Creative Education
2013. Vol.4, No.9, 5-9
Published Online September 2013 in SciRes (
Copyright © 2013 SciRes.
Differences between In-Field and Out-of-Field History Teachers
Influence on Students Learning Experience in Malaysian
Secondary Schools
Umi Kalsum Mohd. Salleh1, I Gusti Ngurah Da rmawan2
1Department of Curriculum and Instructional Technology, Faculty of Education,
University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
2School of Education, University of Adelaide, Adelaide, Australia
Received April 2013
The focus of this study was to investigate whether there were differences between the way in-field and
out-of-field teachers in Malaysian secondary schools perceived and practiced History education, and the
way their students perceived the teaching and learning of History. Both, teacher and student data were
examined. A statistical analysis was conducted to validate the survey and test the relationships between
variables. The results showed that there were significant differences between in-field and out-of-field
teachers in the teacher characteristics of experience and student variables of classroom climate and His-
tory learning outcomes, but not on teaching approaches and methods.
Keywords: Teachers’ Qualification; History Education; Measurement in Education; Teacher’s Education;
Learning Approaches
History is one of the compulsory subjects in Malaysian sec-
ondary schools. Making History a compulsory subject was
important in recognizing its vital role in developing a sense of
belonging to one Malaysian nation. History education was rec-
ognized as a tool to infuse the ideas of belongings, the spirit of
patriotism, love of country, and the commitment to the Malay-
sian nation. There were two practical issues in relation to the
teaching of History emerged. The immediate practical problem
was to have enough teachers for all the History classrooms.
Since there were not enough History education graduates to fill
this need, teachers unqualified in History had to be assigned to
many classrooms. There was great concern that this temporary
expedient would lead to a lowering of standard in the teaching
of History, the very subject that was regarded as vital to the
development of the emerging nation. While the National Edu-
cation Blueprint (2007) aims to provide higher quality and bet-
ter trained teachers in secondary school, the fact is that many
teachers in Malaysian secondary schools have been required to
teach subjects for which they have better prior knowledge and
no prior teacher training.
Many teachers in Malaysian secondary schools were required
to teach subjects for which they have better prior knowledge
and no prior teacher training. Term “out-of-field teaching” re-
fers to the practice of teaching in a subject, field or level of
schooling for which a teacher has neither a major or minor te-
tiary qualification (McConney & Prince, 2009). The issue of
out-of-field teaching is prevalent in Malaysia, with the numbers
dramatically increasing in a rapidly expanding school system.
So the employment of History teachers who are not specialists
in the subject of History, or are minimally qualified in this tea-
ching area, is quite common in Malaysia. This study investi-
gates the possible differences between out-of-field teachers and
in-field History teachers with respect to teachers’ conception of
teaching, teaching approaches, and teaching methods. Moreo-
ver, this study also investigates the students’ views of the class-
room learning environment, learning approaches and the objec-
tives of the teaching and learning of History.
Out-of-Field Teachers
There are several reasons why out-of-field teaching occurs in
education. Ingersol l (1998, 1999, 2000) stated that lac k of agree-
ment between is teacher teaching qualification and a teacher’s
teaching assignment; teachers union; and the shortages of tea-
chers at particular field were factors that caused out-of-field
Ingersoll (2001) claimed that out-of-field teaching had been a
problem in the United States but was largely unrecognized, be-
cause there was no accurate information on the situation. In-
gersoll argued that secondary school teachers should have both
formal education and teacher training in the subject that they
taught. Since Ingersoll’s (1999) early work, a number of studies
have been carried out to investigate the issues surrounding out-
of-field teaching. Jerald (2002) used the same data as Ingersoll
(1999.) His findings indicate that a high percentage of out-of-
field teachers teach the core subjects and not their specialized
subject, in the secondary schools in the United States. He ar-
gued that this problem became much worse between the periods
1993-1994 and 1999-2000. Jerald (2002: p. 1) added that there
were higher rates of out-of-field teaching in the nation’s low-
est-income and highest-minority schools.
