2020, Cilt 10, Sayı 3, Sayfa(lar) 584-595
The Perceptions of Teacher Candidates About Rural Schools: Practicum and Student Teaching Programs
Seyithan DEMİRDAG1, Peter T. GOFF2, Alyson TRESS3
1Zonguldak Bulent Ecevit University, Eregli Faculty of Education, Department of Educational Sciences, Zonguldak, Turkey
2University of Wisconsin-Madison, Department of Educational Sciences, Madison, USA
3Director of Talent and Business Operations at CESA 8-Wisconsin, Ministry of Education, Madison, USA
Keywords: Rural schools, Practicum, Student teaching, Teacher distribution, Perceptions
There are considerable differences between urban living standards and rural living standards. Such standards may affect teacher distribution.
The inequitable distribution of teacher labour force has been one of the major problems in education system of the United States. This
situation has adverse impacts on student achievement. Especially schools in rural areas have difficulty to recruit quality teacher because
of poor living standards. Teachers serving in rural schools are generally less qualified in pedagogical training, experience, test scores, and
subject-matter content. In this qualitative study, the researchers aimed to examine the perceptions of teacher candidates in practicum and
student teaching programs about rural schools. The study included 30 students from practicum program and 30 students from student
teaching program. The programs were conducted by the Cooperative Educational Service Agency 8 (CESA 8) in the state of Wisconsin,
USA to attract more quality teachers to rural schools. Content analysis method was employed to analyse the qualitative data. The results
of the study showed that the perceptions of students in both practicum and student teaching programs seem to be alike regarding the
advantages and challenges of rural schools.
With the industrialization, the process of transition from
agricultural society to industrial society has been experienced
by many people. The growing populations have rather become
more intense in urban areas than rural areas. This intensity
has led to clustering of services from health to education in
cities. As the consequence of such clustering, some services
including the educational services were not distributed fairly
to the other areas of the country, particularly to the rural
areas (Baker-Doyle, 2010). While the physical and educational
infrastructure of educational institutions in cities are constantly
evolving, rural schools are lagging behind these developments
(Palavan & Donuk, 2016).
The living standards between rural and urban setting are
quite different. Teachers living in rural areas have many issues
associated with teaching setting and materials. According to
Ertürk (1984), teachers perceptions about rural regions may
differ as such areas experience many difficulties including
cultural differences, economic issues, and harsh geographical
terrains. Uygun (2010) stressed that rural regions mainly
experience difficulties based on lack of social activities,
transportation, and teaching items. On the other hand, Palavan
and Donuk (2016) conducted a study and found that harsh
environmental conditions and lack of instructional materials
affect the quality of education and students progress. It is
evident that these issues create obstacles for teachers to teach
at rural regions.
The distribution of teachers is quite crucial as it has critical
impacts on the educational experiences of students. The
distribution of the teachers is also linked to equity in education
(Luschei & Chudgar, 2016, Luschei, Chudgar, & Rew, 2013). The
factors effecting the distribution of teacher labour force include
incentives, geographical terrain, transportation, other living
conditions, and educational systems (King & Orazem, 1999).
Teacher distribution has been one of the critical problems for
many countries including USA. In USA, there is a shortage of
qualified teachers in low-income schools. Teachers serving
in such schools are generally less qualified in pedagogical
training, experience, test scores, and subject-matter content
(Steiner-Khamsi & Lefoka, 2011). Darling-Hammond (2010)
reported that qualified teachers predominantly serve in
affluent schools, which include mainly white students. The
report added that about 33% of low income schools include
students of colour with educators, who are not certified or
generally teach outside of their field.
One of the factors having influence on the distribution of
teacher labour force is the working conditions of teachers
(Loeb, Author, & Luczak, 2005). Working conditions in schools
include number of students, classroom size, effectiveness
of leadership, the availability of teaching resources, and the
safety of school. These conditions have effects on teachers
decisions whether to change the school, the district, or the
teaching profession. Because teachers in U.S. have a great
deal of choice over where they want to serve or move to, it
would not be surprising if they choose to work in urban school
settings with better living and working conditions (Feng & Sass,
2018; Hanushek, Kain, & Rivkin, 1999). Being aware of this fact,
after a short teaching time in rural districts, many teachers may
prefer moving back to urban districts to teach in schools with
more resources and better conditions (Mafora, 2103).
