Effective use of Education Assistants

Since the very earliest times of large scale inclusion of students with disability in the mainstream classroom, ‘teacher aides’ or ‘education assistants’ have been seen as an essential support mechanism by both parents and teachers.  Clearly, to have an additional adult to assist in managing the class would appear to have significant benefits for both the student with a disability and the teacher.  Unfortunately this is not always the case.  in a major study in the UK covering thousands of students it was found that attaching an educational assistant directly to a student with a disability produced a worse outcome, academically and socially, than no educational assistant at all. Similar finding have been found in studies in the United States.  

Analysis of the reasons for this include the student receiving most of their education from the least qualified person (the education assistant); withdrawals for 1-1 teaching were damaging to academic results and student self esteem; the proximity of an educational assistant had the effect of keeping other students away and the student was not perceived as a full class member by the other students.

However extensive research has shown how education assistants can be very powerful at assisting students with disability to thrive academically and socially.  Workshops can be provided for teachers and education assistants either separately or in combination.