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A rock or a hard place? Teaching assistants supporting physically disabled pupils in mainstream secondary school physical education: the tensions of professionalising the role

A rock or a hard place? Teaching assistants supporting physically disabled pupils in mainstream secondary school physical education: the tensions of professionalising the role

Farr, Jacqueline (2010) A rock or a hard place? Teaching assistants supporting physically disabled pupils in mainstream secondary school physical education: the tensions of professionalising the role. EdD thesis, University of Greenwich.

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Abstract

As a Physical Education (PE) teacher in both special and mainstream schools over a 15 year period, I witnessed the use of the teaching assistant (or Learning Support Assistant as they were known) for purposes which might be deemed to be related to a medical/welfare/care-giver role. In addition, previous small-scale research into the experiences of secondary-age disabled pupils in mainstream as opposed to special school PE showed that their experiences in an inclusive setting were restricted and that the presence of a TA did little to rectify this situation (Farr, 2005). Recently, the professionalisation of the role of the TA may have created a ‘teacher-in-waiting’ (Neill, 2002) and thus the nature of the TA’s role in PE, and the ability of the specialist teacher to work collaboratively with them is complex.

This mixed methods study, inspired by critical ethnography (Thomas, 1993, 2003) incorporated five techniques of enquiry initially based on the work of Giangreco and Broer (2005). In keeping with a constructionist paradigm and integrating what I have termed a distorical theoretical perspective, I counted the interaction between people and the social structure in which they operated as important (Crotty, 1998, Broido, 2002) and drew on dominant participant voices (Lincoln and Guba, 2003). Adopting a theoretical perspective grounded in disability studies, I explored the perceptions of the role of the TA in inclusive PE through qualitative and quantitative data and presented a role definition which combines the humanistic with the instructional (or professional) after Reiter, 2000. I argued whether responsibility for the child’s learning should be devolved through the TA. Do we use the TA to make the teacher’s life easier or to support, collaboratively, the inclusion of the disabled pupil?

The impact of this study on professional practice relates to the clarity of role definition for TAs generally and for TAs specifically who work in PE; the collaborative nature (or otherwise) of the TA/teacher relationship and the implications of these findings for the future training and deployment of teaching assistants in PE with a physically disabled pupil in a mainstream secondary school. This study found that TAs in PE share many traits or characteristics with those TAs working in other subject disciplines, or across subjects. However, in PE they were inclined to rate a willingness and ability to ‘join in’ and participate in practical activities alongside pupils above pedagogical knowledge. Training either reinforces an instructional or coaching role, or it focuses on the caring or medical aspects. The reality for the TA in this study however, is that they neither define themselves as one or the other but see themselves as drawing on their own skills, empathy and initiative to facilitate a positive, inclusive environment, with or without the input of the PE teacher. They deem themselves to be both care-givers where appropriate as well as supporters of autonomous participation (as opposed to learning). That the professionalization of their role moves them towards the pedagogical places the TA between a rock and a hard place.

Item Type: Thesis (EdD)
Uncontrolled Keywords: teaching assistants, professional role, disabled pupils, physical education
Subjects: L Education > LB Theory and practice of education
Pre-2014 Departments: School of Education
School of Education > Department of Education & Community Studies
Last Modified: 14 Oct 2016 09:17
Selected for GREAT 2016: None
Selected for GREAT 2017: None
Selected for GREAT 2018: None
URI: http://gala.gre.ac.uk/id/eprint/6609

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