Seastrom et al. (2002) defined out-of-field teaching more
strictly as a teacher without major, minor, and certification in a
subject taught. Seastrom et al.’s (2002) findings ca lculated the
Copyright © 2013 SciRes.
percentage and the number of subjects taught by out-of-field
teachers in secondary schools in the United States. The subjects
in the middle school with the most out-of-field teachers were in
the Social Sciences, such as History, as well as Foreign Lan-
guages, English, and Mathematics. Meanwhile, in senior high
schools most out-of-field teachers were assigned to teach Eng-
lish, Mathematics, Social Sciences, Music, Arts and Physical
Education. These findings highlight that out-of-field teachers
teach mostly core subjects. From this research, it appears that
what these teachers tended to teach was based on the textbook.
As a result, student engagement and critical thinking in the spe-
cific subject were very limited (Ingersoll, 1999: p. 29). Teach-
ing based on the textbook could also result in difficulties in an-
swering examination questions, because the standardized exa-
mination includes critical thinking elements (Ingersoll, 1999).
Brown (2003) reported the percentages of out-of-field teaching
in History and the Social Sciences in the United States. He
found that 71 percent of History teachers in middle schools
lacked a college minor or similar qualification in History’ and a
further 11.5 percent lacked a college major in History (Brown,
2003: p. 2). The percentage of out-of-field teachers in middle
schools, History and Social Science subjects was slightly higher
than in the high schools.
McConnel & Price (2009b), continue researching on out-of-
field teaching. The research is an “assessment on the phe-
nomenon of teaching out-of-field in Western Australia” (p. iv).
They state that this study will add more information on relevant
literature on this issue. The result indicates that; (a) out-of-tea-
ching is a common and continuing practice in Australia and in-
ternationally, (b) the issue of out-of-field teaching is occurring
across Western Australia (higher in the non-government schools),
(c) large proportion out-of-field teachers are having at least 20
years of teaching experience (p. 96).
Another study was conducted by Dee & Cohodes, (2008) on
out-of-field teachers and students achievement. The focus of
this study was to determine the relationships between subject-
specific teacher certification and academic degree to teacher
quality. Nati onal Educational Longitudina l Study of 1988 (NEL S:
88 cite in Dee & Cohodes, 2008) was used in this research. The
results indicate; (a) there was no significance between subject-
qualified teachers with other teachers in promoting students’
engagement and comfort with their subject, (b) subject-quail-
fied teachers were more likely to view their students pejora-
tively on students’ homework and attentiveness, (c) the mathe-
matics teachers reduce the achievement of the very week stu-
dents (p. 29).
In a recent study carried out by Riordain & Hannigan, (2011)
investigated the level of out-of-teaching in Irish post-primary
mathematics classrooms and the deployment of these teachers
in Irish post-primary (second-level) school. The post-primary is
a six year programme, taken by students aged 12/13 to 18 years
of age. The samples were 324 mathematic teachers from 51
schools, 26,634 students, and 25 principals. The researchers
found that; (a) there was no significant relationship between
gender and teaching qualifications, (b) older teachers were more
likely to have a teaching qualification in Mathematics, (c) out-
of-field mathematic teachers were primarily assigned non-exam
year classes compared to the qualified mathematics teachers (pp.
In Malaysia, a research study of out-of-field teaching was
carried out in 2003-2005 under a Ministry of Education re-
search grant, the Intensified Research in Priority Areas (IRPA).
This study involved 401 teachers in their first three years of
teaching experience in the classroom following the completion
of their teacher education program. The study investigated the
relationship between teachers’ subject specialization and the
subjects taught in school. The findings show that History was
one of the critical subjects. Out of 17 (History teachers) respon-
dents only five (27%) had majored in History and 12 (73%) of
the teachers were out-of-field teachers. Thus, out-of-field teach-
ers are prevalent in Malaysia (Aini Hassan & Wan Hasmah Wan
Mamat, 2007). Moreover, lack of subject background influenc-
es the process of teaching and learning in the classroom. Ac-
cording to Ingersoll (2001); “good teaching requires expertise
in at least three areas; knowledge of a subject, skills in teaching
and also pedagogical content knowledge” (Ingersoll, 2001: p.
