In 2009, the Danish Ministry of Education launched a comprehensive initiative called 'The School Development Project'. As a part of this measure, pilot projects with teaching assistants were introduced in primary schools to improve the pupils' learning and social outcome. After a test period, Ramboll Management Consulting conducted an evaluation of the measure which was to map and to assess the impact of the pilot projects.
Teaching assistants keep minorities on track
Overall, the evaluation demonstrates a high level of satisfaction with the teaching assistants in primary schools. In particular, the results show that teaching assistants are important for a certain group of children. Thomas Johannessen, manager in Ramboll Management Consulting, explains:
- Teaching assistants help to keep minorities like academically challenged and vulnerable pupils on track. They simply impact the learning and well-being of this particular group very positively, promote a higher level of inclusion and create a space that helps teachers focus on their core output; teaching.
Combining skills sets high standards of evaluating
To give the evaluation of teaching assistants in primary schools analytical heaviness and practice-related insight, Ramboll Management Consulting collaborated with researchers from the Danish School of Education and practitioners from VIA University College:
- We put together a strong team with different backgrounds. VIA University College was a great discussion partner in terms of anchoring the teaching assistants' practice analytically. Also, they helped framing our data collection which gave us good reception gathering information at the schools. Finally, we collaborated with a specialist in teaching assistants from the Danish School of Education who contributed with important findings from Finland. This particular combination of skills was the key to the results we reached, Thomas Johannessen tells.
Local initiatives can grow national
The purpose of the report was to evaluate the effects of teaching assistance in order to form a basis for decision in regard to future experiments with two-teacher approaches in the primary school. The comprehensive evaluation establishes a solid knowledge base for introducing teaching assistants with a view to obtain an impact in terms of inclusion and higher learning outcome. At present, the evaluation is under political consideration in preparation for letting the successful local initiatives grow national.