Out-of-Field Assignments: Case Studies of Two Beginning Teachers
by Cathy Ringstaff & Judith Haymore Sandholtz — 2002
Reports profiling America's teachers are drawing increased attention to concerns about teachers' subject-matter preparation and out-of-field assignments. In this article, we focus on two 1st-year high school teachers who graduated from the same teacher preparation program in the same year. One is credentialed in the subject area, and the other is not. Using comparative case methodology, we investigate and contrast how the teachers taught a unit on Steinbeck's novel Cannery Row. We analyze their teaching using Shulman's (1987) model of pedagogical reasoning, which divides the overall instructional process into components. We initially describe their teaching without clarifying which teacher is credentialed and which is not. After revealing the out-of-field teacher, we examine other factors that contribute to the differences in these two teachers. In a subsequent section, we argue that out-of-field teaching is a more complex issue than it appears and identify factors contributing to the complexity. We propose conceptualizing out-of-field teaching, as well as teaching assignments generally, as a matter of goodness of fit to take into account the relationship among teacher characteristics, contextual characteristics, and teaching placements.
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