Pre-Service Teachers: Dispositional Traits, Emotional States, and Quality of Teacher-Student Interactions

May. 15, 2011

Source: Teacher Education Quarterly, Volume 38, No.2, Spring 2011

(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

This study aims to better understand the dispositional traits and emotional states of pre-service teachers and the association between these attributes and the effectiveness of their interactions with students.
The authors examine two dispositional traits that hold particular promise: personality and adult attachment style.
They also examine three emotional states: depression, anxiety, and stress. Additionally, the present study asks whether these qualities of pre-service teachers are similar to their same age peers, if they remain stable over time, and whether they predict preservice teachers’ interactions with students in their student-teaching experience.

The results of this study have important implications for teacher education and for understanding the characteristics of those individuals who are entering the teaching profession and who may show early promise as effective teachers.

This study uses data from a larger study of teacher preparation, which was funded as part of the Teachers for a New Era project.
All students enrolled in amid-Atlantic university’s teacher preparation program were invited to participate and over 90% consented.
Participants were 67 pre-service teachers enrolled in a five-year combined bachelor/Masters in Teaching (BA/MT) program. Students can choose what their undergraduate major is, most identifying either a content area (mathematics, literacy, etc.) or psychology as their undergraduate major.


Pre-Service Teacher Dispositional Traits and Emotional States
In this study, pre-service teachers’ personality dimensions were less neurotic, more extraverted, more open, more agreeable, and more conscientious than their peers.
In regard to pre-service teachers’ personality characteristics, all of their “Big Five” personality dimensions were also in the direction likely to be beneficial for individuals entering into the teaching profession.
In regard to emotions, pre-service teachers in this sample reported lower levels of anxiety, depression, and stress compared to peers their age.

Stability of States and Traits
In examining stability of personality, attachment traits, and emotional states, results showed that only one dispositional trait—extraversion—changed significantly during individuals’ time in the teacher education program.
Of additional interest here is the stability, or lack of change, in pre-service teachers remaining traits and states.
This finding indicates that, while many things may change during a college experience, the personalities, attachment, and emotions with which students begin a program remain fairly stable.
This study indicates pre-service teachers will not likely “grow out of it” or become different in their general pattern of interactions as a consequence of teacher preparation.

Link to Observed Teacher-Student Interactions
Finally, findings also indicate pre-service teachers’ extraversion and depression levels were related to instructional support interactions in their student teaching experience.
Interestingly, pre-service teachers who reported high levels of extraversion and/or depression when they began a teacher education program were more likely to show lower quality instruction years later during their student teaching experience.
Additionally, the constancy of depressive symptoms during teacher training and the association of depression with the quality of pre-service teachers’ interactions with students is cause for concern. This finding suggests teacher educators should pay attention to possible signs of depression and consider intervention strategies that target individuals who seem to be experiencing this negative mood state.
The other personality dimensions, adult attachment style, and emotions were not predictive of pre-service teachers’ observed interactions with students in their student teaching.


The findings of this study offer a new understanding of the importance of gauging pre-service teachers’ personalities and emotions.
Overall, pre-service teachers in this study reported positive personality traits and emotions. Given that individuals in teacher education programs may have different personalities and emotional states than their same-age peers, teacher educators should be attuned to the unique qualities of the individuals they prepare for the classroom.
Additionally, such results offer a new call for strengthening support for individuals with negative moods in order to set the stage for higher quality interactions with students in the classroom.

Updated: Mar. 27, 2017