The Future of Education

Edition 14

Accepted Abstracts

Rural Schools as Sites for Innovation in Teacher Education, Teacher Pedagogy, and Student Learning

Spencer Clark, Professor, Kansas State University Director, Rural Education Center (United States)


Across the United States (US), rural schools have less state funding and often have less resources than non-rural schools. In addition, rural schools struggle to recruit and retain teachers in nearly all subject areas.1 These constraints result in rural schools’ inability to provide the same academic opportunities (e.g., advanced or career focused coursework) as suburban and urban schools, which has compounding effects on all students. Furthermore, rural student populations are becoming increasingly diverse and require rural schools to provide new services (e.g., English language learner [ELL] resources, mental health support, etc.) to their community. To better address these challenges the Rural Education Center (REC) has increased their efforts to collaborate with rural schools in addressing their need for resources, teachers, and student support. We use the theory of ecological agency to analyze the contextual affordances and challenges of each rural educational setting, and to highlight the distinct opportunities for teacher education programs to innovate teaching and learning in rural schools. Many of the factors that have prevented sustained and authentic engagement with rural schools (e.g., proximity, application) have been minimized in recent years through technology and increased connectivity to rural communities. Technological and digital applications offer a range of opportunities for teacher education programs to engage more authentically with rural schools and provide sustained support through telepresence-based field and student teaching experiences,2 online-based supervision and support,3 and shared virtual and online rural place-based pedagogies.4 While these innovative uses of technology have engaged rural schools more fully, to make this engagement sustainable and impactful on rural teachers agency and their students’ learning, the use of technology in rural schools will need to be evolved and supported in new ways. This paper will present findings on the ways in which the REC has used technological and digital applications to (1) address teacher shortages, (2) enhance preservice teacher experiences, and (3) develop new pedagogies in rural schools; and provide implications for innovation in teacher education and rural educational. 

Keywords: Rural, Teacher Education, Technology, Pedagogy, Innovation, Ecological Agency


[1]  Daniel Showalter et al., Why Rural Matters 2018–2019: The Time is Now (Washington, DC: The Rural School and Community Trust, 2019).

[2] Eileen Wertzberger, (2019). The Future of Field Experiences in Distance Education: A Case Study of Co-Teaching Practices in a Telepresence-Facilitated Field Placement. Theory & Practice in Rural Education, 9(2), 35-46.

[3] J.S. Clark, et al., (2021). A conceptual framework for longitudinal supervision in online teacher education. In R. Burns, L. Baecher., & J. McCorvey (Eds.), Supervision in Clinically-Based Teacher Education: Advances, Opportunities, and Explorations. Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing.

[4] J. Wang, et al., (2021). Rural teachers’ sharing of digital educational resources: From motivation to behavior. Computers & Education161, 104055.

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