Investigating the quality of teaching in rural and remote locations

Year: 2019

Author: Gibson, Skye, Miller, Andrew, Gore, Jennifer, Fray, Leanne

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Student outcomes in rural and remote Australia remain unacceptably below those in metropolitan contexts. Despite the range of complex socio-cultural conditions contributing to this pattern, decades of research and policy have focused on attracting and retaining ‘quality’ teachers to improve the performance of rural schools—but with minimal gains in student achievement. Based on an assumed quality teacher shortage, most recommendations and proposed solutions focus primarily on developing teacher education programs and pre-service experiences tailored to rural contexts, premised on the view that adequate and appropriate preparation is key to resolving the ‘rural workforce challenge’. Alternatively, incentives to attract experienced high quality teachers are increasingly seen as necessary.

To date, however, there is no methodological evidence regarding the actual quality of teaching in rural and remote locations and how it might differ from other contexts. This signals the need for research that investigates the quality of teaching of the existing rural teacher workforce. To this end, we observed and coded lessons taught by 223 teachers in 120 schools in NSW, Australia, utilising the Quality Teaching (QT) model, while taking into account socio-economic differences and years of teaching experience. Our analysis provides robust insights into the quality of teaching in rural and remote areas compared to other geographical contexts.

Adopting a rural lens, we argue that the current emphasis on the need for quality teachers discredits the existing rural teacher workforce and neglects other major factors contributing to differential outcomes that are specific to rural school contexts, including; access to quality professional learning opportunities, personal and professional isolation, and school resources, all of which need to be taken into account and addressed if social justice for rural students is to be achieved.