Research and Development in SEN – The Wider Workforce – TTV

What the resource is
The resource is a summary of three TDA funded research award projects that each aim to investigate the role of the wider school workforce. The programme provides an overview of each project selected including extracts from the particular aspects of the projects during the research phase.


The first project 'Growing Talent for Inclusion' outlines research undertaken by a senior lecturer in education, Mary Doveston, an educational psychologist, Marian Keenaghan with a SENCO, Karen Jeffs and a classroom teacher, a Mr Addison. The project takes an action research approach demonstrating how research into positive whole class approaches to behaviour can be organised in a busy and demanding primary classroom environment. Success is reported by the classroom teacher but a closer look at the project report will be needed by those interested in locating causal connections.


The second project, led by Linda Fursland in the west country, outlines the research a senior lecturer is undertaking, demonstrating how gathering and analysing data about the role of Teaching Assistants and other Support Staff based within schools can be used to refine a framework to help trainee and student teachers to understand these roles. The use of video interviews is also illustrated in this project's methodology.  Linda reports a 44% increase in support workers based in schools over the last few years so that there is a need for teacher training and education to engage with the issues of effective working in this new context. She asked a sample of school support workers to fill diaries for about five days.  The analysis produced a grid of categories of work which were then used in video interviews with 15 support workers. She then considered their role in relation to themes including  behaviour for learning and assessment. The videos will be edited to produce a resource of short excepts for new teachers to gain an understanding of the different support roles and their related expectations. 


The third research project lead by Jacek Brant of the University of London, Institution of Education analyses how trainee teachers can gain a better understanding of the role of teaching assistants by taking on the role during their placements. A participant in the study reported on how important she found communication with the teacher to be. Sharing aspects of evaluation were also found to be a factor in effective working between the class teacher and teaching assistant. Jacek states that the project has demonstrated to trainees how important this partnership is in a way that they cannot overlook. The trainees also gained a deeper understanding of special educational needs from being actively involved in this research project. A process that was highlighted in the Elton Report of 1989 and termed 'pupilage'. 


The programme is part of a series of that aims to share the practice of those involved in research that supports trainee teachers develop knowledge of inclusion and SEN support.




The aims of the resource
The programme aims to show how research can inform classroom practice and give practical examples of how such research could be undertaken.

In addition the three research projects all aim to demonstrate how the education workforce has changed in recent years and how research into this wider school workforce can lead to a better understanding by trainee teachers of the role that these additional professionals can play in the education of children.


Key findings or focus
The programme shows the importance of linking research and classroom practice. It illustrates that education is constantly changing and that research is needed to ensure that the changes are understood and that findings are used to inform future practice in the classroom.

In addition,  the details of the  latter two projects demonstrate that a better understanding by teachers and trainee teachers of the roles of those in the wider workforce is essential  in enabling effective support for the children they teach.


The quality, authority and credibility of the resource
The programme itself illustrates the importance of research in developing good inclusive practice in schools and also highlights some other good examples of inclusive practice that could be applied to other settings.

A whole class project is illustrated that demonstrates how considering the group dynamics of the whole class benefits all the children but particularly meets the needs of the children with social and emotional needs without these children being singled out and identified as having differing needs. it could be argued, that a class or teacher is being identified instead. From an Initial Teacher Education perspective,  it exemplifes the argument that inclusive teaching is not something that is different or discrete and should only be considered when children in a class have an identified need, but is something that should be developed to the benefit of all children.


The implications for ITE tutors/mentors
The programme can be useful on a number of levels to those involved in teacher education.

The programme would be useful to those teacher educators who are new to research and who would benefit from seeing how educational research projects can be undertaken on a very practical level. It could therefore be useful during the induction of new education tutors.

Teacher educators preparing undergraduate trainee teachers to undertake a small research project would also find the programme very useful as the research is thoroughly explained in a way that is accessible to new researchers. The projects detailed could be used as discussion points in seminar groups when research projects are at the design phase. Post- graduate students who have experience of research in their own discipline would also find it useful to see how the research skills they have already used in their first degree could be applied in an educational context. Thus, the programme would be useful in the term before small scale research studies are commenced when trainees are beginning to consider research methodology and are beginning to formulate ideas for their own research.

The programme itself would not be comprehensive enough to inform the planning of teacher education modules and courses designed to develop trainees' detailed knowledge of the needs of children with identified special educational needs, however, the conclusions of the research projects and the materials produced by the researchers would support this.  Initial Teacher Education tutors would therefore need to download the additional resources that support the programme and also consult the individual reports of the research (currently being published on the TTRB) to gain the detailed conclusions and resources produced as a result of the research.

A further use of the programme would be in supporting education tutors in demonstrating how research and reflection can inform practice.  Trainee teachers sometimes find it difficult to see the link between education research and classroom practice and having a resource that that shows this link explicitly would enable trainees to see the relevance of research to their own professional development.


The relevance to ITE students
Undergraduate trainees embarking on their first small scale research project would find the examples of educational research very valuable. In addition one of the projects has the draft of the research report available as a downloadable resource, thus enabling the trainees to see how the practical research work translates into a research paper.

Alongside using the programme as a starting point in developing a small scale research project, trainees would also be able to use the programme to learn about how the wider school workforce can support and help them in their practice.

Classroom strategies for the promotion of good classroom relationships using principles developed by an educational psychologist are illustrated and some downloadable material is available should trainees wish to use this approach in their own practice.

Increasingly trainees work alongside teaching assistants and the program illustrates clearly the importance of trainees gaining detailed knowledge of the role of support staff. The need for good communication between class teachers and teaching assistants is reflected upon, giving starting points for discussion of how effective relationships between trainee teachers and classroom support assistants can be developed.


Reviewed by:

Marion Hobbs



Brant, J. Burgess, L. and Branford, V. (2009 ) How might Acting as TAs help trainees develop their understanding of pupils' learning needs? London, Institute of Education


Research methodology, wider school workforce, teaching assistants, inclusion