Ownership is Engaging – A Teaching Assistant Training Case Study using ClassDojo

There is no more valuable currency to invest in people than time. There might be a justifiable hierarchy as to who should receive your biggest investment in a school community. Perhaps the only justification is that our pupils, children, should be at the top of each of ours. However in schools, it is common that the hierarchy is less about who gets what amount but more who gets some of our time and who doesn’t.

For a school to be a true community, time should be invested in every member group. The time might have different looks. It could be time spent to teach, inform, discuss or even learn from. The latter being particularly empowering.

My term, Digital Enrichment, is all encompassing across all of my fellow community members and membership groups. My title, Digital Enrichment Leader, dictates that I invest some time in each of these groups. This reflection is about the start of my time investment into my fellow community member group, our Teaching Assistants.

Amongst the schools I visit, Teachers receive lots of training, some regarding technology and digital concepts, though TA seldom receive any. With both groups spending equal amounts of time to try and make learning opportunities as engaging, enjoyable and challenging as possible, should they not receive at least some?

At Highover, TAs receive weekly training. Previous concepts have been low-level Bloom’s thinking, remembering what I have shown them and independently process and understand. A more recent concept has been about celebrating efforts and achievement.

We wanted to change how we record our merits. Before we had cards, a child would be awarded a merit for an achievement either verbally or in their exercise book. The child and/ or the teacher then had to remember to, at some point, go to where the merit stickers are located, take one and stick in their merit card. The teacher or teaching assistant then had to periodically check each individual card to see whether children in their class were due to receive a merit certificate for reaching every ten milestone.

I presented ClassDojo to our TAs to see if they thought, like I did, that using it would make this process more efficient and provide parents with a better picture of how well their child is applying themselves at school.

Highover awards merits for individual excellence and performance. It is a motivational tool, rewarding children for their persistence and to help them strive to reach their optimum for every task that they undertake. In the past, merits were stickers that were added to a child’s card. Highover is embarking on a digital method of awarding and recording pupil’s accumulation of merits. The aim in doing this is to make the procedure of awarding, tracking and analysing issued merits more efficient and better inform the community of our pupil member’s efforts and performance. There is also added scope of including parents, informing them of how their child is enjoying and achieving at their work at school. It generate periodic graphic-based reports that can be emailed to parents.

From the outset the Teaching Assistants have made the change. Together, without any need to build a team, the took on roles and responsibilities. They wrote a policy of use, they planned how teachers were going to be trained and compiled the content that they would use to train them. In between our weekly meets, they would be discussing progress, evaluations and the next steps from their initial actions in the corridor. They were engrossed and wanted this change to an online tracking of merits using a web-browser to happen. Something I never anticipated happening so freely, without the resistance that most trainers anticipate. Anticipated as ,due to our survival instinct, every human to a lesser or greater a degree fears the unknown. So why did Highover’s amazing group of teaching assistants’ survival instincts not kick in? It failed to because a greater instinct kicked in. Our instinct of taking care of responsibilities, taking ownership and having pride in the things that we own and nurture.

This shift has been immediate and seamless. When people have ownership, they also have drive. Drive to see something through, appreciate that what they are doing is having a positive impact on our community, from pupils, to colleagues, to parents and in turn gain a sense of pride that it is them that has enacted it.


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