Researching the schoolhouse: Rethinking research on the staffing of rural, remote and isolated schools in Australia (2000-2019)

Natalie DOWNES, Philip Roberts, Jenny Dean

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The staffing of non-metropolitan schools has been a significant concern in Australia since the inception of compulsory schooling. Over the last twenty years a plethora of research has been undertaken into the opportunities and challenges of staffing non-metropolitan schools. In this monograph we explore the research through the approach of a systematic literature review. This method creates a measure of comparison if a review is repeated in future years as a measure of progress on this issue.
The search strategy identified 162 results over the last twenty years, with this number of results highlighting just how problematic this issue is and continues to be. Despite a consistent research effort, Australia has not managed to achieve significant long term positive change. This is an issue that has the potential to impact on students and their future beyond school. Many of the research studies focus on identifying the same issues as those that have gone before them. That is, while more recent studies undertake research to further advance understandings of the staffing issue, they are often repeating studies that have already been undertaken elsewhere, with another cohort of students. In fact, many studies could be considered program evaluations rather than research studies as they focus on the impact of an initiative undertaken in teacher education. While these studies are important, theoretical advances and methodological advances also need attention. For example, the majority of studies used qualitative methods, were undertaken over a short time period, and involved small numbers of participants. There were few studies involving long term research into the issue, with more than just one cohort of participants, or studies that involved quantitative research methods.
To achieve long-term change in the staffing of non-metropolitan schools we need a divergence from the approaches used over the past twenty years. New studies need to focus on using new methods, collaborating with all stakeholders, and pursuing sustained efforts to value the distinct nature of the profession in these locations.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationCanberra
PublisherCentre for Sustainable Communities
Number of pages46
ISBN (Electronic)9781740885140
Publication statusPublished - 22 Mar 2021


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