Another problem associated with the distribution of teacher
labour force is the unfair distribution of quality teachers
(Goldhaber & Brewer, 2000). Teacher quality is a crucial factor
it has positive effects on student achievement (Clotfelter, Ladd,
& Vigdor, 2007; Monk, 1994). Unfortunately, the gap in reaching
quality teachers in rural and low-income schools in the U.S. is
among the largest in the world (Akiba, LeTendre, & Scribner,
2007). The quality of teachers has an immense effect on the
quality of education and academic success of the students
(Feng & Sass, 2017). For that reason, school districts compete
with one another to employ teachers with high qualifications.
In that sense, compared to urban school districts, the rural
school districts have difficulty to attract teachers with high
qualifications. Many factors such as the physical infrastructure
of education and training environments, the flexibility and
functionality of the curriculum, the quality and accessibility
of educational tools and technological facilities may affect
teachers interests about school districts (Özpınar & Sarpkaya,
Efforts on Making Rural Schools More Attractive
The educational leaders and school districts made some
substantial efforts to make rural schools preferred so that
quality teachers may start working at such places. Main
efforts for such important purpose include increasing salary,
offering loan forgiveness programs, and providing incentive
pays (Southworth, 2004; Weston, 2000). Crucial attempts
such as salary increases are made by some school districts
to attract more teachers for working in rural regions of the
country (Clotfelter, Glennie, Ladd, & Vigdor, 2008). Researchers
agree that preventing issues in association with teaching in rural settings and high-need areas may be possible through
increasing the salaries (Falch, 2011, Hendricks, 2014, Griffin &
The second to approach to increase teachers desires for
teaching in rural schools includes offering loan forgiveness
programs. As salary differential receive a substantial
resistance from teachers and teacher unions, a different set
of compensation schema was designed to attract and retain
teachers serving in high-need areas (Munsch & Boylan, 2008).
As a common strategy in about 20 states, the loan forgiveness
program was used to increase teacher attainment and retain
in shortage areas. For instance, the state of Florida offer a loan
forgiveness programs called Floridas Critical Teacher Shortage
Program (FCTSP). The program targets teachers working in
high-need areas including rural schools. Feng and Sass (2017)
explained that the FCTSP may a teachers loan debt may be
paid up to $10,000. They added that the program reduced the
attrition rates for teachers serving in middle school by 10.4%
and those in high school by 8.9%.
Lastly, policy makers in U.S. have put some efforts such as
incentive pay to address inequitable teacher distribution
(Darling-Hammond, 1997; Darling-Hammond & Sykes, 2003).
Incentive pays may have a positive impact on the supply of
quality teachers (Hanushek & Pace, 1995; Pogodzinski, 2000).
However, Loeb et al. (2005) contended that teachers serving in
low-income schools such as those in rural areas usually receive
low incentive pay. This issue may cause teachers to quit their
jobs (Hanushek et al. 1999; Theobald & Gritz, 1996).
