Teacher aides work under the direction of a teacher to support students' learning and development by applying teaching and learning strategies particularly to students with learning needs, disabilities, or disorders. They also assist the classroom teacher with the monitoring and management of student behaviour as well as undertake logistical tasks to ensure the efficient operation of the classroom or centre.
If you ahve searched 'what do teacher aides do' this is the article for you. Teacher aides work in the classroom environment under the supervision of the classroom teacher. They support students by implementing a range of teaching and learning strategies such as one-on-one instruction, co-operative learning, scaffolding, modelling and worked examples. They support the teacher by assisting with behaviour management as well as the general day to day operations or logistical needs of the classroom.
Teacher aides spend most of their time supporting students in one-on-one or small group activities. They predominantly work with students with special needs which includes students with neurological and learning disorders, physical disabilities, and behavioural disorders. Many teacher aides work in special needs schools. Approximately 30% of school staff are teacher aides according to government reports.
There are four key roles and responsibilities of all teacher aides in Australia:
In a typical classroom, the teacher aide will circulate from group to group or work one-on-one with a particular student. He or she is not expected to teach the whole class as that is the role of the classroom teacher. They may however teach large groups especially after several years' experience and demonstrated competence at implementing strategies such as scaffolding and worked examples. In many classes the teacher will direct the teacher aide each day or lesson, such as asking the teacher aide to target certain students who have been identified as needing additional support.
In other cases the teacher aide will work closely (80-90% of their time) with a single student who has been assigned a permanent TA. This happens with students with high needs and is commonly found with students with physical disabilities and Autism (ASD). Teacher aides are however used for a variety of purposes and is somewhat determined by need and the ability of the TA themselves: more competent and well-trained teacher aides may be asked to 'run' a program of their own in a separate room such as a literacy or numeracy program (a targeted intervention or remedial program). While some TAs develop resources particularly if they work in special needs, very rarely are they required to plan or develop teaching and learning programs.
According to the Victorian government teacher aides do the following:
A well-trained and qualified teacher aide will implement a range of teaching and learning strategies such as those listed below. It should be noted that these are examples of the types of teaching strategies that FTTA teach in the CHC30213 Certificate III in Education Support and the CHC40213 Certificate IV in Education Support. Other providers may not teach these strategies.
What do teacher aides do?
|1||Explicit instruction||21||Rapport building|
|2||Metacognitive skills||22||Bloom’s taxonomy|
|3||Questioning techniques||23||The Zone of Proximal D.|
|4||Feedback techniques||24||Cognitive load theory|
|5||Formative assessment||25||Coping strategies|
|6||Worked examples||26||Graphic organisers|
|7||Think alouds||27||Play-based learning|
|8||Modelling||28||Phonics and whole word|
|13||Intervention strategies||33||Writing to learn|
|14||Technology learning||34||Critical literacy|
|15||Assistive technology||35||Language strategies|
|16||Mastery learning||36||Social stories|
|17||One-on-one instruction||37||Pair and group work|
|18||Motivational strategies||38||Teaching to learn|
|19||Cooperative learning||39||Number sense|
|20||Goal setting||40||Mental scripting|
Have you been wondering 'what do teacher aides do'? There is a lot of variation so an 'accurate' answer is very hard to give. In a typical day a teacher aide will spend most of their time working one-on-one with students who need additional support. This may mean working with a single student for most of the day, or circulating in a classroom as directed by the teacher in order to assist multiple students on an as-needed basis. Teacher aides may also develop resources and undertake logistical and operational tasks such as cleaning, setting up and storing equipment.
We get asked this question all the time: What do teacher aides do in a typical day? The problem is that there are so many different roles and tasks that it is impossible to narrow down exactly what teacher aides do in a way that accurately reflects the varied roles that teacher aides fill. However, a ‘typical’ day may involve some of the following tasks:
According to the Queensland Department of Education, teacher aides do the following:
Before we go any further let us quickly look at what some recent studies have said about the roles and responsibilities of teacher aides in Australia, New Zealand and around the world:
A study in 2015, in Queensland Australia, found that teacher aides spend most of their time supporting students one-on-one or in small groups, as well as a limited amount of non-instructional work.
A New Zealand study concluded that they play a pivotal role in providing support for students with disabilities in a classroom setting and ensure educational presence, participation and achievement.
A 2015 study published in The Australian Association for Research in Education, stated that teacher aides work ‘with students one on one or in small groups to try to improve their academic outcomes, especially in the core subjects like reading and mathematics.’
A 2018 study conducted in the ACT, stated that teacher aides are primarily used to support students with disabilities:
“TAs are now employed to provide learning support in classrooms to enable students with disability and learning difficulties to access learning in mainstream schools…students with disability and learning difficulties are defined as students who receive additional resources to enable them to access classroom support, usually provided by a teacher aide.”
