Group Interviews: The evolving teacher interview process

Group InterviewBy Joel O’Brien — Last week, I attended the Wisconsin Association of School Personnel Administrators (WASPA) Conference.

This conference provided much insight about the current state of education in Wisconsin and highlighted issues that administrators are facing today. While you may be bracing yourself for a 5-10 page discussion about the recent controversies surrounding ACT 10, instead I will focus on a less political but very relevant topic for teaching candidates, interviewing.

While it has only been six years since I interviewed for my first teaching position, after talking with administrators last week it quickly became apparent that the interviewing process is quickly changing within school districts.  During my teaching interviews, it was common to sit down and have an hour long interview with administrators followed by a similar interview with individuals in the specific department. Additionally, some districts had started to require individuals to teach a 15-20 minute sample lesson. Today, these components remain part of the interview process, but are only a portion of what teaching candidates should expect in the interview process.

The group screening interview has become increasingly common in recent years. During this process, groups of five to eight candidates are brought in together and presented with case studies in which they are provided information about a specific student or class section and asked to collaboratively create semester goals and an education plan for the student(s).

While it is important for students to consider what teaching pedagogy and strategies that they want to utilize in formulating their educational plan and student goals, it is equally important to demonstrate effective communication and collaboration skills when working with the other teaching candidates. Administrators want to see that an individual has the ability to clearly communicate without dominating a situation.

Furthermore, they evaluate candidates in areas such as cultural competency. One administrator noted the tendency of new teachers to make assumptions and place stereotypes on students. For instance, if an individual has a name common within Hispanic communities, it in no way indicates that the student speaks Spanish or cannot speak English. Be careful to utilize the information provided without overthinking scenarios and making false assumptions.

Following the group case studies, each candidate is then briefly interviewed by an administrator and asked general questions in order to see if they would or would not be a good fit for the district in terms of their background and teaching philosophy. During the screening interview, administrators strongly emphasized the importance of conducting research about the school district in order to effectively convey how your background and skills align with the school culture and desired skills/qualifications of the position.

Collectively the group and administrator screening interviews generally last up to four hours according to Milwaukee area school administrators. Based on the results of the screening interviews, top candidates are then brought back for a final interview with the administrator and department chair of the building that they would be working in. This interview is similar to the interview  process that I mentioned at the beginning of the blog. Candidates at this stage are asked more specific questions and asked to plan a lesson prior to the interview and teach the lesson to students/staff.

While not all school districts have implemented screening group interviews, they are becoming an increasingly popular method to narrow down the candidate pool. Hopefully by being knowledgeable about the interview process you will be able to adequately prepare for any interviewing situation.

If interviewing is currently not your forte, schedule a practice interview at the MU Career Service Center to improve your skills today. Current MU student and alum can schedule an appointment by calling (414) 288-7423.

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