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Reframing Rural Education Research

Rural III

Chief Investigators: Associate Professor Philip Roberts and Natalie Downes

Project Timeline: Ongoing collaboration with national and international partners.

Overview: This ongoing project is working to reframe the foundations of rural education research.  It does so by working to bridge rural education and rural studies.   The rural education field has tended to work from within its own boundaries. Consequently the field has been becoming increasingly narrow and removed from the parent disciplines.  Central here is the distinction between the various sub-fields of education and their relationships with the parent disciplines.  While rural education is somewhat ambiguously placed it draws primarily from the traditions of sociology and geography, with broader engagements with the non-education fields of rural sociology and rural geography (Roberts & Cuervo, 2015).  Important here is that sociology, and the sociology of education, does not engage significantly with the rural – hence the development of sub-fields of rural education and rural sociology.  Consequently, scholarship is necessary in order to bridge these divides and enhance the quality, and breadth, of scholarship in all related fields.

Research Approach:

Four main approaches are presently being used. 

  1. Mapping the fields. Supported by the University of Canberra outside study program, this first aspect involves working with international leaders in rural studies to map the theoretical foundations of the field. This will then allow linking work to be done in relation to the rural education field and visa versa.
  2. Using the provisional title of ‘Ruraling Educational Research’, and supported by funding from the Australian Association for Research in Education, this edited book project in collaboration with leading rural education scholars in Australia. The aim of the project is to produce a collective ‘statement’ as a field on what this research area represents especially as it intersects with other domains of educational research.
  3. This edited book project, using the provisional title of ‘Valuing The Rural: Putting the Rural First’, is being developed in conjunction with Dr Christine Bottrell.  The book brings together international scholars from a rage of rural professional fields of research.  The work aim to flip the assumed construction of metropolitan as the centre and rural/ remote as peripheral.  In doing so we seek to gain insights from the work being done around service provision that has sustainable practice at the core and values rural places and rural people.
  4. The Researching rural China component is exploring rural education in China. This work is engaging with the comparative education field, as nearly all rural education research in the English language on China sits in this education sub-field. Through this work we are linking rural theory to that field, and bring studies of rural china to the rural education field.  By using an international comparative lens this work is generating new insights into how the rural is socially constructed across international contexts.  Rather than focus solely on education the intention is to include a perspective about the social construction of the rural in international contexts and issues of rural-regional sustainability.

Related Publications:

  • Roberts, P. & Hannum, E. (2018) Education and Equity in Rural China: A critical introduction for the rural education field. Australian and International Journal of Rural Education. 28 (2) pp.1-13.
  • (in press) Roberts, P. & Downes, N. (2016) Constructing the rural school in Australia: A century of Rurality and Rural Education Research.
  • Corbett, M. & Roberts, P. (2017) A Small Place: Education in Rural Tasmania. Australian and International Journal of Rural Education, 27 (3), pp. 1-8.
  • Roberts, P. & Cuervo, H. (2015). What Next for Rural Education Research? Australian and International Journal of Rural Education’ 25 (3). pp.1-8.
  • Roberts, P. (2014) Researching from the Standpoint of the Rural. In S. White & M. Corbett, Doing Educational Research in Rural Settings: Methodological Issues, International Perspectives and Practical Solutions. Routledge: New York. pp. 135-148.
  • Roberts, P. & Green, B. (2013). Researching Rural Place(s): On Social Justice and Rural Education. Qualitative Inquiry. 19 (10) pp. 765 - 774.