Is a good Teaching Assistant one who ‘knows their place’?

Emma Clarke, John Visser

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticlepeer-review


Teaching Assistants’ (TAs’) roles in mainstream English primary schools continue to evolve. Research suggests TAs play a vital role in managing behaviour and can have benefits for both teachers and children in relation to supporting positive behaviour in the classroom. However, there is a lack of clarityin what constitutes TAs’ role, particularly when their pedagogical contribution outweighs any other form of support provided to schools. With a lack of clarity in what constitutes the teachers’ and the TAs’ role, TAs’ responsibilities for managing behaviour are opaque. As a result, opportunities for TAs to manage behaviour can be reduced due to their concerns over undermining teachers. The research this paper draws on found TAs were often passive observers in relation to behaviour management as they did not understand how their role correlated to that of teachers’. The concept of what TAs in this research described as ‘knowing their place’ in relation to managing behaviour will be introduced and discussed. Strategies to support TAs in ‘knowing their place’ in a positive, as opposed to pejorative way in managing behaviour will be considered through a range of different approaches to their direct work with children and teachers. The paper then concludes with some ‘next steps’ for schools to consider in supporting TAs to affirmatively find their ‘place’ in managing behaviour.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)308-322
Number of pages15
JournalEmotional and Behavioural Difficulties
Issue number4
Early online date3 Jun 2019
Publication statusPublished - 2 Oct 2019


  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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