Interviews and assessment centres

Interview questions for teacher training

19 Sept 2023, 15:05

An overview of the questions you could be asked at your teacher training interview, such as questions about your degree and experience, why you want to teach and safeguarding.

Teacher training interview questions
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Top tips | Example interview questions and answers | Questions about motivation | Questions about experience | Questions about your degree | Questions about equal opportunities | Questions about safeguarding | Questions about discipline | General questions

Give full answers to questions, bringing in your experience of the classroom (or relevant experience gained elsewhere – for example, through volunteering) and knowledge of current issues in education. Prepare answers which evidence the skills required - such as good communication, professional working relationships and the ability to accept and act on feedback. Be ready with examples around what you've learned. For example, planning lessons, organising the classroom, assessing learning and adapting to the needs of different students. Don't be afraid to state your views, practical solutions or novel ideas.

Example interview questions and answers

Why do you want to teach?

I decided to become a teacher during my A-Levels, when I volunteered to support children at a local sight loss charity once a week. I come from a big family, and I’ve always enjoyed babysitting or lending a hand to organise those all-important birthday parties, so I was drawn to the idea of working with children. At the charity, I led an arts and crafts hour on making sock puppets, which proved very popular. The children’s ages ranged between four and eleven, and they also had varying levels of sight loss, so I needed to think about how to pitch the session in a way that was inclusive. I enjoyed working around this challenge by teaching a range of accessible techniques for making the puppets, as well as dividing my time between teaching the group as a whole and giving extra assistance to individual children. But what I loved most was observing how much the children enjoyed the activity. Everyone in the group managed to create their own puppet and learned something new, and some parents even told me the following week that their child had wanted to create more puppets at home. It was so satisfying, knowing that I’d inspired the children to carry on doing creative things in their own time.

Following this experience, I decided I wanted to be a primary school teacher, where I'd be well placed to continue inspiring young children to try new things and think creatively. Curiosity and creativity are qualities I truly value – I think both are so important for personal development – and I want to nurture these qualities in others from a young age. My desire to become a teacher motivated me to study Education Studies at degree level and to arrange two school work experience placements. Through my time in the schools, I learned the importance of organisation and time management skills to prepare for big events in the school calendar, such as SATs. This experience gave me insight into the pressures teachers face, which only motivates me further to undertake a rigorous teacher training programme and develop into the best teacher I can be.

What qualities can you bring to the profession?

I’m a confident, bubbly, energetic person – all these qualities would make me thrive as a teacher. To be a great teacher, I think you need the ability to connect with others and inspire a genuine desire for knowledge, as well as to cope with the daily challenges and pressures teaching brings. My favourite university tutor had these abilities in spades. She’s an exceptionally busy person, always on the go with a million commitments in her diary, rushing from one class to the next. However, whenever she entered the lecture theatre, she was present, enthusiastic about the lecture material, and completely focused on the students sat in front of her. While she spoke, the whole room went silent as we hung onto her every word. But she also encouraged people to speak up and ask questions, making us active participants in our learning. She had a great sense of humour too and made us laugh. I admired how she had complete control over the room but also managed to have that personal connection with her students. This is exactly the kind of relationship I wish to emulate with my pupils – to be sufficiently authoritative to hold their attention, but also have the warmth and approachability that inspires their trust and engagement.

I demonstrated how I can bring these qualities during a very important recent assignment: organising my niece’s birthday party! She wanted it dinosaur-themed and would have thought I was a total embarrassment if I mixed up ankylosaurus with allosaurus when arranging the party games and the decorations. She also wanted to invite her whole class from school. I had to be meticulous and organised while planning the event and running it on the day to avoid complete chaos, but I couldn’t let that fear of chaos show while I was interacting with the children and leading the activities. I brought the “fun” while also making sure the party ran smoothly. My niece and her friends told me they had a great time, parents were astonished by the level of detail I’d gone to, and I think my niece was particularly impressed I’d got the dinosaur facts correct. In addition to demonstrating patience and a good sense of humour under pressure, I can also relate to and empathise with children; I can appreciate and get excited about their passions and interests, and these qualities would also make me a highly successful and influential teacher.

