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Selecting the teachers of tomorrow: international project aimed at improving school standards

Posted on 17 March 2015

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

European Research Council

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.

Further information:

  • For more information on the Teacher Selection Project, visit: http://www.teacherselect.org/
  • Set up in 2007 by the EU, the European Research Council is the first European funding organisation for frontier research. The ERC operates according to an 'investigator-driven', or 'bottom-up', approach, allowing researchers to identify new opportunities in any field of research, without thematic priorities. Every year, it selects and funds the very best, creative researchers of any nationality and age to run five-year projects based in Europe. Since its launch, the ERC has funded over 4,500 researchers. Under Horizon 2020, the new EU research programme (2014-2020), the ERC has a budget of over €13 billion.
  • ERC Consolidator Grants are designed to support outstanding researchers with over seven and up to 12 years of experience since completion of PhD, at the stage when they are consolidating their own independent research team or programme. The grants focus on ‘blue-sky’ research which is high risk and high gain. For more information, visit: http://erc.europa.eu/
  • The Psychology in Education Research Centre (PERC) at the University of York conducts innovative and applied psychological research relevant to education and educational settings. Its’ goal is to conduct research that is rigorous and broadly accessible to the psychology and educational communities. For further information on the Department of Education at the University of York, visit: http://www.york.ac.uk/education/

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