Dr Anna Elizabeth Du Plessis is an Adjunct Senior Fellow with GIER who works to support beginning teachers in their first five years of practice. Her research aims to construct new models for leadership focusing on effective management of culturally diverse contexts. 

As a constructivist, Anna has strong beliefs regarding the careful guidance of learning at all levels of teaching and learning spaces in society, which might include students, colleagues, and fellow leaders. 

“It’s important to listen. To be a good researcher you need to listen. 

Her research interests include teachers’ wellbeing and dispositions, classroom management, behaviour management, school leadership, healthy school communities, national education policies as well as school improvement policies. 

Anna’s various research projects have examined educational leadership, professional development for teachers and school leaders’ and teachers’ lived experiences in relation to out-of-field teaching practices. 

Currently, her most important research focus is the outoffield teaching phenomenon.  

On this work, Anna says:  

“I engaged in a transnational research project in South Africa and in outback Western Australia. There are some similarities about challenges for quality teaching in the remote areas in these two countries. This project has made a difference as Australia is now in the international arena of research in the out of field phenomenon, which has involved a lot of work, continual enquiry and research. 

Anna works collaboratively with other Australian researchers focusing on various implications of the out-of-field teaching practices. This research is focused on leadership and how to manage the phenomenon in a way that might supports schools to retain teachers across various disciplines and subject fields, not just in maths and science.  

Anna says:  

“Out-offield teaching is happening across disciplines and subject areas. ‘There is a deafening silence in the policy sphere in this field’ as claimed by Lingard in Du Plessis (2021). This aligns with  my research about beginning teachers and their transition to the workplace, as they are most vulnerable to being assigned to outoffield teaching positions. We do not have a policies to protect them from this shock transition to the workplace.”  

Given the attrition rates of teachers due to workplace demands, this research is vitally important in helping school leaders to understand and be aware of challenges and specific needs for staff support.  

Findings from this project were recently presented at the National Summit on Teaching Out-of-field: Synthesis and Recommendations for Policy, Practice and Research. 

Much of the findings point to the importance of “micro education policies,  a model Anna developed through her research. This model highlights the important role school leadership has in creating their own ecosystem to manage these -teaching challenges. 

Anna developed a theory about context consciousness that outlines the need for micro education policies in schools.  

“School leaders know exactly what the needs of their students and teachers are. They are  best placed to decide about a specific  framework to support their students and teachers. Once leaders developed a deep  aware ness of the challenges outoffield teachers experience, they will be able to sit down and create a localised framework for support and change.”

Her respect for the uniqueness of individual learners and teachers informs a culturally sensitive and context-conscious attention to pedagogy and the development of fit-for-purpose learning and teaching approaches to address the needs of those who are students’.  

“The life stories and lived experiences teachers share are not always positive, and outoffield teaching is very difficult for many, however, they are resilient and flexible value and support the construction of healthy trust relationships within work and project environments. My research demonstrates the possibilities to construct healthy work cultures through the sharing of knowledge and open communication opportunities.” 

Growing up in a small country town in South Africa, from a young age Anna was naturally drawn to teaching and guiding children. Her ‘first classroom’ was under the mulberry tree.  

Anna views her role as an opportunity to value and honour teaching and leadership as processes of collaboration, connectedness, awareness, needs analysis, negotiation, action, and ongoing support. 

“One of my dreams for the future is to write a book on how I ‘lost my heart’ to teaching through supporting people to make a difference in their own lives.” 

Anna is motivated and inspired by those she works with and mentors. 

“Teachers are resilient. When I get emails from graduating teachers telling me about their experiences, it feels as if I made a difference to the way they look at students and the teaching  profession. To receive feedback that they feel passionate about teaching and are grateful for shared lived experiences, makes it all worthwhile. That’s enough for me to keep going.” 

Read more about Anna’s work in this area on her website and in the articles below. 

The out-of-field phenomenon and leadership for wellbeing: Understanding concerns for teachers, students and education partnerships





Teacher Preparation and Pedagogical Mobility in the COVID-19 era: Contextual Adjustment and Flexibility While Gaining Professional Experience