possible problems first and then analyse each on and explain how to overcome the problem.
Learning Outcome 4: Observe and report on learner participation and progress
For this LO you will need to actually show that you have observed learners on at least two different occasions.
I think you should carry out a formal observation of a child for one of these occasions.
You could use other evidence for the rest of the LO. Some TAs are in the habit of annotating the planning sheet to feedback pupil progress and participation in the learning activity they have supported. This is evidence you could photocopy and use, as long as sensitive pieces of information – like names – are removed.
Learning Outcome 5: Contribute to the evaluation of learning activities
This needs a combination of written and performance evidence. You have explained (in LO 1) why it is important to evaluate learning,activities. You will also cover some of this as observed evidence if you actually give feedback to the kids effectively and if you give specific feedback to the teacher about how the children have got on in the learning activity you supported.
Your reflective journal for LO 1 will also provide some evidence for this LO.
Learning outcome 6: Evaluate own practice in relation to supporting literacy, numeracy and ICT
You have started to do this in LO 1.
You should also make an Action Plan of your training needs in literacy, numeracy and ICT, based upon your self-evaluation (in LO 1) of your strengths and weaknesses in these areas.
Phew! And that’s just one unit!
I hope I haven’t muddied the waters further. If you need me to clarify any of this, please get in touch. I’m trying to help TAs who are trying to understand the qualifications and I’m happy to explain and help in any way that I can.