Willing and able: the importance of non-cognitive factors in selecting pre-service teaching candidates

Year: 2013

Author: Dawson, Georgia, Bowles, Terence, Hattie, John

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Establishing a comprehensive admissions process into teaching courses requires attention to the characteristics of both the course program and the requirements of the profession.  At a minimum, information gathered during student selection should provide a reliable indication that the student will be able to cope with the demands of the course and that they are suited to entering the teaching profession.  Teacher education is hybrid in nature combining both academic class-based instruction with school-based internship.  Therefore, selection procedures need to acknowledge cognitive ability (what the individual is able to do) as an important predictor of traditional academic success.  In addition, measures of personality and other non-cognitive variables, such as conscientiousness, intellectual engagement, flexibility and ability to relate to others provide a valuable insight into what the individual is likely to do and are important to understanding individual differences in achievement both academically and on teaching placements. 
Further, the job of teaching is inherently interpersonal, requiring a range of relational skills and strategies for success. The current imperative to improve the standard of teaching in Australia is premised on the notion of a "quality" teacher.  Research indicates that characteristics of a quality teacher include: a problem-solving approach with the capacity to adjust instruction to reinforce learning; fostering of positive environments that promote learning and respect; a depth of understanding about the impact of their teaching and demonstrated passion for their role as educators.  Predicting the likelihood that an individual will demonstrate these characteristics cannot be achieved solely through cognitive ability, previous academic performance or interview.  There is a substantial role for personality traits and other non-cognitive variables in ascertaining an individual's suitability and potential success in the teaching profession.
This presentation will provide an argument for assessing non-cognitive variables in the selection of pre-service teaching candidates.  It will reference the success of similar selection models in other professions as well as providing an evidence base for the predictive power of non-cognitive variables in both academic and vocational success.