Despite the laws and regulations, more and more qualified
teachers in U.S. prefer working at schools with economically
advantaged and higher achieving students (Luschei & Carnoy,
2010). This situation clearly shows that rural schools are out of
the reach of the quality teachers. In this case, it is important
to inform teacher candidates about both the challenges and
benefits of teaching at rural schools. They need to know that
rural communities are mainly small, have a caring atmosphere
with committed (Lester, 2001) and supportive (Wildy & Clarke,
2005) school personnel. When the teacher candidates are
well-informed about the conditions including the challenges of
the rural schools and environments, they may clear away their
prejudices about such settings and be able to make healthier
Challenges Existing in Rural Schools
Teacher turnover has been a major problem for rural school
districts. The annual estimates for teacher turnover is about
%9. Monk (2007) explained that even though some teachers
prefer working in rural areas for their entire teaching careers,
the others are not inclined to do so. Several challenges related
to rural schools include teacher shortages in core courses, lack
of quality teachers, and inexperienced novice teachers (Pegg,
In both urban and rural schools, mathematics, science, and
technology are the areas where the shortages are deeply
felt (Monk, 2007). However, the shortage in core courses has been a vital one for rural districts as they are not able
to attract and retain teachers in those areas compared to
urban districts. Ingersoll and Perda (2009) stressed that filling
positions in shortage areas may be four times more difficult to
fill in compared to areas such as Social studies or English. Some
rural districts hire uncertified or unqualified teachers for core
courses as it is extremely hard for some of the districts to hire
quality teachers in those areas. This situation creates problems
such questioning the accountability of rural schools by student
families and policy makers (Dunning, 1993). The numbers of
unqualified teachers teaching core courses are on the rise even
in urban schools. Considering teacher shortage in such core
courses being prevalent even in urban schools denotes the
unimaginable heaviness of this issue in rural schools (Ingersoll
& Perda, 2009).
Rural schools have experienced quite big challenges to attract
quality teachers as a second challenging situation after
teacher shortages in core courses. Due to reasons such as low
pay, difficult environment, lack of technology and teaching
materials, and small settings teachers do not prefer to work at
rural regions (Imazeki, 2005). Generally, quality teachers are
aware of the fact that they are on demand and that they look
in for better teaching options. They prefer schools, which are
economically advantageous and have high achieving students
(Feng & Sass, 2018; Hanushek et al., 1999). In addition, they
avoid serving at schools far from urban settings, with low
achieving populations and having students with attitudinal
problems (Lankford, Loeb, & Wyckoff, 2002). The lack of quality
teachers in rural schools results in minimal preparation time
resulting in low academic achievement of the students (Boe,
Cook, & Sunderland, 2008).
The last major challenge for rural schools includes having
high numbers of inexperienced novice teachers. Due to high
attrition rates in rural areas, the schools in such districts are
mainly staffed with novice teachers (Murphy & Angelski,
1997). According to NCES (2009) reports, teachers in rural
districts are more likely to be younger and inexperienced
compared to those in cities. It would be really difficult to make
educational innovations with inexperienced novice teachers
due to closed mindsets and traditional ways of thinking of
the community members (Clarke & Stevens, 2009; Nolan,
1998). These deleterious impacts are more visible when rural
schools have difficulty in filling teaching vacancies (NCES
2009). The novice teachers may be consisted of those, who are
underprepared and uncomfortable with teaching any subjects
yet. This situation creates a dire result as student achievement
continue suffering in rural districts. Therefore, school leaders
in rural districts need to come up with effective ways to select
the novice teachers for the teaching positions.
The recruitment of novice teachers may be problematic if
these teachers are not well-informed about the possible
challenges and benefits of teaching at rural schools. Having
said that, according to Murphy and Angelski (1997), the
factors affecting the attrition and retention of rural school
teachers include but are not limited to life in rural community,
relationship with school administration, and preparation time.
Some of the other issues novice teachers might experience in
rural settings include simple life style and having little privacy
(Barley, 2009). Lowery and Pace (2001) stated that novice
teachers select serving locations based on criteria that may be
beneficial for their own good. In that sense, the some of them
consider geographic proximity and prefer working in areas that
they are familiar with or where they grow up. Lankford et al
(2002) emphasized that novice teachers may only prefer high
performing schools, which are available mainly in urban school
As teachers continue insisting to work in or closer to their
residential locations, there may be a problem in terms of the
distribution of qualified teachers, meaning that they may
lean towards serving at higher performing schools and not to
consider serving at in-need schools such as rural schools located
in other parts of the town or city. To prevent this problem, the
state of Wisconsin have employed a program called the Rural
School Teacher Talent Commission Grant (RSTTC). The program
is designed to have students doing their student teaching and
practicum in rural schools.
