Teaching interview questions

August, 2016

An interview is your chance to confirm in person that you've the skills and experience to be an effective teacher. This makes preparing answers in advance especially important

There's no typical answer but you can structure your response using the STAR method to make sure you're getting the right points across.

  • Situation - tell them the context for your story.
  • Task - what you were asked to do.
  • Activity - explain what you actually did.
  • Result - how well the situation played out.

Plan to keep your answers concise: tell them your maximum achievement in the minimum time, and be sure to finish on a positive note so they are left with a strong overall impression.

To get you started here are some examples of teaching interview questions…

Why do you want to be a teacher?

You need to give evidence that teaching is your first choice, not a plan B. Tell them about your motivation and aim to show your passion for teaching. Provide good examples from your time in school and the specific teaching elements that you find satisfying. Avoid broad responses such as 'I have always wanted to be a teacher'.

How will you manage this intensive course/challenges at work?

Interviewers will want to hear that you're aware of the challenges in your PGCE, teacher training or NQT year and have the stamina and dedication to cope. Perhaps describe a demanding situation or course giving details of how you successfully managed the varying demands. This could be your experience of studying and working at the same time, especially relevant would be experience of preparing lessons and managing a teaching caseload.

What experience do you have in schools?

Use evidence from your teaching practice, work in school or observing in a school before your interview. Describe the school and reflect on your learning as well as what interested or surprised you. You can also talk about experience in other settings and with different age ranges than those you're applying to teach in such as nurseries, youth clubs or playschemes.

What qualities do you have which would make you an effective teacher?

You may reflect on a teacher you liked at school, university, or have worked with in the classroom. Analyse what qualities made them successful, such as enthusiasm, pace, resilience, subject knowledge, a range of teaching methods, an ability to hold the attention of the class, empathy, and encouraging children to think rather than being told.

Safeguarding and equal opportunites

There will always be a question around safeguarding, this will often take the form of a scenario for you to respond to, such as:

  • What is a teacher's responsibility in keeping children safe?
  • Tell us how you dealt with a safeguarding issue in school.
  • What would you do if a child disclosed x?

Prepare by reading a safeguarding policy, preferably for the school you're applying to or you are at. In general, don't handle a safeguarding issue yourself but pass it on to the safeguarding officer in the school.

These are some examples of questions around equal opportunities…

  • What does equal opportunities mean to you?
  • How do you approach teaching a class with mixed ability?
  • What is your motivation for working in special education?

With both of these, demonstrate that you understand the issues for yourself, outline the theory if you can with a successful example from your own experience. Be honest, if you haven't been in that situation say so, but tell them what you would do if you were.

There will also be questions focusing on your school experience…

The lesson you just taught, tell us how you would evaluate it and reflect on what you would do differently next time.

Talk about what was successful as well as how it may have gone better. Be prepared with some suggestions of what you would change. Consider the progress of individual student's in the lesson, and what your follow up would be.

If I walked into your classroom during an outstanding lesson, what would I see and hear?

Give a full list as they may have a checklist to see how much you mention. Demonstrate your passion for quality teaching, but make sure you don't spend all your time answering this one question. Your answer will help them to see how you would deliver an outstanding lesson in their school. If you have a portfolio with you show any examples of children's learning and positive feedback you have received

Some other questions include…

  • Tell us about a behaviour management strategy you have used to help engage an individual learner or group?
  • Please give us an example of where you have improved teaching and learning and tell us how you know you have been successful.
  • Can you give me an example of when a student refused to cooperate in class? This may lead to a number of follow up questions including 'What did you do?' and 'What would you differently next time?'.

There may be additional questions which are specific to your personal statement or application, to give a sense of you as an individual. Your answer needs to be authentic and genuine, and selectors will be able to tell if you give them a textbook answer

Why should we appoint you or what would we be missing out on if we decided not to appoint you?

A related question is 'what are you bringing to the role of a teacher?'. You need to be able to put across your strong points during the interview, don't be modest. You might start with, 'As you can see from my application…' and then lead into a quick rundown of your qualifications and relevant experience. If you haven't already, present your strengths and skills and what you can do to enhance education in their setting

Why do you want to work in our school?

Your interview preparation is vital to successfully answer this question. Tell them why you're interested in their school, what do you know about their ethos, values, demographics, educational goals and objectives, initiatives, or extracurricular activities?

What are some of the trends, issues, and methodologies in education that relate to your specific curriculum area or grade level?

Research and be up to date with some of the current educational issues that relate to your subject or age level. Consider how they impact teaching and learning giving an example from your experience.

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