Teacher aides support teachers and students across a range of services provided in an educational setting. Their role description can vary according to the environment in which they work and the needs of the school. They are different from Assistant Teachers in that they are responsible for general classroom tasks, whereas Assistant Teachers are qualified to provide instructional support.
What Do Teacher Aides Do?
Teacher aides support students’ learning and development by applying learning and teaching strategies. Most work under the direction of a classroom teacher, although some are provided more responsibility and independence than others.
Some teacher aides work in mainstream classrooms, others in specific subject areas, and some provide support to certain groups of students, including those with specific learning needs (such as with literacy or numeracy), disorders, disabilities or those who speak English as a second language. They also assist one or more teachers to undertake logistical tasks to ensure the efficient operation of the classroom or centre.
Many teacher aides implement teaching and learning strategies such as explicit teaching, scaffolding, modelling, cooperative learning, one-on-one instruction and formative assessment. Some even run their own programs under the direction of a teacher or other specialist. General classroom support and behaviour management are also key responsibilities of many teacher aides in Australia.
However, teacher aides are typically not qualified or employed to teach as such, but interact with students under the direct or indirect supervision of a qualified teacher. And although they may have relationships with families as part of a school community, they should not discuss a student’s behaviour or educational progress with parents — only teachers should do this.
What Are Some Of Their Duties?
- Demonstrating, supervising and participating in activities which enhance the physical, emotional, intellectual and social development of children in educational environments, including schools and preschools.
- Supporting teachers with administration tasks, including preparing teaching resources and materials, photocopying and filing lesson material and distributing and collecting students’ work.
- Preparing indoor and outdoor areas for learning and recreational activities.
- Supporting behaviour management by implementing techniques like proximity and rapport building.
- Organising and maintain learning and teaching resources, as well as ordering the appropriate equipment as required.
- Assisting children with intellectual, physical and behavioural difficulties with their academic studies.
- Assisting children individually to learn social skills.
- Attending staff meetings and parent-teacher interviews as required.
What Does a Typical Day Look Like?
In a typical classroom, the teacher aide will circulate from group to group or work one-on-one with a particular student. They are not expected to teach the whole class — that is the role of the classroom teacher. They may however teach groups, particularly after several years’ experience and demonstrating competence at implementing strategies.
In many classes, the teacher will direct the teacher aide each day or lesson, such as asking them to target certain students who have been identified as needing additional support. This happens with students with high needs and is commonly found with students with physical disabilities and Autism (ASD).
More competent and well-trained teacher aides may be asked to “run” a program of their own in a separate room such as a numeracy or literacy program, which is typically a targeted remedial or intervention program. However, they are generally not required to plan or develop teaching and learning programs.
Are There Different Types of Teacher Aides?
There are different types of teacher aides, and each will undertake different roles and have different responsibilities. A big factor that often determines what a teacher aide will do from one day to the next is the needs and instructions from a classroom teacher who has a responsibility to direct the support staff in their classroom. Common types of teacher aides include:
A general all-rounder, who is often employed to assist a student with special needs but will circulate around the room depending on those needs.
Special Need’s Assistant
Works in an inclusive classroom with one or more students with disabilities or in a special needs school.
Aboriginal & Indigenous Education Officer
Works mainly with students of Aboriginal and Indigenous descent
Do Teacher Aides Need Qualifications?
You don’t need a formal qualification to gain employment as a teacher aide in Queensland state schools. Once employed you may be eligible to be paid at a higher level if you possess a relevant qualification. However, those who work in an educational setting with children are required to hold a Blue Card and to undergo a Working with Children Check.
Who Do Teacher Aides Report To?
Depending on the size and structure of the organisation, your line manager could be a Principle, Deputy Principal, one or more teacher or the Business Services Manager.
What Are the Employment Conditions?
The conditions of a teacher aide’s employment are derived from the current, relevant certified agreement that is typically determined by each Australian state’s Department of Education. You can view Queensland’s Teacher Aides’ Certified Agreement 2018 here.
Why is Professional Development For Teacher Aides Important?
Students’ learning is constantly in flux and as things like technologies, circumstances and societies change, so do students’ educational needs. New curriculums also open up gaps in a teacher aide’s capabilities to meet new needs. Targeted professional development for teacher aides bridges these gaps and is an important component of an educator’s learning journey. It builds skills, qualities and knowledge, and leads to improved teaching and better student outcomes.
Characteristics of Effective Professional Development
Research shows that professional development with the following characteristics can have the biggest (and most positive) impacts on student outcomes:
- Professional development acquires relevance when it is grounded in practice and aligned with specific goals. It should be challenging, explicit and realistic, and matched to individual, school-wide or system goals. When it’s clearly understood, it initiates and sustains changes to practice. It also encourages action and enquiry related to real challenges that are relevant to different cultural, geographical and socio-economic contexts.
- The benefits of professional development are magnified if it connects teacher aides with external experts and to their colleagues within and across schools. For it to be most effective, it should actively involve everyone in its design, participation and evaluation. It should also facilitate support through observation and feedback through mentoring and coaching.
- Practice-based. When professional development for teacher aides focuses on student learning and teaching practice, it can lead to sustained, positive and significant impacts on student outcomes.
- Future-focused. If it is focused on the future, it builds a teacher aide’s capacity to adapt to the changes that arise in our rapidly changing world. From innovative techniques, emerging technologies and new learning models, exposure to new developments in pedagogy can help teacher aides deal with the challenges that changes pose. It also encourages adaptability and innovation and helps them to understand what new pedagogies mean, and how to apply and use them.
- Effective professional development challenges a teacher aide’s existing understanding of learning and teaching. It involves negotiating the meaning of new and challenging learning, and then supports its integration into practice.
- Professional development needs to have focused and sustained implementation. This enables teacher aides to model and nurture learning and access resources to support and evaluate its impact.
Professional development for teacher aides can also enhance and expand your career further, including allowing you to:
Work with different age groups
Work with special needs children
This includes providing educational support to children with specific numeracy, reading, writing and oral language skills, those with special needs or learning difficulties or those with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).
Work with children of different backgrounds
Australia is a multicultural nation, and professional development can assist teacher aides with supporting, contributing and coordinating educational opportunities for children from different backgrounds, including indigenous students.
Expand your skill set
This includes assisting with school administration tasks like organising and managing a school administration department, understanding school policy and procedures, and collecting and recording information to meet organisational and legislative obligations.
Enhance your learning
Professional development can also enhance a teacher aide’s scope of knowledge, including how to design and develop learning programs, nurture children’s creativity, and help children self-regulate their behaviour in a safe and supportive environment.
For many years, professional development for teacher aides was carried out face-to-face in the workplace through activities provided or required by employers. This often formed part of the activities of a range of associations and/or professional bodies and in some cases through further, individual study or qualifications. These days, and with the scope and continual advancement of technology, further study can be undertaken from almost anywhere! Including online with our wide range of Education and Teaching courses!