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Supporting teaching and learning in out-of-field subjects : a case study of departmental heads.

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According to the ELRC in South Africa, for an educator to be promoted to Departmental Head he or she must have a teaching experience and a teaching qualification (M+3) with a Relevant Education Qualification Value (REQV 13) as the minimum requirement. The main role of departmental heads is to provide support and assistance in teaching and learning to achieve positive learner results. Due to different circumstances such as a decrease in enrolment, some departmental heads in schools find themselves in a position where they offer support in out-of-field subjects. Therefore, it was crucial to explore departmental heads’ understanding of roles, how they perform those roles, and the enabling and hindering factors of supporting teaching and learning beyond majors. The purpose of the study was to explore the Departmental Heads’ experiences of supporting teaching and learning in their out-of-field subjects. The study is conceptualised within the framework of leadership for learning theory. It used a qualitative case study design within the interpretive paradigm. Eight participants were selected using purposive sampling. Face-to-face semi-structured interviews were employed to generate data and the generated data was analysed using thematic analysis. The research findings revealed that out-of-field departmental heads understood their role to include the provision of guidance and support, monitoring of curriculum, determining the subject needs, departmental vision alignment with the school’s vision and goals, and moderation of tasks. Out-of-field departmental heads applied different strategies to ensure that their roles were performed regardless of the lack of training. Some of the strategies they applied included allocation of subject heads, working with majored departmental heads, pairing their educators with neighbouring schools' departmental heads specialising is similar subjects and attending Professional Learning Communities. Furthermore, the out-of-field departmental heads identified numerous factors they considered to make supporting teaching and learning easier, which include gaining subject content, class size impacts on teaching and learning, communication and motivation. The study has also identified several hindering factors in supporting teaching and learning, which include inadequate resources, lack of development for departmental heads, subject content and curriculum changes as well as workload against time. This study concludes that the departmental heads’ understanding of their roles is common and they confirm what is stated in different departmental policies. It also concluded that the roles performed for out-of-field subjects were the same roles they performed for their majored subjects. However, it can be argued that in the OOF context, leadership of a department is a shared role to accommodate the shortcomings stated by participants. I recommended that the Department of Basic Education consider the position of a subject head to be an official position since they complement the out-of-field departmental heads.


Masters Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg.