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Selecting the teachers of tomorrow

Posted on 10 June 2015

A new approach to selecting candidates for teacher training, aimed at identifying the interpersonal attributes necessary for successful teaching, is the focus of new research at the University of York.

The 1.4 million euros five-year project, funded by the prestigious European Research Council (ERC) Consolidator grant programme, is the only ERC Consolidator grant to be awarded to an education project in the UK in the past two years.

Professor Rob Klassen’s research programme will draw on research and theory from educational and occupational psychology to understand and identify the key interpersonal attributes (‘soft skills’) necessary for success in teaching.

Developing situational judgment tests (SJTs) similar to those used for selection into medical training, the project will build on previous research by York and the Work Psychology Group to develop a reliable, valid, practical and evidence-supported SJT for selection in education. Overall, this aims to improve the teacher candidate selection process, increasing the quality of candidates entering teacher-training programmes.

Pilot work, conducted with a number of UK and international teacher training providers and education authorities, so far shows that the SJT exhibits good psychometric properties and is useful for initial screening of interpersonal attributes.

Professor Klassen, Chair of the Psychology in Education Research Centre at the Department of Education, University of York, said: “A convincing body of evidence shows that teachers are the most significant in-school influence on student achievement. Selecting prospective teachers with a strong academic background - cognitive ability - is important, but successful teaching also depends on the interpersonal, or non-cognitive, attributes of teachers. Our goal in the next five years is to build a deeper understanding of the importance of these interpersonal attributes in a range of contexts.”

“This new project offers us a fantastic opportunity to not only deepen our understanding, but to translate this understanding into developing ways of selecting the best future teachers to improve standards in schools in the UK and internationally.”

Professor Klassen will work with a team of UK and international researchers and educators. Collaborators include researchers and practitioners from the UK, Australia, Canada, Finland, Ireland, and Oman.