Developing specialist expertise : an unanticipated learning trajectory
This paper is a narrative of two dimensions of professional learning: a personal one following the development of the author's own understanding of professional learning and its impact on practice explored through her research into support staff in schools. It draws on three research projects which examined the role and work of teaching assistants (TAs) over a period of 16 years. It uses the changing nature of the role to reflect on the impact of training both on the TAs themselves and on pupil learning. As the role has developed from that of classroom assistant to higher level teaching assistant, so the focus of skills and knowledge has shifted to give them a strong and real personal and professional confidence in their work. It concludes that their unique personal and professional development paths have enabled them to maintain a real focus on learning whether working with whole classes or groups. This work has also given further insight into the personal and professional nature of impact and its complexity through which the author's own professional learning has been uncovered.