What are some of the key challenges faced by teachers today?

One key challenge is the impact of funding cuts to the arts sector and arts education. The cuts have led to a shortage of arts materials and resources in state schools, for example, with some primary and secondary school teachers reporting they don’t have arts books or even pencils for arts classes. Naturally, this worsens existing inequalities by making arts less accessible for less economically privileged people, especially during the cost of living crisis. As someone from a working-class background who benefited hugely from studying arts subjects up to A-Level, I worry that arts underfunding in state schools will deny pupils of the personal and social benefits of a well-rounded education.

For instance, research has shown that teaching creative subjects helps children to express themselves and build self-confidence. I witnessed this first-hand when I undertook a two-week placement assisting a Year 2 teacher. The class was preparing for the school’s summer fair and had tasked pupils with creating decorations. Pupils were instructed to work together to create a collage to be displayed in the assembly hall. I noticed one child who was very shy and not engaging with the group or the activity, so I sat with him and demonstrated how he could use different materials to make a collage of a cat. Other pupils sat near us also took interest and joined in, which meant I was soon able to leave the child to continue making his collage cat while chatting with the other children. The teacher later told me that this was a huge step forward for this pupil, who previously had been struggling to make friends. By teaching collage-making techniques, I was able to facilitate the pupil making new friends and developing confidence.

That’s why I was concerned when the teacher also told me that the school’s summer fair might not go ahead in future years due to the lack of funding and resources for hosting arts and culture events. I think we need to do all we can to preserve these kinds of enriching educational experiences that promote cooperation and social cohesion.

Interview questions: reasons for wanting to teach

Teaching requires a high degree of motivation, focus and dedication. Selectors are highly likely to ask about your interest in the profession, your commitment and energy, understanding of the nature of the role and the challenges it brings. Make sure you have read over your application form again as a reminder of how you might have originally explained your interest. Think about how the experiences and insights you have gained might have inspired or enhanced your enthusiasm for the profession.

Look at how other experiences (for example, working with young people) might have helped to nurture your interest in becoming a teacher. Practise answers to possible questions out loud, to build confidence and conviction and to ensure you come across exactly as you mean to. It is also important to be able to explain how aspects of your personality make teaching a good choice for you. You might be asked questions such as:

  • How do you know teaching is the profession for you?
  • What are you looking forward to about teaching as a profession?
  • What qualities make a successful teacher?
  • Do you have any special skills that would contribute to your role as a teacher?
  • Why are you interested in teaching this subject and age group – what appeals to you?
  • Why do you want to do your teacher training with us?
  • What sorts of schools would you like to work in and why?
  • What key stage are you interested in and why?
  • Why should pupils learn your subject? (secondary)

Interview questions for teacher training: school experience

It is beneficial to gain some classroom experience if you can. You might also have other relevant experience (such as volunteering or summer camps), that you could talk about. You will need to be ready to discuss these experiences in an interview and show the relevance of what you experienced. Look again at any selection criteria that the provider has published, as a guide to your preparation.

Reflection and learning from experience is essential for good teaching practice and it’s important you can demonstrate your understanding of this. Be ready to explain what you observed and did in your school experience, reflecting on what you learned from it and explaining how you would apply this learning in the training and the role. Remember to respect any confidentiality and privacy issues - mention that there might be certain things you have heard or seen that it would not be appropriate to talk about.

The following are some examples of what you could be asked:

  • What classroom experience do you have?
  • What have you learned from your experience in schools, and/or what skills do you bring from your previous employment?
  • Give an example of a successful and not so successful lesson you observed during a school visit or have taught. Why was it successful/not so successful?
  • Tell us about a time when you helped a child in the classroom. Were you effective and, if so, why do you think this was?
  • What contributions could you make outside your preferred subject area or age range?
  • How do you view your own school experience?
  • Who was your favourite teacher and why?

