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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Exploring learning assistance teachers’ needs, supports, and challenges in accessing information about reading instruction Thauberger, Carolyn G.


This exploratory study investigated the needs, supports, and challenges of learning assistance teachers (LATs) in the Canadian provinces of Saskatchewan and British Columbia (BC), as they sought to develop expertise about reading instruction. Interactions were examined between needs, supports, and challenges, and three contextual factors: (1) distance from a major university, (2) provincial use of LAT qualification standards, and (3) LAT teaching experience. Fifty LATs were interviewed, half of these from the three school districts in each province. Districts were located approximately one, two, or three hours travel distance from a university. Also interviewed were administrators responsible for learning assistance in each district and one education ministry representative from each province with similar responsibility. The data showed LATs spent at least half of their time on reading instruction, yet many felt unprepared for this task when hired. After employment, almost all accessed formal and informal learning opportunities about reading instruction. They wanted more information about reading assessment and instruction before they were hired, and continuous information afterward regarding areas of individual need and about new research, methods, and materials. The expectation that LATs should be expert teachers was among the most consistent of reported supports. LATs said this expectation could be enhanced by the use of provincial standards of LAT qualification. LATs were most challenged by time, costs, and travel. Variations in distance, application of standards, and LAT experience also impacted learning needs and choices. One set of study recommendations came from LATs themselves, and another more interpretive list suggested principles, program types, and actions that could also positively impact LAT expertise. These can be used to enhance LAT access to knowledge in these provinces and elsewhere and thus may positively impact the supply of expert teachers for reading support roles.

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