new ideas, PhD, Rural

The Rural


White, S., & Corbett, M. (Eds.). (2014). Doing Educational Research in Rural Settings: Methodological Issues, International Perspectives and Practical Solutions. Routledge.

My journey through this PhD has been characterised by roller coasters and roundabouts. No sooner do you think you have clarity around a question, an issue or idea and there is something to stymy your way. Not a bump in the road or a temporary hiccup. No, the intellectual journey that unfolds is torturous, full of self doubt, self loathing and angst. But I am encouraged by the fact that there are many others who have gone before me and the quest has been the same. The researcher weaves his or her own tale of woe and in the process discovery is made.

In the last six months I have had several pivotal moments when radically changing my research question seemed the best thing to do. Of course in retrospect I realise that such changes are not at all radical but a shift and a slight turn to realign and refocus. I can document these changes in the various hardcopy journals and on line tools I have used. But in summary my movements have been largely autobiographical.

Stage 1: an interest in coaching and mentoring as professional learning

Stage 2: Professional learning and teacher identity

Stage 3: the English teacher, professional identity and professional learning

Stage 4: the narrative of belonging and professional identity of rural teachers

Stage 5: Who am I?The role of professional learning in shaping Rural teacher identity

Stage 6: The narrative of belonging and the discourse of Professional Identity, Learning and Leadership of Rural Women in Education.

What factors affect Rural Women in Education from developing their leadership capacity?

How do Rural Women in Education develop their leadership capacity?

As I sit with my most recent PhD musing I tease out and challenge and contemplate how I could be getting it so terribly wrong. Someone has done it before is the common question that plagues me! The gap that I had identified has narrowed or closed;my enthusiasms squashed.

But reading Simone White and Michael Corbett edited collection of essays about educational research in a rural setting has forced me to refocus and acknowledge that a large part of the drive to undertake any of this research at all (see stage 1-6) has been motivated by experience, my experience.

I find myself echoing Phillip Roberts who describes his standpoint as rural researcher in the following way:

” ….many teachers came and went, while a few of us stayed on, dwelling within this community, while others merely inhabited it during school term.” p 137

This place, this rural space called Hamilton is my home. Strangely my home of origin and now the place I dwell and make home for my own family. I am not an inhabitant but someone who dwells here. But do I belong? Our connection o places and spaces is an interesting one and in terms of the literature around rurality and rural education, it is a discussion that is embedded in the work of David Gruenwald’s (2003) place consciousness education.

This book has evoked several key questions for me. I see myself complicit in the research I undertake and it is clearly driven by autobiographical motives. As an educator, a female educator, I am interested in how professional identity relates to professional learning; how women educators in a rural context like Hamilton are offered opportunities to develop their leadership capacity and learning via professional development. I suspect that there are obstacles to the rise of women taking on leadership roles in rural education, but those issues may not be the obvious ones. It is not merely about glass ceilings and patriarchal models of leadership that limit a woman’s career ambitions. But intrinsic questions like being a woman in a rural education setting brings with it its own set of challenges. Being a woman in rural Australia shapes and defines who you are in a manner that is less well understood from the urban, the mainstream. Being a woman researching issues of gender, leadership, professional identity and learning, as a rural, female educator provides a double layer of complexity.

The notion of the rural being the margin is one I identify with.

The rural is often under researched or researched by urban academics with no connection to the rural space  and culture. Hence these discussions use the rural as a setting for research not as a core to the research framework and outcomes.



One thought on “The Rural

  1. msimkin says:

    The rural is certainly different from the urban. In a rural and regional setting, there are limited options for advancement, especially for women who might like to move into educational leadership roles – even in a town like Hamilton with its numerous schools.
    Professional learning is also more difficult to access incurring greater costs in terms of cost of accommodation, and, even more significantly, time. Distance education can provide a forum, but the value of face to face meeting and discussion cannot be underestimated. The cohort I have been studying with since the start of last year has morphed into a small number of peers with whom I “converse” regularly. Interesting, we have all started to agitate about meeting in the real sense. My closest study buddies are based in Canberra and Melbourne with plenty of access to metropolitan educational offerings – and they are both as keen as I am to attend an actual conference at the same venue and time. I can understand why I might feel isolated but I an intrigued that they feel the same way while having access to a bigger “pool”. As Deb from Canberra says: everyone around us is analogue!

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