Interview questions for teacher training: your degree

You could be asked how you think your own higher education experience has helped prepare you for a career in teaching. Create a list or diagram of all the main elements of your degree: key modules, projects, dissertations and skills acquired. This can then be mapped against the requirements for successful teaching, in terms of both subject knowledge and the interpersonal skills required. Examples of relevant skills can include written and verbal communication, planning and delivering presentations, researching information, organising your own workload, resilience, an ability to learn quickly and being able to work under pressure. Breaking down your degree in this way could help in the interview. Possible examples of interview questions could include the following:

  • How is your degree subject relevant?
  • Why did you choose your degree subject and what inspired you?
  • Give an example of how you would make your degree subject interesting to pupils.
  • How does your degree apply to primary teaching?

Interview questions for teacher training: education and equal opportunities

Teachers must understand the principles of equality and diversity and know how to implement these in their day-to-day practice. You will need to discuss how you would ensure equality in your professional practice for all students, regardless of their personal backgrounds and circumstances.

Make sure you understand what protected characteristics are, how potential barriers to learning can be removed and how all students can be helped to learn in a way that meets their individual needs and enables them to succeed. The following are examples of questions that you could be asked - testing your theoretical and practical understanding of these issues.

  • How do children learn?
  • How would you deal with discrimination issues? Give an example of when you have done this.
  • Schools are diverse and you will be in multicultural settings. How have you prepared to teach young people from a range of backgrounds, cultural and otherwise?
  • How would you help all pupils achieve their potential?
  • How would you go about creating an inclusive learning environment?

Interview questions for teacher training: safeguarding

Schools play a vital role in keeping children safe. It is essential that you understand the subject and are ready to answer questions about this important topic. Make sure you have read and understood any safeguarding policies of your chosen training provider and those produced by a selection of individual schools. This will help to give you a broad overview before the interview and increase your knowledge in this area. It’s also useful to read the government’s statutory guidance on safeguarding children in schools and colleges, but in addition to knowing about policy, you need to make sure you understand the practical realities of how safeguarding works in an everyday context.

For example, you could prepare by creating a list of possible scenarios a teacher might encounter and practise talking about potential solutions to the problem. If you have not had any experience of dealing with a safeguarding issue yourself, you can still talk about what you would do if one arose. Interviewers might want you to respond to questions such as:

  • What is a teacher's responsibility in keeping children safe?
  • How would you contribute to making this school a safe environment for the children? Can you give some examples of this from your experience?
  • Give an example of when you have had a safeguarding issue in school and tell us how you dealt with it.
  • How would you respond if a child disclosed information of a sensitive nature to you?

Interview questions for teacher training: motivation/discipline

The best teachers are able to understand and motivate their students as well as maintain good classroom discipline and a strong focus on learning. You need to think about how you would bring subjects to life, how you would create strategies to inspire students who are not engaging in learning and how you could support students who might be struggling. It is important to prepare to talk about specific strategies and practical approaches you would use to enhance engagement and boost motivation. Examples could include targeted help, group projects, support from external services, mentoring or field trips. You might be asked questions such as:

  • What would you do if a child refuses to participate? What classroom behaviour strategies have you seen demonstrated in a classroom?
  • How would you motivate a class of Year 9 students that had no interest in your subject? (secondary)

Teacher training interviews: general questions

Interviewers might ask more general questions, some of which might not seem to be directly linked to teaching. However, all the questions you are asked will be used to assess your suitability for the profession, through your understanding of broader issues in the education sector and across society more generally. Good teachers take an active interest in what is going on in the world and read widely. These types of questions are your chance to show evidence of this and you can really boost your chances of success by making sure you prepare well. Think about how your experiences and insights can be matched to the qualities needed in a teacher.

Example of possible questions could include:

  • How do you handle pressure and how will you handle the stress of this profession?
  • Describe a situation where you had to use your initiative.
  • What are your weaknesses?
  • What difficulties are you likely to encounter as a teacher and how would you deal with them?
  • Do you have any hobbies or interests that could be useful for extracurricular activities?
  • What do you know about current educational issues?

Written by Gemma Fairclough, Manchester Metropolitan University, July 2023

AGCAS

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Occasionally targetjobs will work with another organisation to provide impartial careers content. This is to provide you with the most relevant information to make the best decisions about your future. As such, ‘in partnership’ content has been written or sourced by the partner organisation and edited by targetjobs as part of a content partnership.

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