A study from 2011 explained that “TAs have inadvertently become the ‘primary mechanism’ enabling students with disability and learning difficulties to attend mainstream schools…”
Howard and Ford (2007), concluded that teacher aide support students with more complex tasks such as ‘supporting students with disability and learning difficulties were responsible for planning, producing and adapting materials for one-on-one or small-group activities.’
There are a few different types of teacher aides such as those in the table below. Each will undertake different roles and have slightly 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 classroom teacher who has responsibility to direct the support staff in their classroom.
Depends on the state (Education Assistant in WA, SSO in SA etc.)
The general all-rounder, often employed to assist a student with special needs but will circulate around the room depending on need.
Special need’s assistant
Special needs EA, special needs teacher’s assistant, LSO(NSW), integration aide(Vic.)
Working in an inclusive classroom with one or more students with disabilities or a special needs school.
Aboriginal & Indigenous Education Officer
Works mainly with students of Aboriginal and Indigenous descent.
Home economics assistant
Works in the home economics (kitchen) helping students and teachers with cooking lessons, stock-take etc.
Given the diversity found in schools, classrooms, teachers, subjects and activities, a normal day for a teacher aide will vary from school to school. If you ask 2 teacher aides 'what do teacher aides do' you will probably get 2 very different answers. A typical day may look like the following:
|830||Students arrive||Greet students and parents, prep for day|
|845||News||Assist the teacher to set up the first activity:
|900||Spelling||Assist students with weekly spelling words:
|945||Writing||Assist students with literacy activities:
|1030||Recess||Recess duty (weekly roster). Supervise students:
|1050||Numeracy||Assist students with numeracy activities directed by the teacher:
|1150||Sports||Assist the sports teacher with:
|1240||Lunch||Rotational roster – supervising an area under teacher direction|
|130||Art||Works in the home economics (kitchen) helping students and teachers with cooking lessons, stock-take etc.
|230||Home Time||Assist as directed (cleaning, organising, other). Often required to remain at school until a certain time.|
In the past teacher aides were largely employed to support the teacher almost like a personal assistant. When teacher aides were first employed in the 60s and 70s, they were mainly used to reduce the work load of the teacher and did most of the mundane work (such as filing records before there was wide spread use of computers). Teachers did all the face to face teaching without help from the TA. If you ask many older people 'what do teacher aides do' they may immediately picture this old-fashioned image of a teacher aide.
In those days teachers spent almost all of their class time lecturing from the front of the room and there were no special needs students in the class who required individualised support. Now, students with special needs can choose to attend a mainstream class if they and their parents wish to do so. Additionally, teachers now employ a range of teaching strategies that mean working from the front of the room less and less (they want more one-on-one time where possible and the ability to circulate to provide targeted support); students engage in more cooperative learning and independent learning tasks such as pair and group work, discovery learning and play based learning.
Nowadays, teacher aides are almost always utilised to support students' learning and development such as reading, writing, general knowledge and so forth. They may also help with preparation and the general management of the classroom. They do no more admin work (and possibly less) than the classroom teacher. Of course, this all depends on the teacher and their needs and decisions – There are no hard and fast rules. In other words, if you asked a teacher aide from today 'what do teacher aides do' and the same questions to a teacher aide from 20 years ago, the answer will vary considerably.
Important note: ALL school staff do admin work of some type – even the gardener!
Education in Australia is compulsory until a certain age depending on the state. Some states require attendance until at least the year in which the child turns 17 (through formal schooling or a combination of training and employment). Compulsory school education in Australia generally begins with preschool. Students then enrol in primary school (grade k-6), followed by secondary school (or high school, grade 7-10) and senior secondary school (or college, grade 11 and 12). There are various versions of this system in each state, territory or region.
Schools in Australia are either government or non-government. Non-government schools include private schools, faith-based schools and alternative schools such as Montessori. All schools in Australia are predominantly publicly funded by the federal government.
The details below may differ depending on your location. Information has been generalised in many cases.
Often shortened to Kindy and generally undertaken around the age of 4 for 12 months. Kindergarten is not compulsory however it is very common for parents to enrol their children in kindy when they are old enough. Kindy programs are not always operated by schools and many childcare services offer kindy programs. The purpose of kindy is to:
Pre-primary is the first year of formal schooling and starts at around 5 years of age. Pre-primary is full time and is compulsory in some states such as Western Australia. You can think of pre-primary as half-way between kindy and primary school. Pre-primary is operated and delivered by early childhood teachers employed by a primary school.
Primary school begins after pre-primary and runs from year 1 until year 6 or 7. This is the first stage of compulsory schooling in Australia.
High school, also known as secondary school or college, covers the years 7-12.
