14 SES 12 A, Dialogue and Social Transformation, Part I: Examining the Research ‘Footprint’ in Rural Contexts. International Discussion of Methodological Issues and Possibilities
Education researchers often come together to discuss, debate and consider the different merits and challenges of various methodologies appropriate for the people, purpose or intention of a study but little has been done in relation to place and yet place matters. While Grunewald (2003) has encouraged the need to consider place consciousness in the field of education there is still little focus given to the methodologies in terms of geography, ‘space and place’ and educational research. By default the research methodological debates are thus largely metro centric and urban based. This lack of explicit discussion about researching in rural places and the methodological issues and challenges by the education research community has meant that often the needs of rural students, their families and communities remain invisible and the impact of rural research methodologies unexplored. It is important and timely to highlight, unpack and critique these various methodological issues and possibilities from the position of and as they relate to rural, regional and remote schools and their communities.
Rural communities while widely diverse in their demography, economy and geography share similarities in that by definition are in a ‘place’ located away from a city and smaller in size. This distance and size brings with it benefits and challenges in terms of sustainability and wellbeing. With the distance and size come an increased likelihood of isolation and less access to choice of resources. Many of these places are in a constant state of dealing with challenging circumstances due to globalisation and there are trends such as increasing aging population, loss of traditional employment and fewer access and opportunities in education (Shucksmith, 2000; Roberts, 2005; Monk, 2007) to deal with. To balance these challenges, there is usually a greater sense of social belonging and level of importance placed on the interplay between community building and sustaining relationships. Public and social reputation is valued and establishing strong networks through social capital often required (Falk and Kilpatrick, 2000).
In terms of researching in and on rural places there is a need to consider methodology in relation to a rural social space (Reid et al, 2010) and aspects such as ethics, anonymity, researcher position, power and impact. In particular the question needs to be posed of ‘what good is this research to those who are being researched in rural schools and communities?’ In short what is the impact of the research footprint in a rural place? and what methodological issues and possibilities might need to be considered to increase the positive outcomes for those who live in rural communities?
This international symposium brings together rural researchers from across Australia, the UK, Europe and Canada to begin to examine these questions and compare the methodological issues and possibilities.
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