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The development of a situational judgement test of personal attributes for quality teaching in rural and remote Australia


Education authorities in Australia are calling for valid tools to help assess prospective teachers’ non-academic attributes, with a particular need for identifying those attributes necessary for effective teaching in specific contexts. With the New South Wales (NSW) Department of Education, we aimed to develop a scenario-based tool to help assess the non-academic attributes necessary for beginning teachers working in rural and remote settings. Using a situational judgement test (SJT) methodology, we worked with experienced teachers (n = 19) to develop scenario-based items, which were then reviewed by school principals (n = 13). The teachers also adapted items previously developed and piloted in the UK. Next, prospective NSW teachers (n = 99) tried 32 new and adapted items targeting four clusters of attributes: empathy and communication, resilience and adaptability, organisation and planning, and culture and context. Item quality analyses revealed 22 acceptable items. We conclude by suggesting SJTs for promoting non-academic growth of prospective and beginning teachers.

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Fig. 1
Fig. 2


  1. 1.

    Please refer to Patterson et al.’s (2013) work for the formula as it is beyond the scope of this article to elaborate on the calculations.

  2. 2.

    While inconclusive, a larger sample of participants may help determine the validity of the scenario-based items as a whole in relation to a range of related constructs. Since SJT research, overall, has struggled with conventional methods for assessing validity (Sorrel et al. 2016), additional methods in addition to use with a larger sample will be explored in future research.

  3. 3.

    The low reliability may be due in part to the low sample size and higher number of primary trained participants (since the items were specific to secondary school settings). In addition, 10 items were revealed as being of limited quality (see Table 4). By excluding lower quality items, the reliability (as indicated by Cronbach’s alpha) increased from 0.16 to 0.42. Previous SJT studies have averaged an internal consistency of 0.46 (see Sorrel et al. 2016 for a discussion).


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We gratefully acknowledge the assistance provided by Lisa Kim (University of York, UK) and the consistent dedication and commitment shown by our team of collaborators at the New South Wales (NSW) Department of Education. In particular, we are grateful for the help provided by Mark Anderson, Ian Quintos, John Wilson, and Veronica Willmott of the Human Resources Directorate. We also express our utmost thanks to the NSW teachers and principals who shared their insights and expertise and to the pilot study participants for their time and feedback.

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Correspondence to Tracy L. Durksen.

Appendix: Example of a situational judgement test item for teachers

Appendix: Example of a situational judgement test item for teachers

You are teaching a lesson and have asked the students to individually complete an exercise that requires them to write down their responses. You have explained the exercise to the students and answered all of the questions that they have asked. As the students begin writing, one student, Ruby, starts to throw paper around and is clearly distracting the students sitting nearby. You know from previous incidents that Ruby often becomes frustrated when she does not understand how to complete activities, and that she often displays her frustration by being disruptive.

Choose the three most appropriate actions to take in this situation (alternatively, Rank the items in the most appropriate order)

  • Send Ruby out the class if she continues to be disruptive

  • Ask Ruby if she understands what the activity requires her to do

  • Check in 5 min to see if Ruby has made progress with the exercise

  • Tell Ruby that you are disappointed in her behaviour

  • Ask Ruby’s classmate to discreetly provide help

  • Stop the exercise and discuss the classroom behaviour plan with the whole class

  • etc. (eight total response options)

Note This is an example only, and is adapted from an item in a SJT for primary teachers (Klassen et al. 2017, p. 905).

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Durksen, T.L., Klassen, R.M. The development of a situational judgement test of personal attributes for quality teaching in rural and remote Australia. Aust. Educ. Res. 45, 255–276 (2018).

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  • Rural teaching
  • Personal characteristics
  • Non-academic attributes
  • Teacher recruitment
  • Teacher retention
  • Critical incidents