Policy, practice and need in the professional preparation of
teachers for rural teaching: An Australian perspective

Year: 1993

Author: Gibson, Ian W.

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

This paper analyses current policy and practice relating to the selection of teachers for rural areas of Australia and contrasts these to the perceptions of rural teachers regarding needed additions to pre-service preparation. Based on research which explores the perceptions of a sample of teachers newly appointed to isolated rural schools during the course of one academic year in the western regions of Queensland, one of Australia's 'outback' states, and an analysis of both national and state policy contexts for teacher selection and employment for rural teaching, conclusions regarding both the need for specialised preparation programmes for rural teachers and the responsibility of education departments in the development of specific rural staffing policies are drawn. The methodology used for this project incorporates a document analysis of national, state and regional policies which focus on the provision of teachers for rural education, interviews with teacher recruitment personnel in state and regional departments of education and a series of in-depth, structured interviews with teachers from small rural schools. The document analysis summarised those statements relating to policy and practice on rural issues taken from national reports and documents provided by appropriate government departments. These are discussed against a background of the current literature dealing with equality and social justice issues in a rural context. Interviews with departmental personnel in each state provided current information regarding the state of policy development and practice in rural teacher selection. Data gathered from the teacher interviews were analysed through a process of inductive categorisation and related to general research questions focussing upon professional preparation and teacher needs. Conclusions derived from this study raise the issue of government and departmental recognition of rural needs and the generation of specific policy guidelines, expectations and resultant practice related to the selection of teachers for rural areas. In addition, conclusions from this study indicate the need for specialised programmes of teacher education and induction for rural teachers and suggests that staffing policies in departments of education must reflect national policies promoting the selection of teachers for rural schools who have undergone appropriate programmes to prepare them for such work.