Research corner

9th January 2015 at 00:00

`Scaffolding learning for independence: Clarifying teacher and teaching assistant roles for children with special educational needs' by Julie Radford, Paula Bosanquet, Rob Webster et al

Learning and Instruction, 36:1-10, April 2015 (Elsevier)

Research from the UCL Institute of Education (IoE) has previously shown that even when students with special educational needs are given intensive support from a teaching assistant (TA), they still don't make as much progress as their peers.

However, according to a new report, "it is the decisions made about TAs, not by TAs, that offer the most compelling explanation for why TA support has a negative impact on student outcomes".

The article, published by academics from the IoE and the University of East London - including writers of the original research - uses data gleaned from mathematics and literacy lessons to suggest a formalisation of the TA position into three distinct roles: support, repair and heuristic.

Support TAs would "maintain learner engagement, on-task behaviour and motivation", a role that the researchers say TAs already perform successfully.

Repair TAs would help children to correct errors, allowing them to edit themselves rather than providing the answer for them.

Lastly, heuristic TAs would "empower students by encouraging them to develop their own approaches to problem-solving".

The idea of splitting the TA role in this way, say the authors, would allow teachers to take TAs into account when planning, and consider which of the three approaches would be most appropriate for the lesson. The researchers also stress the need for TAs to be given access to effective and ongoing professional development - especially in the area of assisting SEN students to reach their full potential.

Sarah Cunnane

Share your views by tweeting @tes

Hot off the press

The Spider Strategy by Marcella McCarthy (Bloomsbury Education)

ISBN 9781472908643

The Spider Strategy (surprise, purpose, investigate, differentiate, evaluate and record and reflect) is a six-part plan providing teachers with the tools for producing outstanding lessons at all times. Each aspect of good practice is investigated in detail, with practical tips, case studies and proven examples of classroom effectiveness.

Child Psychology: a very short introduction by Usha Goswami (Oxford University Press)

ISBN 9780199646593

Usha Goswami introduces the key theories in child psychology to explain how children develop and learn in different ways in relation to genetics and the workings of the brain. She explores numerous concepts, from aspects of language to cognitive reasoning and the influence of friendships and families.

The Large Hadron Collider: the extraordinary story of the Higgs boson and other stuff that will blow your mind by Don Lincoln (John Hopkins University Press)

ISBN 9781421413518

Don Lincoln shares an insider's account of the Large Hadron Collider's operational history, its inner workings and the discovery that led to the 2013 Nobel Prize in Physics for revealing evidence of the existence of the Higgs boson, the so-called God particle.

For book queries, email


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar,, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today