South African Journal of Education

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Towards an optimal person-environment fit: A baseline study of student teachers’ personality traits

Rümando Kok, Lukas Meyer


This research sets out to conduct a baseline study on personality traits of student teachers to assess the possible implications for an optimal person-environment fit or unfortunate misfit. A non-experimental quantitative research design was used and data were obtained by administering the NEO Five-Factor Inventory (NEO-FFI) to 835 student teachers at the North-West University in South Africa. Data were analysed using descriptive and inferential statistics. Results indicated a much lower than expected score on agreeableness and a much higher than expected score on neuroticism. The only desirable personality trait presented in the specific sample was extraversion. The undesirable scores in the four personality traits are discussed in terms of the potential implications of a misfit between student teachers and the teaching environment; and of the sole desirable personality trait in terms of an optimal person-environment fit. Gender differences were noted in the personality domain agreeableness. Future research is indicated to determine the usefulness of personality assessment in the selection of student teachers in other teacher training contexts. The NEO-FFI shows promise in this regard.

Keywords: Five-Factor Inventory; five-factor model of personality; NEO-FFI; personality; student teachers

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