An exploration of out-of-field teacher learning experiences: a case study of secondary school social science teachers at Pholela Circuit, KwaZulu-Natal.
Seshea., Nkosinathi Emmanuel.
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This study explores the learning experiences of secondary school out-of-field Social Science teachers. Out-of-field teaching is a phenomenon in which qualified teachers teach subjects, learning areas or/and year levels they were not trained to teach. A purposive sample of six secondary school out-of-field Social Science teachers were used. Qualitative data were generated through semi-structured interviews and research diaries, using a case study research method. Thematic analysis was conducted on the basis of the themes that emerged from the participants’ responses to the research questions. This study adopted an interpretive paradigm to get an understanding of out-of-field secondary school teachers’ learning experiences from the teachers themselves. Grossman’s (1990) domains of teacher knowledge, Reid’s (in Fraser, Kennedy, Reid & Mc Kinney, 2007) quadrants of teacher learning and Bandura’s (1997) concept of self-efficacy were used as conceptual frameworks for this study. Findings indicated that secondary school out-of-field Social Science teachers, when they are first assigned to teach Social Science, experience low efficacy levels because of their poorly developed knowledge, skills and strategies to teach it. As a result of their low efficacy levels, these teachers avoid teaching tasks they find challenging. Their self-efficacy develops as they involve themselves in a variety of learning and teaching activities, using a wide range of sources in different contexts. The level of self-efficacy that develops is, however, not sufficient for the out-of-field Social Science teachers to be able to teach Social Science adequately. In their learning, these teachers involve themselves mostly in informal incidental learning activities to learn different types of knowledge. They learn pedagogical content knowledge mostly from observing their peers teaching, learn content knowledge mostly from textbooks, and also learn general pedagogical knowledge mostly from policy documents and from teachers more knowledgeable in Geography, History and/ or Social Science. This study recommends that scholars conduct large-scale research projects to generate data on the out- of-field teaching phenomenon in South Africa so that appropriate professional learning activities can be designed to improve the competency of out-of-field Social Science teachers. At present, the professional learning activities that are formally organized do not consider the varied learning needs of the out-of-field Social Science teachers but tend to concentrate on teaching teachers what curriculum policy documents entail. In addition to professional learning activities for all Social Science teachers, designing professional learning activities specifically for the out-of-field Social Science teachers will contribute in helping out-of-field Social Science teachers to learn how to teach Social Science better.