Mapping the changes: a critical exploration into the career trajectories of teaching assistants who undertake a foundation degree

L. Dunne, G. Goddard, C. Woolhouse

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (journal)peer-review

24 Citations (Scopus)


This article explores the changing career trajectories of teaching assistants who graduated from a university in the northwest of England with a Foundation degree in Supporting Teaching and Learning. It begins with a consideration of the changing policy context in England in relation to the role of support staff in schools. This context informed the development of three key research questions that are addressed in this article: What are the perceived benefits of Foundation degree study in the present policy climate? In what ways does engagement with a lifelong learning course impact upon professional and personal lives? Does doing a lifelong learning course like a Foundation degree encourage further study? The article then presents the research methodology employed to address these questions. A research survey was conducted with teaching assistants who had gained a Foundation degree, using a questionnaire that provided both quantitative and in‐depth qualitative data. Research findings suggest that graduates have varying perceptions about the benefits of the Foundation degree and the effect it has had on their careers. Findings also suggest that age and school sector are significant factors in determining promotion prospects. The researchers conclude that despite considerable advancements for some teaching assistants, there is a degree of disillusionment regarding professional status and career progression. Nevertheless, there are perceived personal benefits to gaining a Foundation degree, such as increased self‐confidence, awareness of one’s own learning potential and a positive impact upon professional ‘performance’ in the classroom.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)49-59
JournalJournal of Vocational Education & Training
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2008


  • foundation degrees
  • teaching assistants
  • professional development


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