The Rural School Teacher Talent Commission Grant
In this research, the perceptions of the teacher candidates, who
were supported by the Rural School Teacher Talent Commission
Grant (RSTTC) in Wisconsin were examined. The RSTTC began
in Spring 2018 with the intention to attract undergraduate
education students to rural districts throughout the state of
Wisconsin. The grant was created due to a low supply and high
demand for teachers in rural Wisconsin. Prior to this grant, the
network for colleges and universities was much smaller to place
students in districts. Typically, student teachers were placed in
local school districts that were close to the college/university
campus. Therefore, students rarely had a rural experience and
never experienced the benefits of working in a rural district.
This grant allows partners to form with rural districts, which is
an added opportunity for the student, college/university, and
rural school district. The RSTTC manages the barrier of access
and expenses. Incentives include grant dollars distributed to
student teachers and practicum students who serve in a rural
district. The stipends help cover the costs associated with a
rural district placement such as mileage/gas. This grant was
provided as CESA 8 partnered with a local legislator, State
Representative, and Chief of Staff in Wisconsin. The selection
of students who receive grant dollars is wide open. Any
Wisconsin college/university undergraduate education student
working in a rural district receives a stipend for Spring and Fall
2018, and Spring 2019.
Certain laws including No Child Left Behind Act (2001) require
the existence of qualified teachers in each classroom. This
requirement is not only for the schools in urban settings but
also for those in rural settings. It is clear that stakeholders take
certain initiatives to find and recruit more teachers for rural
regions. However, literature based on such issue seems lacking
as more research needs to be conducted on the matter. There
is a need for research on school administrators and novice
teachers at rural regions (Barley 2009; Munsch & Boylan, 2008). The current research aims to add more in literature by
focusing on students in both practicum and student teaching
programs. The study includes the following research questions:
1. How do aspiring teachers perceive the challenges and
advantages of teaching at rural settings?
2. How do professional experiences in rural context shape
The main purpose of this study is to examine the perceptions
of teacher candidates in practicum and student teaching
about rural school teaching. In the study, the rural schools
are considered as the central phenomenon. Therefore, a
phenomenological approach was employed to focus on the
commonality of a lived experience within teacher candidates
in both practicum and student teaching programs.
Basically, a phenomenological research is conducted to
investigate the lived experiences associated with a certain
phenomenon (Creswell, 2012). Such experiences may be related
to a person or a group. A phenomenological approach tends
to reduce an individuals experience into the universal feature
(Van Manen, 1990). It is crucial for the researchers to diminish
the ideas of prejudices while conducting a phenomenological
research (Husserl, 1931). The perception of a phenomenon
obtained through lived experiences should be considered as
something new (Moustakas, 1994). For instance, in this study,
the main goal includes understanding how teacher candidates
understand rural schools as a concept and how they are able to
make sense of such schools. In line with this, the current study
was designed as a phenomenological qualitative study.
The participants of this qualitative study included 30 teacher
candidates in practicum and 30 teacher candidates in student
teaching supported by the Cooperative Educational Service
Agency 8 (CESA 8) in the state of Wisconsin, USA. All students
were also the participants of the RSTTC. Among the participants
in practicum, 86.6% were females and 93.3% were White. As
for the participants in student teaching, all of them were White
and 93.3% were females.
There are 12 CESAs in Wisconsin. The data collection took
place in CESA 8. It is a service agency and includes 27 school
districts in Northeastern Wisconsin. CESA 8 provides services,
resources, and programs for all these school districts. The data
was collected from the participants through interview forms
provided by CESA 8. Field experts such as CESA coordinators
and university faculty provided feedbacks for the internal
validity of the interview form before it was used for data
Content analysis method was used to analyze the qualitative data. This method was employed to be able to interpret
specific concepts and themes related to research content
(Yildirim & Simsek, 2013). As soon as the data were collected
from the participants, they were organized as in codes and
then themes. After the draft theme was created, accordingly
the codes were re-arranged. Lastly, the final main themes were
put as in dimensions along with their frequencies in the tables.
