Congratulations – you’ve secured an interview. As with any teaching opportunity, it will take some work to prepare, execute and succeed at interview in Further Education (FE). Often you’ll need to set a day aside to accommodate the process. This will give the organisation ample time to assess your skills and get to know you; it will also be a crucial opportunity for you to assess the working styles and culture of your potential employer.
Before embarking on your preparation it could be worth considering these points – what type of organisation have you applied to (you can read more about the different types of providers in FE here)? There will be a variety of expectations depending on the setting. Research is crucial. Ideally you’ll speak to someone who has knowledge of the organisation. At the very least you’ll get to know their website, social media and related news articles.
Take time to reflect on the age group of the students. 16-19 year olds require a completely different teaching style to older learners. You’ll be able to draw on everything you’ve learnt during your training, but if you haven’t got direct experience of the type of organisation or age group of students, take time to familiarise yourself.
It’s usual to receive a breakdown of what will be involved in the interview process. If this hasn’t been provided, don’t be afraid to make contact and ask for more details. The more you know, the better you can prepare. If there are several stages to the interview day, check to see if you’re going to be assessed at all times. Some of the exercises may be designed to enable you to find out more, rather than measure your abilities.
In most situations, you can expect to an interview day to consist of:
The meet and greet with different members of staff – this can involve a Head of Department, College Principal or equivalent and fellow teachers. This may or may not be a formally assessed part of the day. This is part of the day gives you chance to ask questions, engage with potential colleagues and get a feel for how well you may fit into the department and organisation as a whole. You may be a natural at this kind of unstructured interaction; if you feel your nerves may come into play, try pre-planning some open questions and practice your ‘elevator pitch’.
A tour of the college – where you’ll get to see the various departments and facilities, meet a broader range of staff and students and observe the atmosphere. You may want to keep an eye out for any projects or themes that echo your own teaching approach and ideas. Listen carefully to what your guide is telling you, and take the opportunity demonstrate an interest in the different facets of the organisation.
A panel interview – you can expect this to consist of three interviewers upwards. This may include senior managers, relevant departmental staff, a governor or equivalent, a representative from HR and potentially a member of the student body. Again, do your research in advance. As with most interviews you won’t be able to predict the exact questions you’ll be asked, but you can certainly speculate on the themes they will cover:
- Your subject choice and what drew you to teaching.
- Why you chose the FE sector – “what motivates you?”
- “Why are you a good teacher?” Prepare a list of the skills that make you a good teacher, and illustrate with practical examples
- The challenges of teaching, in particular anything that relates to your subject choice and the cohort you may be teaching – “what approach do you take to cohort management?”
- Widening participation and inclusivity, in relation to your subject and to the organisation as a whole
- The use of ILT in teaching
- The specific aims and projects of the organisation – “how does our ethos match your own approach to teaching and learning?”
- Approaches to learning – “what steps do you take to accommodate different learning styles and levels of ability in a classroom setting?”
- Relationship building – “how do you build respectful relationships with different types of students?”
- The content of your sessions – “why is creativity important when planning lessons?” or “Tell us how you utilise resources when writing a Scheme of Work.”
A practical session – usually a mock lecture or ‘microteach’. You will be asked to teach a shortened lesson; it can be on a subject of your choice, or you may be given a subject. You could be teaching real students, or deliver your lesson to staff members. The length can vary (15 - 30 minutes is average), but you will be expected to include all the elements of a full-length lesson; a learning objective, mix of activities including individual and paired or group work and assessment of learning. You’ll need to prepare all the associated materials, including a lesson plan. Although this can be daunting it can also be a great opportunity to demonstrate your creativity, confidence in the classroom and inclusive approach.
It’s becoming more common to be asked to complete a ‘cohort analysis’ exercise too. This involves being given a list of students in a typical class. You’ll need to identify the different dynamics issues that may arise and relay what tactics you would use to manage these.