Students with learning difficulties or disabilities have an equal opportunity to an education under law. Generally speaking, parents can choose:
Teacher aides are not required to work on school holidays. Holidays are generally for 2 weeks during the year (end of term 1, 2 and 3) and for approximately 6 weeks over summer. Some states may use a three-term system - in which case summer holidays are a little longer. The simple answer to the question 'what do teacher aides do during holidays' is nothing (nothing related to school anyway). They may create a few resources (often without being asked by the teacher) but generally speaking there is no requirement for teacher aides to do anything on the holidays.
While not required, some teacher aides do however do a range of task during school holidays (from home), such as preparing resources and attending PDs (professional development).
You can learn more about teacher aide pay, allowances, and benefits by reading this article: How much do teacher aides get paid?
Some teacher aides do what is known as ‘duty’ – some do not. Duty is usually rostered and is undertaken in pairs and in specific sections of the school. For example you may be rostered for recess duty once a week.
If you have just applied for a teacher aide position or are lucky enough to already be employed in a school, and you want to know what you are expected to do in that role, check your JDF or Job Description Form. The JDF will generally be set out in a way that clearly states what you will be expected to do. For example, if the role is a home economics assistant position, it will say things like:
You can read more about the roles and responsibilities of teacher aides by going to the department of education in your state or territory such as by clicking here for those who live in Queensland, here for those who live in NSW, and here for those who live in WA.
Roles and responsibilities for teacher aides are also set out in the relevant agreement in your state or territory. These can be accessed in the following article: How much are teacher aides paid?
One of the biggest issues with teacher aides’ positions, training teacher aides (something that we have done for more than a decade) is the issue of role stretch. This has been studied extensively (by academics) and is a known problem. Role stretch means that the position is very loosely described and may change over time – the number of tasks and responsibilities keeps stretching.
One reason for this is because teacher aides are employed by schools from money received from the government for a student with a disability or students from disadvantaged groups. However, the school can use the teacher aide almost in any way that they see fit (not necessarily with the students where the money comes from).
Teacher aides can be used to assist teachers who are struggling with behaviour management, with classes that have many challenging students such as groups who are significantly behind their peers academically, or for a range of other tasks depending on the programs that the school runs and where school managers think your time is best spent.
In other words – teacher aides need to be flexible, adaptable, and open to change.
Have you got a passion for food? Are you a foodie? Do you enjoy cooking and working with children during family friendly work hours? If this is you, you may enjoy working as a home economics assistant/aide. Home economics assistants support home economics teachers in a range of tasks mainly related to home economics subjects such as Food Technology, which is a compulsory elective in most year 7-10 grades.
Students learn to prepare, cook and store food. Schools, both public and private, normally have a block of classrooms designated for home economics including kitchens with work benches for classes of students, storerooms and cleaning facilities. Some schools can have up to 10 kitchen type classrooms. You may also work in textile and fashion classes. As a Home Economics Assistant, you may be required to:
Teacher aides can sometimes be employed in schools as library assistants. Do you enjoy reading? Have you got a passion for history and culture? Do you like helping children and working in a team environment that is challenging, dynamic and interesting? This course is designed for teacher assistants seeking employment in a school library as part of their roster. Library assistants in schools are often qualified teacher aides.
Library assistants support school teachers and librarians with a range of tasks such as managing library services, assisting students with research, locating books and magazines, ensuring texts are returned and stored, purchasing new texts, managing bookings, light cleaning and general administration and support duties. Library assistants work in schools and other locations such as public libraries or corporate environments. Library assistants complete a range of tasks including:
Teacher aides are often employed as admin assistants either for part of their roster or solely as admin assistants.
Are you the type of person that is organised, ticks off to-do lists, are people friendly and are confident in working with computer programs such as Microsoft Office Word and Excel? Almost all schools, with the exception of very small school in regional areas, have at least one or more office administrators. Most schools have 5 or more admin staff who conduct a range of tasks, to assist principals, teachers, parents and students in administration activities. You will spend considerable time entering data, sending emails, answering phone calls, processing enrolments, storing and retrieving data and a range of other tasks in the school office. Admin staff undertake the following tasks:
Teacher aides take on a range of tasks depending on the needs of the school. Many teacher aides work with special needs. Some work in home economics, others work in the library, while others may work in mainstream classrooms; some even run their own programs under the direction of a teacher or other specialist. Regardless of where you end up working or what you end up doing, all teacher aides implement teaching strategies such as one-on-one instruction, explicit teaching, and formative assessment. Behaviour management and general classroom support are also key responsibilities of most teacher aides in Australia.
Adam Green is an advisor to government, a former teacher, an instructional designer and an author. He is completing a Doctor of Education and was previously head of department for one of the country’s largest SAER (students at educational risk) schools. Adam is managing director of Fast Track Training Australia, an accredited training provider for thousands of teacher aides every year.
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With more than 4000 graduates, FTTA is the go-to provider for teacher's aide courses. 1 in 2 students choose to study the CHC40213 Certificate IV in Education Support with FTTA.
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