34). Besides this, teacher knowledge and views about the nature
of History are important because these shapes teachers’ views
about what they should teach in the classroom (Wilson &
Wineburg, 1988 cited in Wilson, 2001). In the present study the
focus are on the differences and the similarities between out-
of-field and infield History teachers in relation to students’ per-
ceptions of teaching and learning History in the classroom.
This research adopted a quantitative research survey method.
The data collections were gathered by using the survey ques-
tionnaires. Two set of que stionnaire were used, for teac hers’ and
students’ level. Statistics analyze such as t-test was employed to
investigate the differences bet ween in-field and out-of-field Hi-
story teachers in Malaysian secondary schools In addition, the
correlational research design also been employed. According to
Creswell (2008) this design enables the researcher to test and
describe the degree of relationship between two or more vari-
ables or sets of score. In this stud y, the quantitative methods were
used to investigate relationships between the teachers’ concep-
tions methods and teaching approaches, and students’ approa-
ches, to learning History, and the classroom learning climate,
and History learning outcomes.
Findings and Discussion
In this study, there are two groups of teachers involve, out-
of-field and in-field History teachers. The independent two
sample t-tests were used to compare out-of-field and in-field
History teachers on the teachers characteristics (teaching expe-
rience, teaching conception, teaching approaches and teaching
method) and their students’ characteristics (classroom climate
actual, classroom climate preferred, students’ learning approa-
ches and students’ History learning outcomes).
Teachers’ Characteristics
TExperience (Year of Teaching)
To investigate the differences between the out-of-field (OFT)
teachers and the in-field (IF) History teachers, the two samples
independent t-test was carried out. The results showed that
there was a significant (p = 0.002) difference in the average
number of years teaching between the two groups of History
teachers. In terms of the teaching period, the out-of-field teach-
er had an average of seven years and a half of teaching expe-
rience compared to the in-field teachers whom had 14 years
plus of teaching experience. This suggests that in-field teachers
are more experienced in teaching History compared to the
Copyright © 2013 SciRes.
out-of-field te achers.
Teaching Conception (TCont)
In terms of teaching conceptions, there are five dimensions
used to reflect the teaching conception (TCont). Namely: Ab-
ilityDev, AttPro, KnowDeli, ExamPrep and ConDance. Table 2
shows the comparison between the in-field (IF) and the OFT
History teacher for the five dimensions. The results show that
there were no significant differences between the two groups
for four out of five dimensions tested, the only significant dif-
ference was found in ConDance (conduct guidance). Con-
Dance is one of the dimensions in teaching conception. This di-
mension is measuring the teachers’ influence as role model in
the classroom. In-field teacher reported a higher level of Con-
Dance. This indicates that the in-field teacher had a higher level
of presenting a good role model of conduct to the students
compared to the out-of-field teacher .
Teaching Approach (TApp)
There were two scales used to measure the constructs of
teaching approaches (TApp), namely: conceptual change/stu-
dent-focused (CCSF) and information transmission/teacher-
focused (ITTF) scale. They are labeled as TConChan and TIn-
foTrans respectively. Even though the differences were not
significant for either scale, the patterns are worth mentioning.
In general, in-field teachers focused more on conceptual change
and less on the information transfer compared to the out-of-
field teachers.
Teaching Method (TMet)
Effective teaching (TEff) and active teaching (TAct) were
the two constructs used to reflect the teaching method (TMet).
The results show that there is no significant difference in the
use of active teaching methods even though in general in-field
teachers had a slightly higher average. However, the results
from t-test shows that the in-field teachers had a significantly
higher level of effective teaching being used in their classroom
(p = 0.004).
