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Teacher Assistants are employed in a variety of roles in schools to support the inclusion of students with special needs. Little research is available to indicate the efficacy and / or long-term benefits of Special Needs Teacher Assistants in building effective inclusive classrooms. Additionally, there is a lack of clear definition for the role of Special Needs Teacher Assistants in the learning process of students, within the context of both primary and secondary school classrooms. This has contributed to considerable role ambiguity for some leading to a detrimental ‘hoverers or hinderers’ stance sometimes observed during classroom practice. Throughout 2002 and 2003, the Australian Catholic University (ACT), the Catholic Education Office (Archdiocese of Canberra and Goulburn) and Special Needs Teacher Assistants have worked collaboratively to develop a university-accredited Professional Development Certificate Program to address these needs. The program aims to support the professional learning needs of the Special Needs Teacher Assistants within the context of their school environments, through the development of a range of skills and understandings relevant to the enhancement and promotion of more effective and inclusive classrooms. The program commenced in March 2003. 2 This paper provides an overview of the collaborative processes undertaken in the development of the program’s structure and curriculum, and in the implementation of the teaching and learning segments of the four modules that comprise the program. Progress to date, including the achievement of program outcomes, assessment strategies, and the value of the program in assisting Special Needs Teacher Assistants to address current issues related to their specific work environments, is considered within an evaluative framework. Some tentative conclusions are drawn regarding the long-term role development of Special Needs Teacher Assistants relative to classroom teacher responsibilities, the effectiveness of the program in effecting change within the classroom, and the success of the program in establishing a dynamic community of learners focused on interdependent, long-term learning that is more able to respond to changing education priorities and needs for the betterment of all concerned.


School of Education

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Open Access Conference Paper

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Open Access