14 SES 01 JS, Schooling in Rural/Urban Settings I
Joint Session with NW 10
There are many issues affecting the quality of education received by students in rural and remote communities and research suggests that the single most significant factor affecting educational quality is the provision of appropriate quality stable staff (Vinson, 2002). Clearly then, attracting and retaining teachers in rural and regional communities remains an area of concern across Australia as well as internationally, where there is an expectation that universities, through initial teacher education programs, will prepare teachers for diverse contexts. Indeed, research suggests that more targeted interventions at the pre-service teacher education stage are required, if we are to challenge existing stereotypes and taken-for-granted grand narratives, in order to attract teachers to work in rural and remote locations (Halsey, 2005; Shaplin, 2002; Yarrow, Ballantyne, Hansford, Herschell & Millwater, 1999). While there is also a recognition that, while institutional priorities are often addressed through formal professional development opportunities for teachers in these locations, there is also a need for broader ongoing professional learning opportunities of a more informal nature (Eraut, 2007; Eraut & Hirsch, 2007).
At a regional Australian University, a small scale research project was set up to investigate the establishment and ongoing development of a network group or community of practice. Education Commons was designed to provide a sustainable model of ongoing professional learning and to support the development of a professional identity from the outset of university study (Henderson, Noble & Cross, in press). Pre-service teachers, novice and experienced educators, school administrators and academics engage in panel discussions and ongoing pedagogical conversations in a face-to-face space, exploring hot topics that are relevant across the broader field of education. They explore these topics in relation to diverse practice contexts that include a strong focus on rural and remote education.
The authors posit that a collaborative process of critical reflection provides the space for “new possibilities to be explored and realized” (Moss & Petrie, 2002, p. 145), allowing those engaged in this space to construct, rather than reproduce, knowledge (Noble, 2003). In this paper, the focus is on better understanding the ways in which involvement in this network community has influenced pre-service teachers’ transition to practice in a rural community after completing an education degree. Research questions include: How do pre-service educators recognise that they are constructing and constructed in discourse? What is the perceived personal and professional support to individuals as they transition to the field and continue to construct their professional identity?
Poststructuralist theory is used to illustrate the ways in which participants negotiate the complicated field and habitus (Bourdieu, 1991; Karol & Gale, 2004) that create possibilities as well as constraints for them professionally. While the characteristics of a rural practice context will vary from place to place, the study has relevance to teacher educators internationally. The paper addresses how the use of critical reflection in a networked community develops attributes for sustainable teaching practice in new locations.
Beauchamp, C., & Thomas, L. (2009). Understanding teacher identity: An overview of issues in the literature and implications for teacher education. Cambridge Journal of Education, 39(2), 175-189. Bourdieu, M. (1991). Language and symbolic power. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. Eraut, M. (2007). Learning from other people in the workplace. Oxford Review of Education, 33(4), 403-422. Eraut, M., & Hirsch, W. (2007). The significance of workplace learning for individuals, groups and organisations, SKOPE Monograph, Oxford. Henderson, R., Noble, K., & Cross, K. (in press). Additional Professional Induction Strategy (APIS): Education Commons, a strategy to support transition to the world of work. Australian and International Journal of Rural Education. Karol, J., & Gale, T. (2004). Bourdieu’s social theory and sustainability: What is “environmental capital”? Paper presented at AARE, Melbourne, Victoria. Lingard, L., Albert, M., & Levinson, W. (2008). Grounded theory, mixed methods, and action research. BMJ, 337, 459-461. Maxwell, J. A. (2005). Qualitative research design: An interactive approach (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. Moss, P., & Petrie, P. (2002). From children’s services to children’s spaces: Public policy, children and childhood. London: Routledge Falmer. Noble, K. (2003, Nov. 6-7). Preparing practitioners to work with young children and their families in uncertain times: Understanding contexts. Effective Teaching and Learning Conference: A Conference for University Teachers, Brisbane, Queensland. Halsey, J. (2005). Pre-service country teaching in Australia: What’s happening – what needs to happen? Paper presented at the 21st Conference of the Society for the Provision of Education in Rural Australia, Toowoomba, Queensland. Sharplin, E. (2002). Rural retreat or outback hell: Expectations of rural and remote teaching, Issues in Educational Research, 12(1), 49-63. Yarrow, A., Ballantyne, R., Hansford, P., Herschell, R., & Millwater.J. (1999). Teaching in rural and remote schools: A literature review. Teaching and Teacher Education, 15(1), 1-13.
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