Student Characteristic
Classroom Climate Preferred (CCP)
There were five dimensions used to reflect the preferred cli-
mate of History classrooms climate (CCP), namely: investiga-
tion (INV), personalization (PERSO), participation (PARTI),
independent (IND) and differentiation (DIFFER). The compar-
isons between the in-field and the out-of-field History teacher
on the five dimensions are tested using t-test. Out of the five
dimensions tested, four of them showed significant differences
between the two groups, investigation (INV), personalization
(PERSO), participation (PARTI) and differentiation (DIFFER).
This result indicates that students under in-field teachers pre-
ferred to have classrooms with higher levels of investigation
(INV), personalization (PERSO), participation (PARTI) and dif-
ferentiation (DIFFER). For the fifth dimension, the independent
(IND), the differences were not significant.
Classroom Climate Actual (CCA)
Similar to CCP in the classroom climate actual (CCA), there
were five dimensions used to reflect the actual History class-
room climate (CCA), namely: investigation (SInv), personalisa-
tion (SPer), participation (SPar), independent (SInd) and diffe-
rentiation (SDiffer). Out of five dimensions tested, only one of
the dimensions was significantly different between the two groups.
The personalization (SPer) showed a significant difference (p =
0.002), indicating that students under in-field teachers expe-
rience more personalized activities in the classroom. For the
rest of the dimensions, there were no significant differences;
however, the patterns are worth mentioning; with the results
suggesting that students under out-of-field teachers were expe-
rience more investigation, independent, participative and differ-
rentiate activities in the classroom.
Learning Approaches (Learning)
The results show the comparison between the in-field (IF)
and the out-of-field (OFT) History teacher for the six constructs,
namely: students’ surface motive (SSM), students’ surface stra-
tegy (SSS), students’ achieving motive (SAM), students’ achie-
ving strategy (SAS), students’ deep motive (SDM), and stu-
dents’ deep strategy (SDS). There were no significant differ-
ences on any of these constructs, showing that in general stu-
dents under in-field and out-of-field are showing very similar
approaches to learning,
Students Learning Outcome (SOUTCOME)
There are three constructs used in the student learning out-
come (SOUTCOME) namely Country (SContry), Community
(SComm) and Individual (SIndividual). There were no signifi-
cant differences found for the three constructs.
The t-test analysis was used to examine the differences be-
tween out-of-field teachers and in-field teachers. On most of the
variables tested, there were no statistically significant differ-
ences between in-field and out-of-field History teachers in Ma-
laysia. The only four variables in which the differences proved
significant were teacher experience, the teaching conception of
conduct guidance, the dimensions of personalization (PERSO),
participation (PARTI), independent (IND) and differentiation
(DIFFER) in the students preferred classroom climate, and the
dimension of personalization in the students’ actual classroom
In relation to teacher experience (measured in years of tea-
ching) the results indicated that out-of-field History teachers
were less experienced compared to the in-field teachers. Out-
of-field History teachers had less experience, an average of 7
years of service, compared to the 14 years for in-field teachers.
The finding would seem to consistent with the school context in
Malaysia. As student numbers have increased, and schools have
needed more History teachers, there has been a tendency to
make use of less experienced members of staff as out-of-field
history teachers. Staffs with more experience are more likely to
be teaching in the area of their training specialization, in this
case upper lev el History.
Of the five dimensions of teachers’ teaching conceptions
employed, only the conduct guidance (ConDance) conception,
which previous studies had identified as an important aim of
teaching (e.g. Goa & Watkins, 2001; Pratt, 1992; Fox, 1983),
showed significant difference between in-field and out-of-field
teachers. This result indicated that in-field teachers, whom the
previous results have shown to be the more experienced teach-
ers, were more likely to be committed to nurturing the personal
Copyright © 2013 SciRes.
conduct of their students through their History teaching.
In terms of preferred classroom climate, there was a signifi-
cant difference between students of in-field teachers and those
of out-of-field teachers on four out of the five dimensions. This
means that students under in-field teachers preferred class-
rooms where they experience investigation, personalization,
participation, and differentiation. On the fifth dimension of in-
dependence there was no difference between the two groups of
students, suggesting that the authority of the teacher in the
classroom was recognized, whether they were fully qualified or
In the actual students’ classroom climate (CCA), out of five
dimensions used for this factor, only personalisation showed
any significant d ifference between stude nts under the two g roups
of teachers, with students of in-field teachers experiencing
greater personalisation. This result can be explained by the
greater experience of in-field t eachers in the Malay sian c ontext.
