Academic journal article Australian and International Journal of Rural Education

Space, Pace and Race: Ethics in Practice for Educational Research in Ethnically Diverse Rural Australia

Academic journal article Australian and International Journal of Rural Education

Space, Pace and Race: Ethics in Practice for Educational Research in Ethnically Diverse Rural Australia

Article excerpt


Research in Australia's ethnically diverse rural and regional communities requires an approach that is informed by notions of space, place and culture, and which recognises race as a relational social construct mediated by social and political discourse and context, and prone to change overtime. This review examines how teacher education researchers connect culturally competent research and rural ethics with the view to improving education systems, addressing rural teacher workforce issues, informing the preparation of pre-service teachers, and, most importantly, ensuring that rural students have access to educational opportunities that are engaging and meet their needs. It focuses specifically on researcher positionality on the insider-outsider continuum and how this informs ethical research in diverse rural communities, particularly those in which visible new migrants reside. Peer-reviewed journal articles that discuss how education researchers negotiate working in rural space are examined and considered in relation to discourse about ethics in practice and the insider/outsider continuum. Scholarship reflected in the literature spanned the fields of rural/ research ethics, inclusive education, education research methodology and research with new migrants, minority and marginalised groups.


Schools in Australia are more multicultural than ever before, with increasing numbers of children from low socioeconomic backgrounds, who are ethnically diverse, and who speak languages other than or additional to English. Many graduate teachers, who tend to be predominantly middle-class and of Anglo heritage (McKenzie, Rowley, Weldon, & Murphy, 2011), are finding that their first teaching jobs occur in these diverse settings, and as such teacher education programs are increasingly concerned with preparing their pre-service teachers to enter and remain in such educational environments (see for example

Research related to teacher retention recognises: teachers' educational philosophy; their dispositions for hard work and persistence; their targeted teacher preparation that includes both academic and practical knowledge; the practice of reflection; the opportunity to change schools or districts and still remain in their profession, and sustained ongoing support and access to professional networks as factors that help sustain teachers in schools (Cooper & He, 2013). In schools identified by state governments as 'difficult to staff teachers who stay are more likely to be culturally connected with the lives, heritages, and cultural forms of the children and families in the community in which they are working (Cooper & He, 2013). Building awareness and a sense of commitment to diverse settings in education suggests that prospective teachers need a map or maps to learn about the communities in which they will take teaching positions. Research in the areas of equity and access and rural ethics can inform these maps.

Rural and regional Australia is traditionally characterised by strong communities with high levels of social capital and more recently increasing ethnic diversity (Major, Wilkinson, Langat, & Santoro, 2013). This idealised image does not acknowledge that many rural communities are facing significant challenges when it comes to achieving sustainability and are struggling under the influences of globalisation, rationalisation of essential services and the privileging of urban contexts in government policy (Cocklin & Dibden, 2005). Education researchers working with these vibrant communities, including teachers, are faced with unique opportunities and challenges in relation to examining education needs and informing the development and maintenance of engaging learning environments. These experiences are shaped by local history, politics, economy, demography and geography (Reid, Green, Cooper, Hastings, & White, 2010) and interpreted largely in relation to the researchers own worldviews and lived experience. …

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