Improving mathematics and science education in rural Australia: A practice report

Robert Whannell, Steve Tobias

There has been a steady decline in the number of secondary and tertiary students studying mathematics and science. Rural schools also report a shortage of qualified teachers in these disciplines. This paper describes the steps taken at the University of New England (UNE) to improve the provision of mathematics and science education (MS) in rural Australia. Initiatives such as the use of an online interactive digital classroom by rural NSW schools presenting MS contexts based on a SMART (sustainable, management, and accessible rural technologies) Farm will be presented. Research to improve teacher confidence and competence in these areas will be discussed along with the steps being taken to develop a Higher Education Research Facility (HERF) which will support research and engagement in the STEM domain.

Using virtual worlds in rural and regional educational institutions

Sue Gregory, Lisa Jacka, Mathew Hillier, Scott Grant

This paper presents four case studies from two regional and two metropolitan Australian universities, showcasing how 3D virtual world platforms have been used to connect, engage and motivate students in both co-located and non-co-located contexts. The case studies provide practical examples of how virtual worlds and associated applications have been operationalised in real teaching and learning contexts involving a range of different disciplines. For rural educators looking for innovative ways to enrich the student learning experience, the case studies offer first hand insights into the potential and the problems of using virtual worlds for educational purposes.

Comparing rural and urban education contexts for GLBTIQ students

Tiffany Jones

This paper considers the different experiences for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer (GLBTIQ) students from rural and urban education contexts. It draws on data from three studies of GLBTIQ students I have conducted since 2010, including a 2010 online survey of 3,134 GLBTIQ students in which one fifth came from rural areas; a 2012 study of transgender people and a 2013 study of transgender and intersex students. The different studies repeatedly showed that GLBTIQ students from rural and remote towns experienced isolation, social discrimination and a lack of appropriate services and support. They were less likely to feel safe at school, at social occasions and on the internet than their urban peers. Many aspired to leave their rural and regional homes to become the person they wanted to be in an urban environment. The paper concludes by recommending specific training, resources and contacts to improve rural education services for these students.

Learning opportunities in the ‘Golden Years’ in a regional city

Bronwyn Ellis

Several projects relating to older learners have been conducted over the past decade or so, some involving the University of the Third Age (U3A) Whyalla, as well as other groups composed of older citizens. Here a wide range of learning activities, as revealed by survey data, publicly available information, and participant observation, are described. Some provide examples of engagement with the local university campus; others have this potential. Together with long-running group activities, new activities – a men’s shed and a music learning activity – have potential outcomes for participants’ health and wellbeing. Such opportunities help meet non-metropolitan lifelong learning needs. Maximising information sharing and cooperation can lead to mutual benefits, including for educational institutions. Increasing social inclusion benefits the whole community.

Preparing pre-service teachers for rural appointments

Kathy Jenkins, Linley Cornish

Pre-service teachers need to be prepared to teach in both rural and urban contexts. Preparation to teach multi-grade classes in rural schools is excellent preparation for teaching any class, including urban single-grade classes. Based on our previous research and experience, we designed a unit to prepare our pre-service teachers for the issues they may face in their employment and especially in rural schools, including multi-grade teaching, coping with isolation, working as a casual teacher, and communicating with parents and caregivers. There are significant issues that are distinct in rural and urban contexts, including how metrocentric departmental policies can emphasise the rural/urban divide.

Learner agency and assessment for learning in a regional New Zealand high school

Jennifer Charteris

Assessment for Learning (AfL) pedagogies can have a significant impact on student learning and achievement. This paper reports on data from a study of four teachers and 48 student participants within a regional high school. An inquiry approach to teacher professional learning is explored through an AfL lens, in particular, how teacher feedback for professional learning can be nuanced and dialogic. The research draws from one reflective dialogue interview where a teacher explores student voice data to consider her learners’ perceptions of how they learn and of the classroom learning practices of feedback, feedforward and self-assessment. The paper addresses learner agency as an important aspect of curriculum implementation for teachers and assessment for learning for students.

A partnership aimed at improving Health and Physical Education at a rural school: Impacts on pupils, university students, teachers and academics.

Judith Miller, John Haynes, Jim Pennington

Challenges and benefits arose when a rural school and a neighbouring university formed a partnership with the aim of improving the school’s Health and Physical Education (HPE) program. The HPE programs were enhanced through two joint research projects. The first research project had two facets, including an evidence-based curriculum for Physical Education in the school, and a remediation program for children identified through the coordination testing process. The second research project was designed to investigate students’ Health Education knowledge and explore any behavioural changes in and around nutritional choices. Both the projects were conducted as mutually productive partnerships within the school, resulting in beneficial changes for the school, the university and for the multiple participants. For the school, the Physical Education curriculum and pedagogies were modified and for students identified as requiring remediation, a multi-partnered intervention program was implemented. Students, teachers, parents and pre-service teacher education students benefited from the movement intervention program. The health education curriculum was enhanced when the school developed a social marketing approach to facilitate health-related decisions for pupils, teachers and ancillary staff. The university changed their pre-service teacher education curriculum, teaching methods, and achieved stronger research based outcomes by partnering with the school across both projects.


Welcome to the second edition of the Australian and International Journal of Rural Education (AIJRE) for 2015. We are pleased to offer our readers a range of articles to stimulate discussion and creative thinking around the issues facing rural and remote learners, educators and institutions broadly grouped into areas related to relationships, overcoming isolation and curriculum.