It is widely recognised that many teachers work 'out of field', taking subjects outside their specialities. Studies undertaken by the author and by other researchers shed light on how teachers themselves experience and understand out-of-field teaching. The article discusses the issue in relation to junior secondary science and mathematics. Evidence is drawn from the 2009 Teacher Identity In and Across Subjects (TIIAS) study. The article also includes a table summarising the findings of eight major research reports relevant to this issue. The author draws a range of conclusions. Teachers' experience and understanding of out-of-field teaching is determined not only by their subject content knowledge and their pedagogical content knowledge, but also by their context and by the personal resources available to them. Rural teachers often accept the need to teach across a number of subject areas, as part of their professional identity, despite the fact that they often lack easy access to subject specialists. Teachers tend to be more positive about out-of-field teaching when they themselves have had input into which subjects they will teach, and when they have an interest in or informal knowledge of the subject area. Teachers' interest in professional development to support their out-of-field teaching is influenced by whether they see themselves as simply filling in for someone, making the most of an opportunity, or pursuing an interest. Professional learning should ideally be initiated by or negotiated with the teachers, and should be provided at the point of need. School leaderships should maximise teachers' input into subject allocation and provision of professional learning opportunities. Teacher education courses need to prepare pre-service teachers to cope with out-of-field teaching.
Field of Research
130212 Science, Technology and Engineering Curriculum and Pedagogy 130313 Teacher Education and Professional Development of Educators 130208 Mathematics and Numeracy Curriculum and Pedagogy