In the study, before using data collection form, for the validity
of such purpose, two subject matter experts in the field were
consulted for their opinions and then, the form was prepared
as in its final format. For the reliability of the current research,
the researchers separately examined the texts to express
their views. Then, they decoded and grouped the texts under
the main themes commonly developed by the researchers.
Independent analysis of the texts are considered as an effective
approach for the conclusiveness of qualitative study (Creswell,
The themes created in the current study were based on
an approach developed by Johnston (1995). The approach
basically includes creating themes based on the grouped views
of the researchers in the study. In the qualitative studies the
consensus between the experts in the field must be taken under
consideration. With that in mind, Miles and Huberman (2015)
contend that for the reliability of the study, this consensus
between the experts must be at least 70% or above. For the
current study, the mentioned consensus was found as 85%,
which indicates that the reliability was established. In addition,
direct quotations also enhance the validity and reliability of the
study (Yıldırım & Şimşek, 2013). Therefore, the findings of this
study was supported by direct quotations.
This part of the study includes answers obtained from the
participants in practicum and student teaching. The answers
provided from teacher candidates were coded and explained
in the fashion of themes and frequencies in order to outline
the experiences obtained from practicum and student teaching
based on their importance.
Findings from Practicum
The findings from the practicum experience of teacher
candidates were based on the answers about advantages
and challenges of teaching in a rural community and how
the practicum experience changed the way they see rural
education. Abbreviations were used for the quotations
provided by teacher candidates in practicum (e.g., P-12 was
used for student number 12 in practicum). In Table 1, the
frequency values for the advantages of living and teaching in
rural community are given. These advantages were examined
within five dimensions: Teacher (f = 20), students (f = 11), staff/
faculty (f = 8), community (f = 14), and school/classroom (f =
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|Table 1: Answers Given on the Question: What Do You Foresee as
Being the Advantages of Living and Teaching in Rural Community?
According to Table 1, the advantages of living and teaching in
rural community were examined based on the explanations of teacher candidates in practicum. Practicum students suggests
that working in rural communities may be beneficial for the
teachers. Agreeing with this, one of the participants states the
advantages of teaching in rural schools:
I think the advantage of teaching in a rural community is that
there is a smaller student body, which can help with creating
deeper and more meaningful connections with students due to
the more one on one time (P-8).
The participant underlines the effect of small classrooms on the
teachers connections with students and states that students
in such classrooms may establish deeper understanding of the
concepts and make connections with real-life events. Another
student in practicum supports this idea:
A positive for rural teaching is being able to get to know your
students on a personal basis. The classes may be a little smaller
and students can come to the teacher for anything and the
teacher gets to know his/her students well (P-13).
The practicum student asserts that in smaller classrooms,
students feel free to approach to their teachers for help on
anything. This situation allows teachers to know their students
on individual level. Similarly, another student explains the
advantage of rural teaching:
An advantage is to be able to work with all the students. You
really know the students well and get to see where they are
in life. Everyone works together and is team, and its great to see other people have your back. Its will be great to see the
students growth throughout the year and all they work for (P-
The answers of teacher candidates were examined based on
the challenges that they experienced during their practicum.
The frequency values of such answers are provided in Table 2.
Based on the content analysis, the challenges were examined
in five dimensions: Teacher (f = 6), students (f = 6), staff/faculty
(f = 3), community (f = 11), and school/classroom (f = 16).
Table 2 indicates how the teacher candidates in practicum
expressed the challenges that they experienced during their
practicum. Students in practicum states that teaching in rural
community may be challenging for some teachers. Supporting
this approach, a participant asserts that the apparent challenge
would in association with students living in and working at
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|Table 2: Answers Given on the Question: What Do You Foresee as
Being the Challenges of Living and Teaching in a Rural Community?
Some of the challenges of living and teaching in a rural
community is that many of the students live on farms. During
harvesting time and planting time, the parents are very busy
working on the farms. This means that there is a lack of
attention on the kids, which they are not used to. We have seen
this affect with a couple of our students. Another is that the
students are tired as they wake up early and work on the farm
before school starts (P-19).
