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Research 01/08/2023

Assessing the potential to teach: predicting later classroom practice from assessment centre activities – conclusions from a four-year study

Teacher professional development is complex, and to date, there has been little research about how abilities prior to initial teacher training (ITT) influence early classroom practice. In this report, we draw on our experience of our Future Teaching Scholars programme in England to address this gap. Our analysis summarises a four-year study looking at the ability of assessment centres to predict teacher training candidates’ success in their later teaching practice.

Recruiting and retaining excellent teachers remains a pressing policy issue in education systems worldwide. According to UNESCO estimates, 68.8 million teachers will need to be recruited globally to meet Sustainable Development Goal 4. The situation in England is no exception: many schools face teacher recruitment and retention challenges, and the overall number of teachers qualified to teach in state schools has not kept pace with the increase in pupil numbers. Teacher vacancy rates have also increased as workload pressures intensify. Meeting this challenge will require not only the recruitment of high-quality teachers, but also the retention of such teachers within the education system.  

As part of the recruitment and selection process for the Department of Education’s Future Teaching Scholars (FTS) programme, which seeks to recruit high-quality maths and physics teachers in England, we designed and implemented an education assessment centre. This is a common tool in recruitment in the UK, but a systematic review has shown that, despite the increase in their use in education, no robust studies of their long-term effectiveness exist. 

The FTS assessment centre involved a competency-based interview, a reflective activity and a group problem-solving exercise. In addition, it used classroom roleplays, assessed by two practitioners – one of whom was a serving subject-specific teacher from an outstanding Teaching School – which sought to measure a candidate’s innate ‘mental set’ prior to teaching.  

This report is the culmination of a four-year study looking at the ability of the FTS assessment centre to predict candidates’ success in their later practice as teachers. Building on previous reports, we present our final conclusions about the approach’s predictive validity and the standards of teaching achieved by participants at the end of their first term of teaching. We believe that the evidence from this evaluation could help policymakers, schools, and governments to select teachers more effectively.  

To find out more about our Future Teaching Scholars Programme, please click here.


Assessing the potential to teach

Teacher professional development is complex. Despite evidence from randomised controlled trials about key factors influencing this process,1 and evidence about teacher professional growth,2 there is little research about how abilities prior to initial teacher training influence early classroom practice.

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