Collaborative practices - a guide to teacher-school learning support officers
This guide will outline evidence-based strategies for building strong and effective partnerships between teachers and SLSOs. As you read through the guide, we recommend you reflect on what you are currently doing well, and where you could strengthen your approach in your current partnerships. To support a deeper reflection and understanding of how you can put these strategies into action, consider viewing the Effective Partnerships with School Learning Support Officers (SLSOs) video and working through the collaborative reflective resource.
See: Statement of duties - school learning support officer (nsw.gov.au)
A strong and effective partnership between teachers and School Learning Support Officers (SLSOs) benefits everyone in the classroom, including students, teacher(s), and SLSOs.
Benefits for students include:
Increased student engagement in learning activities.
Positive interactions with peers and teachers.
Higher levels of social and emotional regulation.
Improvements in academic outcomes.
Benefits for teachers and SLSOs include:
Increased job satisfaction.
More effective use of time and more positive perceptions of workload.
Increased quality of teaching.
Reduced classroom disruptions
Reduced stress levels for teachers and SLSOs.
Evidence-based strategies for effective teacher-SLSO collaboration
Teachers and SLSOs have a shared understanding of their respective roles and responsibilities
One of the core foundations for an effective teacher-SLSO relationship, is a clear, shared understanding of roles and responsibilities. This includes clear communication of a teacher’s overall responsibility for planning, programming, delivering teaching and instruction, and setting learning and engagement goals for students.
Clear communication can be supported through:
Outlining goals and responsibilities before working together.
Written and/or verbal instructions.
A structured classroom environment.
Allocating time for shared planning and collaboration (see the following section).
Time is allocated to ensure teachers and SLSOs can plan and reflect together
Allocating time for collaborative planning and reflection creates opportunities for a deeper understanding of student strengths and abilities, and the teacher and SLSO’s individual roles, and individual and shared responsibilities. Research shows that when a school reconfigures SLSO hours to include a regular 15 minute allocation for planning with teachers for every hour of time in class, both teachers and SLSOs report a reduced workload and more effective partnership within the classroom.
Time for collaborative planning and reflection can include:
Shared planning and communication about students - including opportunity to meaningfully contribute to observations, strategies, and goals.
Feedback and reflection on lessons, strategies and communication.
Inclusion of SLSOs in relevant teaching team and student-centred meetings.
Clear preparation and planning for how an SLSO will provide support during specific learning activities or programs.
See: Curriculum planning and programming, assessing and reporting to parents K-12 (nsw.gov.au)
Teacher-SLSO collaboration is built on trust, mutual respect, and open communication
Effective collaborations are built on trust, mutual respect, and open communication. These conditions create an open interchange of ideas and active participation from both parties that facilitate positive outcomes for students, teachers and SLSOs.
Trust entails confidence that knowledge and ideas can be shared without judgement or negative repercussion. Creating and maintaining trust is an ongoing process involving time, consistency, effort, mutual respect and open communication, and is fostered in an environment in which all are committed to working together for the common good.
Open communication occurs when both a teacher and SLSO are comfortable and able to share their ideas with each other. Open communication requires time and opportunity, acceptance and openness to different perspectives, (tactful) honesty, clear communication of ideas, reflective and active listening, flexibility and adaptability, trust, and a commitment to problem-solving any conflict or communication difficulties as they arise.
Mutual respect values different competencies, perspectives, experiences, cultures, backgrounds, knowledge and personalities. It involves a confidence in each other’s abilities, and a commitment to resolving conflict constructively. Mutual respect bridges power imbalances through placing value on each person’s contributions to the overall goals - the respective roles of teachers and SLSOs are complementary and add value, and effective use of each individual’s capabilities occurs.
The roles of teachers and SLSOs support independent learning skills in students and facilitate peer interaction
Many people contribute to supporting students with disability and additional learning and support needs and they have a wide range of roles and responsibilities to fill. The role statement for classroom teachers and SLSOs can be found on the roles and responsibilities webpage. Teachers and SLSOs can work together to promote inclusive education, in which students develop independent learning skills, manage their own learning, and engage and learn with their peers.
Some key strategies to support independent learning skills and peer interaction include:
Work with all students. It is important that support provided by an SLSO does not inadvertently result in a student receiving less time and instruction from the classroom teacher compared to other students, or isolate and separate them from their peers. Providing support to all students, rather than consistently working one-to-one with an individual student, creates opportunities for a student to interact and learn with their teacher, SLSO and peers, promoting increased confidence and skills to become an independent learner.
Promote group work and peer interaction. SLSOs and teachers can work with groups of students to provide discreet support that promotes peer engagement.
Provide discrete support. Aim to provide support in ways that do not draw attention to or focus on a specific student.
Provide the least amount of support and build from there. Allow time for a student to attempt to respond to a question or task independently, and provide small amounts of support only when it is clear they are unable to proceed. When providing support, consider the specific skills they may need to learn to become an autonomous learner. If further support is needed, scaffold the skills to complete the task. Work on developing problem solving and self-regulation learning skills, rather than solely focusing on task completion.
School Excellence Framework alignment
Effective classroom practice
Australian Professional Standards for Teachers alignment
Standard 7: Engage professionally with colleagues, parents/carers and the community
Secondary teachers, SLSOs
School staff can use this resource to develop collaborative practices
Timeframes and when to use
This resource can be used at any time to provide further information and practice guidance
This resource was developed with the AllPlay Learn team who conducted a series of systematic reviews of the empirical literature, with over 177,000 articles screened. The resources remain up-to-date, with content reflecting best practice reviewed by a world-class multidisciplinary research team, led by Monash University.
June 2022. Share your feedback here