Reconceptualising out-of-field teaching: Experiences of rural teachers in Western Australia

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)


Out-of-field teaching (generally defined as a situation where teachers are appointed to areas or phases of learning for which they have no formal qualifications) is an international phenomenon that can impact on the educational experiences of students. Teachers in rural and difficult to staff schools are frequently appointed out-of-field due to teacher shortages. Their lack of qualifications and experience relevant to their appointment can present significant challenges to their induction within the profession.From a broader study of the experiences of teachers appointed to rural and remote government schools in their first years of appointment, out-of-field teaching emerged as a significant issue. This paper examines the experiences of out-of-field teachers in rural Western Australia.The participants were 29 teachers commencing employment at 17 rural/remote Department of Education schools in Western Australia: six multiple case locations and 11 single case sites were included. Four categories of teachers (young novice, mature aged novice, interstate educated and overseas-educated teachers) were identified as groups frequently recruited to fill vacancies in rural/remote schools.The collective case study was conducted in the qualitative, interpretivist paradigm, seeking to understand the lived experiences of participants. Data were collected through: an initial questionnaire; a series of telephone interviews; site visits; and email contact for up to 15 months. Data were initially analysed using inductive processes generating codes and categories; later, more emergent, grounded theory approaches were used.Six categories were formulated to describe the fit between participants' qualifications and experiences and their appointment: role-congruence; role-displacement; phase-displacement; role-stretched and phase-stretched. In this small study, nearly half the participants were assigned to roles and/or phases of learning that were categorised as 'incongruent'. Mis-assigned teachers were more likely to leave their appointments than role- and phase-congruent participants and more likely to express dissatisfaction with quality of worklife.Out-of-field teaching emerged as an important issue that can impact on teachers' sense of efficacy and teacher attrition. When teachers are mis-assigned, it is suggested that systems and schools should provide support structures to assist teachers to develop their competence and to reduce the potential negative impact on teachers and learners. The proposed framework for categorising out-of-field teaching is presented as a tool for further exploration within future research in this area.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)97-110
Number of pages14
JournalEducational Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1 2014


  • out-of-field teaching
  • rural education
  • teacher attrition
  • teacher worklife

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Reconceptualising out-of-field teaching: Experiences of rural teachers in Western Australia'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this