Personality test set to weed out weak teachers

26th June 2009 at 01:00
Psychometric assessments will determine trainees' suitability for chalkface

Teacher training applicants are to be set psychometric tests that will examine whether their personalities have the right blend of "empathy, communication and resilience" to survive a career in the profession.

The "diagnostic tool" is about to become the latest weapon - alongside standard interviews and work experience - for universities to spot students who are not cut out for the classroom.

A company appointed by the Training and Development Agency for Schools is writing the diagnostic tool for a pilot scheme, which will start this September.

Psychometric tests are a recruitment tool favoured by many blue-chip companies. Top universities are experimenting with similar tests.

Graham Holley, chief executive of the agency, announced the tests at a meeting of the children, schools and families select committee after MPs expressed concern about new teachers' lack of basic skills.

"The academic entry levels are easy to measure. What is also important to becoming a good teacher is having resilience, communication skills and empathy with young people," he said.

"The tool we are developing . will enable providers to accept candidates with those sorts of skills more readily."

In 2006-07, 15 per cent of trainees dropped out. A further 13 per cent completed their training but failed to take up a teaching post. This is estimated to be the equivalent of 8,000 potential newly qualified teachers. In addition, one-third of teachers leave the profession within five years.

Mr Holley said he would "very much like to improve the retention rates", but he also wants to detect those not cut out for the job before they make it to the classroom.

In 2001-02, 54.7 per cent of primary PGCE trainees and 52 per cent on secondary courses had a first degree ranked 2:1 or above. By 2006-07 those figures had risen to 61.2 and 57.5 per cent respectively.

James Noble Rogers, executive director of the Universities' Council for the Education of Teachers, said his members would be in favour of the psychometric pilot - as long as testing did not become mandatory.

"I think universities are already good at assessing applicants and making judgments. In fact, they are inspected on it," he said.

Chartered occupational psychologist Lea Brindle, who is employed by companies to administer psychometric tests, which cost Pounds 50-Pounds 100 per person, said they would need to be used in conjunction with an interview.

Deb Gajic, a psychology teacher and chair of the Association for the Teaching of Psychology, said undertaking research into why people drop out would be more useful than setting the tests.

"One of the major problems with the tests is that people see what they want to, and the tests are hard to answer honestly if you want to give a certain impression," she said.

Pet topic

A psychometric-style question

The cat is a small carnivorous mammal that is often valued by humans for its companionship. The cat is a skilled predator and is known to hunt over 1,000 species for food. Cats use a variety of vocalisations and body language for communication, such as purring, mewing, hissing and growling. The cat is an intelligent mammal and can be trained to obey simple commands. Typically, a cat will weigh between 2.5kg and 7kg. Cats are extremely sensitive as they have highly advanced hearing, eyesight, touch, and taste receptors. People's belief that cats are solitary animals is incorrect, as they are actually highly social. This misconception is due to cats not having a social survival strategy ("pack mentality") like animals such as dogs. This means that they look after their own needs, even when living in a group.

Q: Cats make good companions for humans

A: True

B: False

C: Cannot say

Source: Aptitude Tests Online.

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