As the answer of the participant indicates, she has the opinion
that students living on the farms may be tired and sleepy while being in the school for learning. Similarly, another practicum
student suggests that along with challenging living conditions
of the students in rural community, schools may experience
difficulty in reaching adequate funding:
Some of the challenges would be the underfunding. Rural
schools dont have a lot of funding, and it is difficult to have
a strong school and building with not a lot of money. Another
challenge would be the geography of where the school would
be located. The salary is also a challenge because it might not
be enough for some teachers to live off of (P-23).
Next, the participants also agree that the disadvantages
of rural community would include knowing everyone and
therefore, they would have difficulty to have enough privacy. A
participant explains this issue:
I dont like small town living. Too much gossip and everyone
knows everything about each other. There is very little
privacy. Location wise, a rural community does not have many
amenities and are not close enough to actual busy civilization.
If something bad were to happen, it would take a while for
emergency responders to get there (P-24).
The practicum experiences of teacher candidates were
examined based on how their practicum experience changed
the way they see rural education. In Table 3, the frequency
values for such answers are given. The content analysis results
showed that there were five dimensions of how teacher
candidates practicum experience changed the way they see
rural education: Teacher (f = 14), students (f = 3), staff/faculty
(f = 8), community (f = 3), and school/classroom (f = 14).
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|Table 3: Answers Given on the Question: In What Ways Has Your
Practicum Experience Changed the Way You See Rural Education?
Based on the answers given on Table 3, how the practicum
experience of teacher candidates changed the way they see
rural education was examined. A student in practicum says that
rural schools have a positive climate and this idea changes her
views about rural schools:
This school has been one of the most positive and tight-knit
schools I have ever visited. I now see rural schools as a positive
community that works extra hard to make sure school is a
positive experience these students can look forward to every
The participant emphasize that schools in rural regions have
positive atmosphere and work harder for their students. Having
similar thoughts about rural schools, a participant claims that
these schools care for students:
I have never really known a lot about it, but everyone is so close
and the energy is helpful and caring (P-5).
The participants answer suggests that the caring approach
of the school in rural community changes her perceptions
about such school. Another participant explains how having
practicum experience in a rural school changes her views:
This experience has erased by previous stereotypes about
rural education. Before this experience, I was expecting to be
placed in a run-down school in the middle of nowhere with
impoverished students. However, Wrightstown is far from that image. On the contrary, it is a beautiful school full of bright
students and caring faculty. I am so grateful for this opportunity
and hope I can work in a district like this one someday (P-18).
Findings from Student Teaching
The findings from the student teaching experience of teacher
candidates were based on the answers about advantages
and challenges of teaching in a rural community and how
the student teaching experience changed the way they see
rural education. Abbreviations were used for the quotations
provided by teacher candidates in student teaching (e.g., ST-
15 was used for student number 15 in student teaching). The
frequency values for the advantages of living and teaching in
rural community are given in Table 4. The advantages were
examined within five dimensions: Teacher (f = 20), students
(f = 2), staff/faculty (f = 6), community (f = 25), and school/
classroom (f = 5).
Tables from Student Teaching
According to Table 4, the advantages of living and teaching in
rural community were examined based on the answers of the
students in student teaching. A student in student teaching
program asserts how community support was involved in rural
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|Table 4: Answers Given on the Question: What Do You Foresee as
being the Advantages of Living and Teaching in Rural Community?
From my experience, the advantages of working in a rural
community come from the experience the students bring into
the classroom along with the community support you receive
from the area. The community feels more like a family and
everyone seems to know everyone (ST-6).
As the answer of the student in student teaching program
indicates, the community support of the rural settings make a
person feel like home. Similarly, another student stresses the
importance of close-knit environment:
The involvement you have at the school can be used in the
community. Being in the area and understanding what your
students do before and after school could better educate
teachers of why they behave a certain way in the classroom.
