Rural teacher education research
The RRRTEC model design
RRRTEC model
Key readings
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The RRRTEC conceptual framework


Globally many rural schools face more pressure to attract and retain quality teachers than their urban counterparts. It does not appear from all accounts that preparing more teachers is the answer to the staffing crisis rather a re-examination of teacher education curriculum and a focus on the ways in which we can more effectively prepare teachers for rural and regional communities is the key.

In re-examining the ways in which we prepare teachers for the possibility of working in a rural/regional context and developing the curriculum modules and modes, the curriculum writing team drew from the findings of a growing number of studies into rural and regional teacher education and rural education more broadly. All the research papers from which this work is drawn are identified and can be accessed through the resource section by using the search option.

The research was analysed and particular themes emerged. Themes were categorised according to the work to inform the reframing of teacher education curriculum or ways in which to improve the rural/regional professional experience, paying particular attention to before, during and after phases.

Rural teacher education research

Over the last two decades a growing number of small and large Australian and international studies have examined the issue of attracting and retaining quality teachers for rural and regional communities from different perspectives. Some have been focused on teacher education, some on professional experience and some on rural education more broadly.

Large Australian related studies in the teacher education area, include: 

These and other localised studies paint a particular picture of the issues facing teachers and pre-service teachers working and living in rural communities.

Roberts (2005) in his report of ‘Staffing the empty Schoolhouse’ confirmed that Australia’s remote, rural and regional schools are frequently staffed with young, inexperienced teachers and teacher turnover is high. O’Brien, Goodard and Keeffe (2007) found that burnout of beginning teachers in these communities to be a common problem that ‘not only has a devastating influence on the personal lives of beginning teachers and their families but the associated attrition also negatively impinges on the entire teaching profession’. Geographic isolation, weather, distance from family, and inadequate shopping were reported among the reasons teachers gave for leaving rural areas (Collins, 1999). Halsey (2005) specifically explored the impact for pre-service teachers taking up a rural practicum experience and highlighted the additional ‘social and economic costs’ pre-service teachers encountered in completing a rural professional experience. Sharplin, (2002) in her study, examined the perceptions of taking up a rural career from the perspective of pre-service teachers and uncovered that for many, fears about access to resources, isolation and cultural differences were associated with teaching in rural areas. These fears were believed to be the major cause of an unwillingness to consider a future rural career or even to trial a teacher education incentive program. 

Other studies (Collins, 1999; Hudson & Hudson, 2008; McClure, Redfield & Hammer, 2003) indicated further reasons for rural staffing shortages due to teachers’ (both pre-service and in-service) beliefs about geographical, social, cultural, and professional isolation; inadequate housing; and a lack of preparation for multi-age classrooms, which may explain reasons for losing rural teachers. Classroom burnout again appeared to trigger an exodus from rural classrooms as reported in an Australian newspaper, The Age (26 February, 2007 as cited in Hudson & Hudson, 2008, p. 67) “Younger teachers point to issues such as overwork, pay structures, being put on contract without assurance of permanency, community expectations, student management and lack of social status” as reasons for leaving rural areas. Further research undertaken by Starr and White (2008) indicated that although teachers and leading teachers, in particular, in rural schools and communities face many of the same issues as their metropolitan counterparts, they also were more likely to deal with real and imagined perceptions of personal and professional isolation and questions about access to professional learning and teaching resources. Beliefs such as increased levels of visibility in the community; requirements to teach ‘out of area’, and early professional advancement to positions of leadership without preparation at an earlier stage in their careers all appeared to result in considerable personal and professional demands on them as teachers for which were not always prepared.

Each of these studies highlights the ways in which teachers could be viewed as ‘unprepared’ to teach in rural communities and signifies that teacher education needs to reconsider the ways in which they currently prepare teachers. Halsey (2005) urgently recommended teacher education programs to develop policies to increase significantly the number of pre-service country teaching placements with the view that this might encourage beginning teachers to consider a rural career. Rural practicum however is only one aspect of teacher education and to actually seriously address teacher shortage and staffing churn, White and Reid (2008) argued for a new conceptualisation of teacher education and identified links between the sustainability of rural communities and teacher preparation, finding that rural communities stand to benefit from teacher education that is inclusive of rural education needs. White (2010) further argued that the relationships between rural schools and local communities are reciprocal, whereby successes in the areas of rural leadership and community collaboration can inform teacher education reform.

Further, effective skills for teaching the multi-age and grade class (Page, 2006), understanding rural and regional students’ funds of knowledge (Moll, 1992) and the virtual school bags that teachers need to unpack (Thompson, 2002) as well as understandings of place (Grunewald, 2003), and skills to develop place-based or place –conscious curriculum that connects students to their communities are simultaneously distinctly important to teaching in rural schools and readily omitted from current teacher education programs (White, 2010; White and Reid, 2008).  

