Factors influencing teachers self-assessment as teaching out-of-field

Year: 2011

Author: Hobbs, Linda

Type of paper: Refereed paper

Teaching 'out-of-field' occurs when teachers teach a subject for which they have no disciplinary or methods qualification. The incidence of out-of-field mathematics, science and technology teaching are particularly high in rural and regional areas. Given that mathematics and science are key areas of policy concern, there is an urgent need to understand teachers' position in this increasingly common practice in order to provide appropriate system responses. This paper asks the question, how are mathematics and science teachers' professional identities influenced by having to teach out-of-field? Twenty teachers who had taught science or mathematics at some time in their career, two school leaders, and two support staff, took part in semi-structured interviews, which I then transcribed. This paper reports on a thematic analysis of a subset of the data that isolated factors influencing teachers' self-assessment of themselves as out-of-field or in-field. Excerpts from the interviews are used to introduce and contextualise these factors within rural and regional settings. These factors are used to generate a theoretical model, the Boundary Between Fields (BBF) Model, that enables analysis of the impact of these factors on identity construction during a boundary crossing event. The Model highlights the influence of support mechanisms, contextual factors and personal resources on the nature of teachers' negotiation of subject boundaries and its impact on professional identity. This innovative model provides a platform for re-conceptualising these experiences as opportunities for professional learning occurring within schools as communities of practice, where teachers are supported and enabled to expand their professional identity. These findings provide insight for policy-makers, school leaders and teacher educators, into the complexity of the issue for teachers, as well as the conditions required for such teaching to be considered learning opportunities.