Rethinking teacher recruitment: New approaches to attracting prospective STEM teachers

Lead Research Organisation: University of York
Department Name: Education


The purpose of this project is to build a better understanding of the attraction and recruitment of STEM undergraduates into initial teacher education (ITE) using innovative technologies.

Recruiting enough high-quality applicants in certain subject areas (e.g., STEM) for ITE is a chronic problem in England and several countries in the world. A shortage of high-quality STEM applicants for ITE weakens the teacher workforce, reduces educational opportunities for many children, and leads to a drain on economic resources (e.g., through the ongoing provision of recruitment incentives) that could be used elsewhere.

Teacher shortages are the result of a complex mix of political, economic, and social factors. One contributing factor-and the focus of this proposal-is the effectiveness, innovativeness, and reach of recruitment messaging designed to attract potential applicants. The project is based on developing and testing new digital tools that can be used for STEM recruitment. In this proposal, we outline how we will develop and test innovative and proactive technologies to attract and recruit prospective STEM teachers into ITE.

New Technologies for Teacher Recruitment
Advances in recruitment research point the way to new teacher recruitment interventions that can be both active and scalable by harnessing methods from organisational psychology, organisational behaviour, and gamification research. We will test two proactive teacher recruitment technologies that have the potential to be effective, engaging, economical, and scalable: (a) online realistic job previews (RJPs), and (b) a 'persuasive' teaching game. To our knowledge, this project will be the first of its kind to harness these two technologies to address the challenge of teacher recruitment.

Realistic Job Previews (RJPs)
RJPs offer potential applicants a series of video or text samples of workplace situations that they can expect to encounter on a job, followed by questions (What should you do?) and feedback from experts (Your responses show an excellent fit with the responses from experienced teachers). Research on RJPs shows that they promote higher levels of fit than more general interventions such as advertising campaigns and promote early integration into a new field. Recent research focused on teacher recruitment showed that a prototype RJP intervention boosted interest in teaching in a sample of STEM students (Klassen et al., 2021).

Persuasive Games
Online 'persuasive games' can be designed to shape attitudes in participants by immersing them in engaging activities (e.g., a teaching simulation) with agentic (i.e., self-directed) digital interactions. Persuasive games can be designed to engage, motivate, and persuade applicants in the recruitment process, and can increase the attractiveness of a prospective vocation/employer. Well-designed games deliver experiences that are rich and vivid in sensory experiences, creating a sense of immersion and presence that in turn build situational and emergent individual interest.

Research Aims
In this project, we are focusing on increasing the flow of STEM students into ITE, with STEM itself representing a microcosm of the recruitment landscape: shortages can be found in some STEM subjects such as physics, but are less prevalent in other areas, such as biology. In Work Package 1, we explore the integrative effects of multiple messages (based on social utility, personal utility, and PV fit) on teaching-related attitudes and beliefs. In Work Package 2, we develop and test a teacher recruitment game, tentatively titled TeachQuest. In Work Package 3, we test how an online RJP intervention and TeachQuest influence participants' teaching career-related attitudes (teaching interest, teaching intentions, and teaching self-efficacy), and behaviours (ITE application status, retention in ITE, and decisions to enter professional practice).


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