Having that close-knit feeling, in and out of school, can help
ease the stress away of driving for 50+ miles a day and you
can be involved in more activities without having to check
the weather or the time. You also have to think on your feet
more with adapting lessons and seeing things from a different
The participant underlines the advantage of teaching in a rural
school as the supportive environment of the community ease
off the stress of the teachers. The participant also adds that
working in rural school may help you think and adapt from
different perspectives. A different participant mentions that
rural schools have more opportunities:
More opportunity for coaching and being involved. There are
also typically more opportunities to expand programs and
advance one on one relationships and content understanding
with students (ST-21).
The answers of teacher candidates were examined based on
the challenges that they experienced during their student
teaching. The frequency values of their answers are provided
in Table 5. Based on the content analysis, the challenges were
examined in four dimensions: Teacher (f = 9), students (f = 4),
community (f = 10), and school/classroom (f = 26).
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|Table 5: Answers Given on the Question: What Do You Foresee as
Being the Challenges of Living and Teaching in a Rural Community?
Table 5 indicates how the student teachers emphasized their
feelings on the on the challenges that they experienced in
rural communities. One challenge may be related to the lack of
experienced teachers in core courses. A participant in student
teaching program expresses her thoughts that rural schools
experience teacher shortage:
Teachers typically need to teach multiple different classes
(biology, physics, and chemistry) at the high school level due
to teacher shortages. This is difficult because it requires lots of
additional prep time for teachers (ST-2).
The participant explains that because of teacher shortages in
certain courses, a teacher may have to teach more than one
course at different levels. This situation creates obstacles
as they need to spend a lot of time for the preparation of
their classes. Along with this issue in rural schools, another
participant points out that these schools do not have enough
I think when talking about a rural school, funding for the school
will quite often be a challenge. This hurts as far as technology
is concerned (ST-29).
The participant implies that rural schools receive less funding
compared to urban schools, and this situation mainly affects
the technological materials of the rural schools. With parallel
thoughts, a student in student teaching program expresses the
shortages in teaching supplies:
The challenges of living and teaching in a rural community
is that the community will talk and everything will be easily
known which can be good and bad. Also, I think resources
will be more difficult to find and teachers will have to supply
supplies and deeply think about projects before they are given
In table 6, the student teaching experiences of teacher
candidates were examined based on how such experience
changed the way they see rural education. The table includes
the frequency values for the answers provided through content
analysis. According to the analysis, teacher candidates student
teaching experience changed the way they see rural education
within five dimensions: Teacher (f = 17), students (f = 5), staff/
faculty (f = 1), community (f = 3), and school/classroom (f = 5).
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|Table 6: Answers Given on the Question: In What Ways Has Your
Student Teaching Experience Changed the Way You See Rural
Based on the answers provided on Table 6, the student teaching
experiences were examined based on how such experience
changed the way student teachers see rural education. One of
the participants mentions that less tense environment of the
rural school affects her perceptions:
I prefer the atmosphere of a small rural town and school. I
grew up in the country all my life and prefer to stay in a rural
area and hope to find a job in a small, rural school district. I
have noticed that the students of smaller schools are a little
less tense than those who come from bigger cities (ST-4).
The participant suggests that growing up at a place similar to
rural community makes me prefer working in such places as
they are small and less stressful. Another participant explains
that even though rural areas have some challenges for teachers,
I still prefer working there:
Rural schools present some challenges, such as distance and, in
some cases, lack of funding (which will trickle down into lack of
resources). However, I still prefer rural schools because of the
sense of community that surrounds them (ST-6).
Based on the answer of the participant, the schools in rural
regions experience lack of funding. However, this situation
does not have an inverse impact on her perceptions. One of
the other participants stresses that being familiar with the rural
communities may affect someone to choose working there:
I grew up in a rural community and enjoy the community
atmosphere it brings within a school. Students move through
the grades with the same students and really get to know each
other and help each other (ST-12).
As the answer of the participant, it would be easier to work
at places that we are familiar with. With the similar thoughts, another participant agrees with the convenience of working at
community where she grew up:
Growing up in a rural school district, I am used to the teaching
styles and academic tools/resources that are used. