In the Classrooms of Newly Hired Secondary Science Teachers: The Consequences of Teaching In-field or Out-of-field

Science teachers must sometimes teach outside of their expertise, and this type of teaching assignment is referred to as being out-of-field. Among newly hired teachers, this type of assignment may have a detrimental impact in the development of their instruction. This study explored the classroom instruction of 17 newly hired teachers who were teaching both in-field and out-of-field in the physical sciences during their first three years. Data were collected from the teachers that consisted of four yearly observations of their instruction (a total of 12 observations), yearly interviews about their experiences (four total), and monthly interviews pertaining to their instruction (eight each year, for a total of 24). Narratives were constructed for each teacher that depicted their instruction over time, with reference to their teaching in-field or out-of-field subjects. The narratives were compared to one another to determine how their classroom instruction was shaped by teaching in-field or out-of-field. The findings of the study revealed that teaching out-of-field during the first year was an additional instructional challenge, which compounded the already difficult first few years of teaching. In addition, the findings revealed that out-of-field teaching resulted in isolated instructional scientific practices—regardless of the years of experience. These findings suggest that newly hired science teachers teaching out-of-field are more at risk of not cultivating their science instruction than are their in-field counterparts. The results of this study indicate that more research is needed about out-of-field teaching in science subjects.

Napier, J., Luft, J.A, & Singh, H. (2020). In the classrooms of newly hired secondary science teachers: The consequences of teaching in-field or out-of-field. Journal of Science Teacher Education, 31(7), 802-820.