Teaching assistants’ influence on the peer relationships of pupils with SEND: A grounded theory study from the perspective of teaching assistants

Highton, Sean S (2017) Teaching assistants’ influence on the peer relationships of pupils with SEND: A grounded theory study from the perspective of teaching assistants. Professional Doctorate thesis, Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust / University of Essex. Full text available

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Abstract/Book Review

This study investigates the influence of teaching assistants (TAs) on the peer relationships of pupils with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) in mainstream schools. Peer relationships are central to development. Whilst there is an increasing body of research into TAs’ contribution to academic outcomes, there are comparatively few studies into their social impact. The majority of studies investigating the impact of TAs on the peer relationships of pupils with SEND highlight concerns that TAs deployed in a one-to-one role inadvertently hinder pupil relationships. This study sought to explore and explain the strategies used by TAs and the underlying contextual factors which facilitate or constrain the development of positive peer relationships for pupils with SEND. The purpose of the research was to identify, from the perspective of TAs, ‘what works, for whom, in what contexts and with what outcomes’. Qualitative data from interviews with six TAs working in primary schools was analysed using a critical realist position and grounded theory methodology (Corbin & Strauss, 2015). The results propose that TAs use ‘manager’ and ‘coach’ strategies to influence pupil peer relationships, via the core category of ‘social agency’. The ‘manager’ enabled short-term reductions in pupils’ level of social ‘risk’, problems and isolation, but constrained the development of social skills and increased dependency in the longer-term. The ‘coach’ encouraged pupils to take controlled, short-term risks, but facilitated their reflective thinking, social skills and independence. Three causal factors influenced TAs’ use these strategies; the level of social need of pupils, TAs’ values, knowledge, skills and integrated experience and the school context. The concept of ‘social agency’, applied to both TAs and pupils, explains the properties of, and relationships between the above components. The theory has implications for the practice of TAs and educational professionals and provides a basis for future research.

Item Type: Thesis (Professional Doctorate)
Additional Information: Thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of the Professional Doctorate in Child, Community and Educational Psychology awarded by the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust in association with the University of Essex
Uncontrolled Keywords: Professional Doctorate in Child, Community and Educational Psychology, M4, Edpsych Updates Edpsych Updates
Subjects: Groups & Organisations > Occupational Groups
Learning & Education > Educational Psychology
Learning & Education > Special Needs Education
Research, Tests, Assessments > Grounded Theory
Department/People: Children, Young Adult and Family Services
Depositing User: Ms Linda Dolben
Date Deposited: 01 Oct 2018 08:26
Last Modified: 01 Oct 2018 08:26
URI: http://repository.tavistockandportman.ac.uk/id/eprint/1752

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