No matter how much you might want to avoid the process, an interview is a crucial part of your initial teacher training application. The process could last a whole day or could be over within an hour but whatever the length it pays to be prepared...
Start with your CV
- Know your CV. It’s vital to be aware of claims you’ve made; nothing is more embarrassing than being caught out on assertions or forgetting particulars of your employment history. James Williams, Teacher Educator at the University of Sussex, warns , “do not embellish your CV or work history or nudge a few grades up – even in subjects that you think don’t matter. A lie on an application or CV could see your place in training terminated or a job offer withdrawn. Be truthful at all times!”
- Make sure your references are current and still happy to be contacted.
- Ensure your CV is up to date. “Don’t leave gaps in your work/education history. These are always looked at suspiciously,” says James Williams. They will wonder what you’ve been doing with your time and you may be missing a trick by leaving out your latest experience; it doesn’t represent the wiser, more experienced you they’re looking to employ.
- Get as much practical experience as you can. This is a great way to show your enthusiasm, don’t underestimate the power hands-on experience can have on your appeal. It’s the most useful thing to prepare you for the real world of teaching and will underscore you as a candidate. Have something solid to back up your smarts.
If you've been asked to give a presentation as part of your interview here are some key questions to ask and tips on preparaing to present:The topic.
- How long you’ll have to present.
- Practice in front of a mirror to improve your body language.
- Practice in front of someone else who can give you honest and constructive criticism.
- Work on fluidity.
- Remember to make eye contact and smile whilst giving your presentation, if you can make an insightful comment that makes them laugh – this will help to make your presentation one they remember.
Possible interview questions
“How would you approach teaching a difficult concept?”
Advice: This is a broad question with no topic mention, but think about making the question specific to a topic. You could use analogies and relating difficult concepts to students’ prior knowledge.
“Why do you want to be a teacher?”
Advice: The difficulty with this question is sounding original and sincere. Play to your strengths, avoid clichés and be open and honest, use past experience to prove your passion, ambition and skill. Don’t make the mistake of “not putting enough emphasis on children” says James Wiliams “they are your priority”.
“What was the best/worst lesson you taught or observed?”
Advice: Choose one clear example and three reasons why it was the best/worst, and how it could have been improved.
“How would you deal with badly behaved children?”
Advice: The question relates to your teaching principles and not a specific situation. Have a teaching method with practical examples to hand.
“What characteristics make a good teacher?”
Advice: Apply this to you; have a set of key qualities in a good teacher and show how you try to achieve that.
“How do your previous studies make you suitable to this job?”
Advice: Be familiar with your CV. If your skills aren’t obvious for teaching, be creative in showing why you did a certain degree or took a particular placement.
“What improvement would you like to see made in schools?”
Advice: Be informed about educational news and current affairs (read the TES every week). Use topical stories, for example reforms, and integrate this with your own ideas for improvement.
Other common questions to think about include...
- What attracts you to teaching?
- What experience do you have of working with children?
- What do you think are the qualities of a good teacher?
- Why do you think that you will make a good teacher?
- Which aspects of your subject are you most passionate about?
On the day of the interview
Wear comfortable, smart clothes – you want to feel at ease to allow yourself to shine and being creative with what you wear will make you memorable, but your outfit should also be appropriate.
If asked to participate in group activities, remember to make yourself stand out but also show your skill at working in a team.
Arrive early – being late doesn’t reflect well on you and is a definite no-no for teachers!
Take a pen – you never know what you’ll be asked to do…
Open body language such as smiling, shaking their hand and appearing attentive and at ease make the interview easier.
Sit up straight! Slouching might feel more comfortable but it makes you closed and introvert and it’s not professional for future teachers who will spend time telling their pupils to sit correctly.
Wait to be asked to sit and do so at the same time as your interviewers. A minor point, but it can look discourteous or over eager.
Remember to give your attention to all your interviewers if there is a panel. Even if only one member is asking the questions, don’t forget to smile and make eye contact with the others. They will also be assessing your performance.
If you’re giving a presentation, remember to be relaxed! Gesticulate where appropriate for emphasis; engage your audience and move around so you don’t look static and uncomfortable.
Some final words of advice
James has some words of wisdom for prospective trainee teachers: “The ideal candidate will show most of the following, a passion for teaching, a passion for children’s learning and a passion for their subject. They will have done their homework on the university and its course by looking at the information on the website. They will have spent time in school – at least five days but many are asking for ten days experience.
They will have thought about how their talents and skills match the qualities needed of a good teacher. They will be organised, aware of the stresses that teacher training involves, have prepared themselves and their partner/family for the training year and most of all they will have a degree of empathy for a learner – understanding that even if they are very bright, intelligent and hold lots of high quality qualifications, some children will struggle and they will understand what that means and have ideas about how to help such children.”
But James also cautions you to remember that “the interview is two way, you also need to assess if you like the university/provider and the people who are interviewing you. They will be keen to fill their places with good people and although there may be more applicants than places, you must be happy that you can work with the university and your tutor for the next nine months in what will be stressful times.”
Examples of PGCE interview questions and how to answer them, with particular emphasis on Drama and English; useful for practice interviews.
Detailed explanation and advice for the interview from the Prospects website
Check out the TES Student Teacher forum, hosted by James Williams where you can get your questions answered by James and chat to other trainees.
Handy tips on the PGCE interview, with other sections about everything to do with preparing and applying for teacher training.
Teacher Training interview advice with interactive practice interview from the TDA
Discussion on the Student Room website about candidates’ interview and application experiences
Detailed answers and advice for a few PGCE interview questions from Target Courses
Detailed guide to preparing for PGCE course interviews from the University of West England with even more useful links!
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