11 SES 12, Educational Improvement
Education faces world-wide trends that involve migration, harmonisation of values, global integration, democracy and dual nationalities, changing trade patterns, and concerns about affluence and inequality (OECD, 2016). This paper investigates the impact of out-of-field teaching practices against the background of challenging teaching and learning environments.
While the value of statistical information is acknowledged (Weldon, 2015), this investigation will foster a deeper understanding of the life-world of out-of-field teachers and how it influences the learning culture and climate of inclusive or exclusive learning environments.
Developing a deeper understanding entails a carefully planned investigation that moves beyond the obvious, in agreement with Lingard’s (2011) statement: that despite the statistics, a lot more is affecting the impact of the out-of-field teaching phenomenon on the inclusiveness or exclusiveness of learning environments. This phenomenon involves teachers teaching subjects or year-levels outside their fields of qualification or expertise.
The guiding research question, “How does the out-of-field teaching phenomenon influence schools’ inclusive or exclusive paradigm preparation to accommodate students from different socio-economic and culture backgrounds?”stimulates new insights into the implications that out-of-field teaching practices have for all students.
The expectation that the professional practice of teachers will effectively accommodate diversity turns the focus to teachers’ capacity to prepare students for a diverse and mobile world. This investigation employs Vygotsky’s (1978) social constructivist theory to highlight the role of the knowledgeable other to carefully guide effective learning, while it draws attention to what the phenomenon means in a complex learning and teaching environment.
Gadamer’s (1975) philosophy of deep understanding through a “fusion of horizons” (p. 273) supports the investigation’s empirical exploration from different angles (i.e., principals, teachers [specialist and out-of-field], parents, and educational leaders).
Data were triangulated through semi-structured interviews, observations and document analysis (agendas, minutes of subject and staff meetings, and reflective notes in the field diary). The significance of the results draws attention to key concepts:
First, a teacher’s capacity to aid all students, underpinned by socially just approaches; second, leadership concerns about creating a culture and a climate in schools that meet the needs of all students; third, the transferability of teachers’ skills and what it means for school improvement and teacher development; fourth, the meaning that the out-of-field phenomenon has for teachers’ targeted professional support to stop disruptive behaviour, radicalisation and tension among student groups.
Acknowledging the teaching space as the most influential aspect of the learning environment (Bourdieu, 2010), the investigation reflects on the implications that the out-of-field phenomenon has for teachers’ capacity to manage diversity, policy development, and learning needs across the globe to inform this in-depth discussion. An ontological and a subjectivist epistemological approach develop a deeper understanding of the lived experiences of out-of-field teachers that informs, accentuates and stimulates the discovery of meaning, while embracing a hermeneutic phenomenological approach (Laverty, 2003).
The paper concludes by recommending a newly developed teacher capacity-building model, as well as strategies to support teachers in out-of-field positions to effectively achieve and manage positive teaching and learning contexts.
The innovative context-conscious understanding of development theory supports appreciation of the out-of-field phenomenon’s impact on specific contexts, situations, lived experiences, and capacities of teachers to act as knowledgeable others in diverse school and classroom contexts. The Context-Conscious Understanding Development (C-CUD) theory is deeply embedded in the hermeneutic phenomenological approach, based on Gadamer’s (1975; 1976) philosophy of deeper understanding through active listening, which fulfils the desire to engage in conversations and interviews to open a fusion of horizons. The methodological stance acknowledges that statistical information is beneficial and supports an in-depth understanding of the lived experiences of stakeholders involved. The methodology acknowledges that the self approach affects different social experiences differently; depending on the specific part the individual plays (Day, Kington, Stobart, & Sammons, 2006). School leaders, educational directors, parents, and teachers (specialised and out-of-field) as participants came from seven primary and secondary schools in metropolitan and remote areas of Australia and Southern Africa. Settings represent different learning environments, accessibility and openness to discuss issues through extended visits. One-on-one semi-structured interviews presented opportunities to question various perceptions about the out-of-field phenomenon, while revealing new, in-depth understanding and insights. The hermeneutic phenomenological approach provided the researcher with tools to investigate the phenomenon beyond obvious concerns, focusing on the lived experiences associated with out-of-field teaching practices and how they affected the inclusiveness or exclusiveness within the teaching and learning environment. A deeper understanding of these real-life experiences will develop a better awareness of specific needs in relation to in-depth reflection and re-assessment of education policies.
First, the study underlines the importance of gaining an in-depth understanding of the out-of-field teaching phenomenon’s impact on a culture of inclusive or exclusive classroom and school contexts. This study unveils contextual realities connected to out-of-field teaching practices. Second, the paper offers insights into the gap in existing knowledge and understanding of the phenomenon’s impact on the improvement of the teaching and learning contexts. Nias’s (1996) notion ― what happens inside classrooms is a mirror image of teachers’ self-esteem and continuous critical self-reflection ― explains how expectations to improve students’ achievements and learning outcomes place out-of-field teachers in the centre of the current complex global teaching and learning environments. Third, the study develops awareness and understanding of the repercussions of misconceptions about teachers’ personal experiences, social experiences, cultural understanding, and what it means for the improvement of institutional work environment (Nias, 1996) as a result of the out-of-field phenomenon. Fourth, the study provides participants with a platform to discuss their real-life experiences and the implications they have for the inclusion or exclusion of students within the learning space. The investigation generates new perspectives through the voice of participants (Lobo & Vizcaino, 2007) and informs the development of a teacher capacity-building model.
Bourdieu, P. (2010). (25th ed.). Outline of a Theory of Practice. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Day, C., Kington, A., Stobart, G., & Sammons, P. (2006). The personal and professional selves of teachers: stable and unstable identities. British Educational Research Journal, 32(4), 601‒616. Gadamer, H. (1975). Truth and method (2nd ed.). (J.C.B. Mohr, Trans.). New York: The Seabury Press. Gadamer, H. (1976). Philosophical hermeneutics. (D. Linge, Trans.). Berkeley: University of California Press. Laverty, S. M. (2003). Hermeneutic Phenomenology and Phenomenology: A Comparison of Historical and Methodological Considerations. International Journal of Qualitative Methods, 2 (3), Article 3, September 2003, Retrieved 22nd June 2011 from http:// www.ualberta.ca/-iiqm/backissues/2_3final/pdf/laverty.pdf Lingard, B. (2011). Policy as numbers: Ac/counting for educational research. Australian Educational Researcher, 38(4), 355‒382. Lobo, J., & Vizcaino, A. (2006). Finding a voice through research. Arts and Humanities in Higher Education, 5(3), 305‒316. Nias, J. (1996). Thinking about feeling: the emotions in teaching. Cambridge Journal of Education, 26(3), 293‒306. OECD (2016). Trends Shaping Education 2016. OECD Publishing: Paris. http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/trends_edu-2016-en Vygotsky, L. (1978). Mind in society: The development of higher psychological processes. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Weldon, P. R. (2015). The teacher workforce in Australia: supply, demand and data issues, Policy Insights (Issue 2). Melbourne: ACER.
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