Synergy in Learning, Teachers and Student Support Assistants Working Together to Promote Learner Metacognition in Post-Compulsory Education


Observations of teaching found Student Support Assistants (SSAs) were frequently ineffectively utilised in supporting learners’ progress, with working partnerships between teachers and SSAs tenuous. This relates to previous research (Sharples et al, 2015a, 2015b; Sanders, 2017a, 2017b) which also indicated that learning support was often ineffectually used in class sessions. Learning support frequently focused on task completion rather than encouraging learner autonomy. Our project promoted effective partnerships between teachers, SSAs and learners through implementing strategies to develop learners’ self-assessment and thinking skills, effectively encouraging and deepening their learning. A team of 16 teachers and SSAs from different subject areas held initial meetings to establish working relationships and agree stages for the project. The team was introduced to the action research approach, enabling them to become more research literate. This collaborative project used systematic practitioner research to critically examine the current situation and make changes based on the evidence which arose. It brought together practitioners from various levels within the setting, giving each member a space in which to express their opinions, take action and engage with the activities which arose. Initial background research considered the key findings from the Education Endowment Fund (EEF) Report (Sharples et al, 2015a). These were used to consider and challenge our practice and plan the research. Following extensive discussion, the team developed a Working Practice Guide and designed resources to support student learning. Time was additionally available for staff to plan strategies together prior to their implementation in sessions. These activities, including concept diagrams, learner review tickets and use of thinking prompts, enhanced learners’ self-assessment during lessons with the teachers and SSAs. It provided the opportunity for learners to discuss and resolve areas of difficulty. The effectiveness of the strategies implemented in class were additionally reflected upon by staff and learners. Regular meetings enabled evaluation of the strategies and future planning. Using the strategies, combined with meeting regularly, promoted teacher, SSA, and learner confidence with SSAs becoming enablers of learning and partners in the learning process.


action research, feedback, formative assessment, mind maps, learning review, learning support, mindsets, synergy, metacognitive, student support assisstants

How to Cite

McPartland, C., (2018) “Synergy in Learning, Teachers and Student Support Assistants Working Together to Promote Learner Metacognition in Post-Compulsory Education”, Teaching in Lifelong Learning 8(2). doi:


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Catherine McPartland (Cleveland and Redcar College)





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