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The Use of Theme-Based Interviews to Predict Future Performance of Teachers

By Dr. Thomas Morgan and Dr. Donna Crecelius


Candidates for teaching positions were interviewed in a suburban St. Louis school district. These interviews were designed to evaluate the effectiveness of a theme-based structured interview consisting of 22 questions based on specific dimensions. The structured interview was used for all 1:1 interviews; candidates were asked identical questions and the responses analyzed by trained interviewers.

Every question in the interview has been extensively researched to assure that the questions were reliable and valid. The structured interview questions were evaluated to assure they were discerning in evaluating responses. The questions were designed to address the dimensions of building relationships, learning, managing, and reaching out. Within these four dimensions, 11 subcategories were assessed. The scores of the interviews and the basic dimensions were correlated with principals’ evaluations after the teachers’ first year. The comparison showed that the interviews were highly predictive of teachers’ future success.
Background Information

Organizations know that the key to reaching the next level of performance is through the selection of high performing employees. Most important is the organization meeting its goals. In the case of school districts, it is critical to select high performing teachers to achieve the overall goal of student learning. The selection of high performing teachers is far reaching and has a great influence on other employees and students they serve.

The goal of selection is to secure more teachers who are similar to the high performing teachers in the district. There are many pieces of data that are reviewed prior to choosing a candidate for an interview such as: transcripts, grades, references, employment history, and resumes. Another important criterion is the score of an online screening tool based on the same dimensions as the interview. The interviews used in this study are referred to as “theme-based structured interviews.” “Theme-based” is derived from the idea that individuals exhibit certain patterns of core values and behaviors and these patterns produce themes. Structured refers to the fact the interviewer asks the same questions in the same order with the same desired responses for every interview. The key for a district’s selection process is to identify the themes that will produce the desired results.

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