Do Future Teachers Choose Wisely: A Study of Pre-Service Teachers' Personality Preference Profiles

By Thornton, Bill; Peltier, Gary et al. | College Student Journal, September 2005 | Go to article overview

Do Future Teachers Choose Wisely: A Study of Pre-Service Teachers' Personality Preference Profiles


Thornton, Bill, Peltier, Gary, Hill, Gus, College Student Journal


The No Child Left Behind Act requires that all teachers in core academic subjects to be "highly qualified" by the end of the 2005-06 school year. New teacher leave the profession at an alarming rate--research indicates that 50% have left within five years of their first job. This article explores the personality types of pre-service teachers and non-education majors. The authors suggest that more appropriate screening procedures should be used by teacher preparation programs. Personality types may relate to teacher success and length of service.

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The teaching profession is a very stressful occupation, and beginning teachers leave the profession at a rate far above the attrition rate experienced in private industry. Norton (1999) reported that 25% of teachers have left the profession by the end of their first year and only 50% of beginning teachers remain on the job after five years. In an earlier study, Karge (1993) reported that up to 40% of new teachers leave the profession by the end of two years. In contrast, private sector corporations lose approximately 6% of staff per year. This ongoing attrition of educators has a significant impact on efforts to place a quality teacher in every classroom.

Thus, an issue of paramount importance is how to increase the long-term success of new teachers. One approach would be to determine if personality profiles of pre-service teachers could be helpful in this regard. Several questions related to pre-service teachers and future successes arise. What are the personality profiles of people who elect to become teachers? Are the personality profiles of potential teachers different from the profiles of other undergraduate students? Can personality profiles of pre-service teachers be used to determine future success and longevity of classroom teachers? The following section presents a brief summary of relevant research related to the above questions.

Summary of Research

Ducharme and Ducharme (1996) identified the need to study the psychological characteristics of pre-service teachers and suggested that the psychological traits of pre-service teachers may be predictive of future success. Studies have been conducted to establish relationships between teacher characteristics and students' learning. Early studies by Doyal and Forsyth (1973) and Zimmerman (1970) found that teachers' psychological states, particularly teacher anxiety, affected the psychological states of their students. Mackiel (1979) found that students tend to model the psychological and physical states of their teachers. More recent research indicates that personality traits of teachers relate to effective classroom performance (Czubaj, 1996; Fisher & Kent, 1998; Hawkes, 1991; Howey & Strom, 1982). For example, teacher personality profiles have been linked to many characteristics associated with effective schools: classroom management style (Martin, 1998); types of learning environments and patterns of teacher and student interactions (Fisher & Kent, 1998); student achievement (Lessen & Frankiewicz, 1992); and teacher attrition (Marso & Pigge, 1997).

Unfortunately, common practice within schools and colleges of education is to allow open enrollment into most teacher preparation programs. Colleges tend to establish minimal entry requirements such as grade point average and interviews by faculty. As a result, prospective teachers in colleges of education make significant life decision with limited data. Colleges of education could improve the quality of new teachers by developing better selection processes for pre-service teachers. Personality type may be an important factor to consider if more restrictive entry requirements are put in place. Personality type may also relate to teachers' decisions to leave the profession early in their careers.

Personality Temperaments"

Carl Jung (1923), the renowned Swiss psychologist, developed a theory of personality types based on individual preferences. …

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