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What Does an Instructional Aide Do?

By Gabriele Sturmer
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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An instructional aide, also known as a teacher assistant or teacher's aide, performs various duties to help a teacher complete tasks in the classroom. Instructional aides work at various levels of the educational system, from elementary schools through university, and the job duties vary depending on the grade level. The job typically involves helping students in the classroom, grading papers, monitoring students during examinations, preparing lessons and helping the teacher set up equipment for activities. While an instructional aide at an elementary school may perform all of these responsibilities, one who works at a college may have fewer duties or may focus on particular tasks.

They particularly have a major role in elementary and secondary schools, so instructional aides perform many clerical tasks. Common tasks include recording grades for the teacher, printing copies of worksheets or tests, taking daily attendance, organizing and cleaning the classroom, stocking school supplies and setting up audiovisual equipment before lessons. It's also common for an instructional aide to help the teacher monitor the students' behavior and follow the school's disciplinary system when necessary. This often includes monitoring the students during recess, lunch, field trips and, sometimes, after-school activities.

The instructional aide also has educational duties and often works with groups of students during activities. He or she may listen to students read from a book, guide students through experiments or monitor group projects. It's becoming more common for instructional aides to assist students who have disabilities, so he or she may provide one-to-one assistance to such students. For students with special needs, the instructional aide may have multiple duties, including helping the student learn life skills and providing extensive tutoring in a student's weaker subjects. If a classroom includes students who are not native speakers of the primary language, then the instructional aide also may help the student learn necessary language skills.

University students also may act as instructional aides to professors, but their duties are somewhat more focused than those who work in elementary and secondary schools. Instructional aides at the college level typically do a lot of grading, monitor students as they take exams and provide tutoring. Some also may teach lower-level classes on their own or with the professor. Jobs at the college level may be filled by graduate students but also may include outside hires. Graduate students often receive college credit and a salary for acting as an instructional aide, but some positions may be for experience only.

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Discussion Comments
By anon940569 — On Mar 19, 2014

I believe more teacher's aides could make a great difference in schools, so the teachers can focus on the real problems. Someone needs to organize the children, and teach them and their parents how to organize their paperwork every day.

By bythewell — On Aug 11, 2013

@MrsPramm - It is nice to have an instructional aide, but I don't think it's strictly necessary. If you set up your classroom well, eventually you can get the students to be more independent and self monitoring so that they don't need that kind of repetitive reassurance.

Ideally, you want to set up students for the real world, where they aren't going to have their hands held all the time. I don't mean that to be harsh, either, because if the students are all engaged and independent, the classroom environment is generally going to be warmer and more nurturing anyway. Look up the term "community of learners" to see how this is supposed to work.

By irontoenail — On Aug 10, 2013

@MrsPramm - I think it would be an excellent job for people who were just out of school themselves, and need references and experience in the work force.

Although, I'd imagine there are different kinds of aides, since I think some of them actually take students out of the classroom for extra tutoring, rather than just helping with little tasks in the classroom.

By MrsPramm — On Aug 09, 2013
I really wish that there was more money available for teacher's aides in schools. They can make such a huge difference by taking the pressure off the teacher so that he or she can concentrate on making sure all the students are getting enough help.

There are always going to be some students who want more attention, or who need more guidance. It will just be something like wanting to be told that they've done the right thing, or that they need to add a few more sentences or whatever. When the teacher has to deal with all of them, unfortunately, often the quieter students end up without much attention. A teacher's aide can just give all the other students the little bits of reassurance that they need, so that the teacher can use her time to actually teach.

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