The RRRTEC model design

This growing field of research studies has provided the theoretical knowledge base from which to consider a new rural and regional teacher education curriculum conceptual framework (known as the RRRTEC model).

In drawing together the research studies a number of key themes were identified. In particular themes to do with place, partnership, community and capital emerged from the range of studies. The studies highlighted the need for pre-service teachers’ ability to recognise and understand the differences across social, cultural, geographical, historical, political, and service domains.

The RRRTEC model attempts to reframe the preparation of teachers away from a classroom only focus to include the broader key components of preparing teachers to be ‘community ready’, ‘school ready’ and ‘classroom ready’ (White, 2010). Within each frame of community (place), school (site) and classroom (learning space) the further themes were unpacked. These five themes inform the modules.

The RRRTEC model design has been likened to a camera comprised of two parts. The camera body or base of the model outlines the nested frames of becoming community ready, school ready and classroom ready these in turn have informed the module design. The camera lens or large circle refers to the cycle of professional experience and the need for teacher educators to attend more to the before, during and after phases of any rural/regional experience. The ‘lens’ has informed the mode design (module 7).

RRRTEC model

Arrows represent relationships and recognise cyclical crisis and renewal.

White, S. (2010) Creating and celebrating place and partnerships: A key to sustaining rural education communities, Keynote address for the Society for the Provision of Education in Rural Australia (SPERA). University of the Sunshine Coast, 15-17th of September

White, S., Bloomfield, D., Le Cornu, R. (2010) Professional Experience in new times: Issues and responses to a changing education landscape, Asia Pacific Journal of Teacher Education, vol. 38, no. 3, Special Issue : Continuing the Pursuit of Quality in Professional Experience, Routledge, United Kingdom, pp. 181-193.

Key readings


de Carteret, P. (2007). People, place and purpose: informal learning in community. Paper presented at AARE Annual Conference. Fremantle, Western Australia. Available from: http://www.aare.edu.au/07pap/dec07446.pdf

Gruenewald D. A. (2003). The best of both worlds: A critical pedagogy of place. Educational Researcher, 32(4): 3-12. Available from: http://www.pieducators.com/files/Critical-Pedagogy-of-Place.pdf

Gruenewald, D. A. & Smith, G. (2008). Place–based education in the global age: Local diversity. Lawrence Erlbaum: Mahwah, New Jersey

Gruenewald, D. A. (2003). Foundations of place: A multidisciplinary framework for place-conscious education. American Educational Research Journal, 40(3): 619-654. Available from: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3699447

Reid, J., Green, B., White, S., Cooper, M., Lock, G. & Hastings, W. (2008). New ground in teacher education for rural and regional Australia? Regenerating Rural Social Space. Paper presented as the Australian Association for Research in Education International Education Conference, Brisbane, 30 November - 4 December. Available from: http://www.thefreelibrary.com/Regenerating+rural+social+space%3F+Teacher+education+for+rural-regional...-a0243121709

White, S. & Reid, J. (2008). Placing teachers? Sustaining rural schooling through place-consciousness in teacher education. Journal of Research in Rural Education, 23(7). Available from: http://www.jrre.psu.edu/articles/23-7.pdf


Harmon, H. L. (2003). Teacher recruitment and retention in rural schools, State Education Standard, 4(1): 13-17.

Sharplin, E. (2002). Rural retreat or outback Hell: Expectations of rural and remote teaching. Issues in Educational Research,12. Available from: http://www.iier.org.au/iier12/sharplin.html

Somerville, M., Plunkett, M. & Dyson, M. (2010). New teachers learning in rural and regional Australia. Asia-Pacific Journal of Teacher Education, 38(1): 39–55. 


Australian National Schools Network. (2010). Virtual school sag: Against deficit views of students and their families. Connecting Lives and Learning, Redesigning Pedagogies in the North Project, Strawberry Hills: NSW. Available from: http://www.ansn.edu.au/files/Key_Ideas_virtual_school_bag.pdf

ERIC Clearinghouse on Languages and Linguistics. (1994). Funds of knowledge: Learning from language minority households. ERIC Digest: Washington, DC. Available from: http://www.eric.ed.gov/PDFS/ED367146.pdf

Lloyd, L. (2002). Multi-age classes: What research tells us about their sustainability for rural schools. Education in Rural Australia, 12(2).

Page, J. (2006). Teaching in rural and remote schools: Implications for pre-service teacher preparation pedagogies of place and their implication for pre-service teacher preparation. Education in Rural Australia, 16(1): 47-63.

Thomson, P. (2002). Schooling the rustbelt kids: Making the difference in changing times. Allen & Unwin: Crows Nest, NSW