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Meet the presenter

Hi, I’m Etta. I’m one of the people who got teacher aide support at school.
M4 10 Narrator Etta Bollinger

M10 Supporting student learning in the whole class

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Supporting student learning with a lesson

Why this module?

In inclusive classrooms, students learn in a range of ways – from (and with) each other, teachers and teacher aides, as well as independently. Even so, all students in a class need access to the teacher. When a student is struggling in their learning, extra time and support from the teacher becomes even more important. And yet, it is common in many schools for teacher aides to work with those students who need extra help. Recent research has shown that this is not the best use of the valuable support that a teacher aide can provide. More time with a teacher aide does not always lead to improved learning and in some cases learning can go backwards.

Having a teacher aide (or aides) in the classroom is an excellent way of freeing up the teacher to work with all students. But an extra pair of hands is only part of it. Teacher aides are most effective when they supplement high-quality teaching. This module covers ways of working within a lesson that support and encourage teacher aides to be effective contributors to learning, adding value to the whole class learning environment.

Share the plan for the lesson with the teacher aide

Teacher aides are most effective when they are adding to the teacher’s plan for the class; not replacing it. But teacher aides can only be expected to supplement a teacher’s plan for a lesson if they know what the plan is. This doesn’t always require a meeting. If time is short, share the following information in a brief discussion before the lesson:

  • what students will be learning
  • the tasks students will be doing and what success will look like
  • how the lesson will be structured (for example, whole class teaching followed by some small group work)
  • what the teacher aide needs to watch, listen for and do in the lesson (for example, things students might say or do if they get stuck in the lesson, any students who may need some extra help to stay focused on the task).

Supporting teacher aide learning through modelling

Teacher aides are not teachers – they can’t be expected to know how to facilitate learning in every classroom situation without some guidance. Teacher modelling is an important way to provide this guidance. By modelling effective teaching, teachers can develop teacher aides’ knowledge and understanding of a task and how to encourage student learning.

Two ways that teachers can model effective teaching for teacher aides within a lesson are summarised below. Both of these approaches to modelling are time-efficient ways to enhance teacher aide knowledge and skills. Regardless of how and when the modelling takes place, it is vital for the teacher aide to know what is being modelled to them and why.

Whole class or group teaching sessions Demonstrate a specific strategy

When the teacher teaches, the students don’t need to be the only ones learning. This is also an important time for the teacher aide to be actively involved and learning about:

  • the content that students are learning
  • the task
  • how to recognise whether students are succeeding in the task or getting stuck.

Tips for teachers:

  • Be explicit about the intent of the lesson — this helps students and the teacher aide.
  • During the teaching session, draw the teacher aide’s attention to what success looks like.

Tips for teacher aides:

  • Sit alongside the students during the teaching session and act as if you are a learner too.
  • Listen carefully to how the teacher explains the task, what the students are saying and what the teacher says and does in response to students.

If it is necessary for a teacher aide to use a particular strategy within a lesson, it’s best for the teacher to model it first. Show the teacher aide the type of interactions to use with students. This can be done in the teaching session or when a teacher aide observes the teacher working with a student or small group. After observing, the teacher aide can take over from the teacher or use the strategy with other students.

Tips for teachers:

  • Be explicit about the strategy you are using and why it helps.
  • Draw the teacher aide’s attention to what it looks and sounds like when you are helping the student’s learning.

Tips for teacher aides:

  • Use the same kinds of words and actions that you saw the teacher use.
  • After you have used the strategy, ask the student and the teacher for feedback.

Working together in the lesson

Setting up the class to work in small groups or independently gives teachers opportunities to work with a student or small group who may need extra help. Teacher aides are a critical resource to make this happen – they can be working with the rest of the class on the task the teacher has set and making sure learning is happening. But what does 'working with the rest of the class' look like? Generally, this does not involve working directly with one student or group for a long period. Instead, observe the students as they work and move around the room and only provide support when a student or group needs it.

Scan, rove, listen in and support attention

The way to know which students need help and the kind of help they require is by scanning, roving, listening in and supporting attention. This set of strategies is critical to supporting students in their learning.

What: How: Try this:


Stand or sit where you can see everyone working; observe the students at their task.

Look carefully at each student and group to gauge whether they are actively involved in the task.


Move between students and groups to take a closer look at the students and their work.

Walk around the learning space and spend some time listening to and looking at each groups or student's work.

Listening in

Spend time listening to what students are saying as they are working.

Join a group or pair and listen carefully to their conversation about the work. Avoid interrupting.

Supporting attention

Ask simple questions that help students to understand what is required of them and remain engaged in the task.

If you notice students who are off task, try saying:
“Show me where you are up to.”
“Show me what you’ve done so far.”
“Can you tell me what the next step is?”
“What did [teacher’s name] say the first thing was to do?”

Supporting all students in the classroom

Teacher aides who are accustomed to working intensively with one or a few students may find this a different way to work in the classroom and it may feel strange at first. Some teacher aides feel like they are not doing much or enough when roving, scanning, listening and supporting attention. But this is not the case. By standing back, observing who needs help and only providing support when students most need it, teacher aides are making an important contribution to students’ independent learning skills.