‘I’m here for the children’: An Exploration of the Viewpoints of Teaching Assistants (TAs) and Primary-Aged Pupils Regarding the TA Role and an Illumination of the Importance of TA Gender
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
PAPER 1: Following both large scale and smaller scale case study research regarding the impact of TAs in primary schools, this phase of the research, viewed through the lens of social constructionism, aims to elicit views in regards to TA support in primary schools from gathering the constructs and listening to the voice of TAs themselves and the pupils they support. A total of four FGs were carried out with TAs and Key Stage 2 pupils to elicit the ways in which the TA role is constructed. Semi-structured FG schedules were used and were based on the five areas of Webster, Blatchford, Bassett, Brown, Martin and Russell (2011) Wider Pedagogical Role Model (WPR) with focus on areas of ‘practice’, ‘deployment’, ‘conditions of employment’, ‘preparedness’ and ‘support staff characteristics’. A thematic analysis (Braun & Clarke, 2006) was used to analyse data gathered from the FGs. Major themes of ‘career path’, ‘dissatisfaction’, ‘motivation’, ‘oppression’, ‘progression’ and ‘what it takes’ proved essential to the TAs construction of their role, with more pragmatic major themes of ‘who’, ‘what’ and ‘why’ presenting as key to the pupils’ TA role construction. Themes generated by both TAs and pupils are compared and contrasted, as well as the findings examined in light of the existing literature. Strengths and limitations within the research are identified as well as future directions for the research explored in relation to the findings. PAPER 2: Extending the findings from the first phase of the research and in light of literature regarding males (predominantly teachers and TAs) missing from primary education in particular (Thornton & Bricheno, 2006) have led to this phase of the research aiming to explore the meaning made specifically by male TAs working in primary schools whilst directly contributing to the gap identified in the literature. Multiple methods of data collection were used within this phase of the research (in-depth, semi-structured interviews as well as observation and an online questionnaire) to elicit the views of nine male TAs, as well as to gather an understanding of the day-to-day role of the male TA. An Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) approach was used to analysis in-depth interview data and findings from the questionnaire and observations presented accordingly. Following the IPA procedure, twelve superordinate themes emerged from the data set including those concerned with the significance of gender, stereotyped attitudes/behaviours of others, the difference between male and female TAs, ambivalence towards the TA role, change within the profession as well as ideas in regards to best practice. Gender-matched support was only evident during half of the observations and a lack of longevity within- and access to the TA role for men was identified and explored. Strengths and limitations within the research were clarified as well and future directions for work of this kind identified. The thesis concludes with recommendations for future practice and an exploration of the impact of the entire two-phase research for the role of the EP.
DEdPsy in Educational Child and Community Psychology