In particular, they are more likely to have been teaching longer
in the same school and even to have taught the same class for
two or more years. They thus have had a greater opportunity to
gain personal understanding of the students they are teaching. It
is possible, that out-of-field teachers who were younger and
less experienced, would be able to develop a more personalised
dimension to their classrooms, as they gain more familiarity
with the History syllabus and get to know the students in their
classes better. An out-of-field teacher whose efforts are con-
centrated on subject content which is new to them, has less time
to focus on understanding students’ needs and interests. The
chance for professional development in the teaching of History
may help them to become more familiars with the content and
assessment, so that they are able to direct more of their atten-
tion to the individual students in their class.
There were four variables which showed no significant dif-
ference on the t-test results in this study, namely; teachers’
teaching approach, teaching method, students’ approaches to
learning, and learning outcomes. This is an important finding
itself in that it indicates not only that in-field and out-of-field
teachers were using much the same teaching approaches and
methods, but also that the students under each group of teachers
were adopting similar approaches to learning and perceived
much the same learning outcomes in their history classroom.
These results can be seen to be consistent with expectations that
teachers in Malaysia are expected to follow the set of objectives
and lesson plans laid out in the history syllabus. In addition,
out-of-field teachers are after all fully trained in another area of
specialization and can be expected to adapt their knowledge
and teaching skills to the teaching of History.
To conclude, comparison between out-of-field and in-field
on students’ and teachers’ characteristic and perceptions are
also discussed in this chapter. The results show that the in-field
teachers had more experience in teaching History compared to
the out-of-field teachers. In term of teaching conception, the
ConDance (conduct guidance) dimension was found to differ
significantly, but not other dimensions. This indicates that the
in-field teacher had a higher level of presenting a good role mo-
del of conducting to the students compared to the out-of-field
teacher. In addition, the results reported that students under
in-field teachers preferred to have classrooms with higher level
of investigation (INV), personalization (PERSO), participation
(PARTI) and differentiation (DIFFER) activities. Meanwhile,
in the actual classroom the personalization (SPer) dimension
was found to differ significantly, indicating that students under
in-field teachers employ the personalisation activities at higher
level in the actual classroom climate compared to the out-of-
field History teachers.
In general, the findings have developed our knowledge on
the issue of out-of-field teaching in the learning process, in par-
ticular in History teaching. Much literature had focused on the
macro impact of out-of-field teachers on teaching at the school
or state level. What remained unclear was how teachers with
out-of-field qualifications actually taught in the classroom, and
whether there were any differences in students’ learning be-
tween classes taught by out-of-field and in-field History teach-
ers. This study has improved our understanding by pinpointing
the importance of teachers’ experience, conduct guidance as a
conception of History teaching, personalization in the class-
room climate and students’ History learning outcomes, as de-
fined by the syllabus objectives. In relation to all the above va-
riables, there were differences between in-field and out-of-field
The phenomenon of out-of-field teaching is still prevalent in
education and has stimulated many researchers to investigate
this issue. However, this is the first study in the field conducted
in Malaysia. Although there are differences between schools in
the various states and rural regions which may affect the appli-
cation of these Kuala Lumpur findings to other parts of Malay-
sia, some useful implications can be drawn for the teaching of
History generally at secondary level in Malaysia. In addition,
the findings can be used as a basis for future research.
Furthermore, this study has provided empirically based ana-
lytical procedures for testing and extending existing frame-
works and models of the relationships between the many va-
riables which can impact on and interact with classroom learn-
ing and teaching in general. Overall, these findings provide a
better understanding of the relationships between out-of-field
qualifications and other teacher and student factors in the pro-
cess of learning in History in the Malaysian classroom.
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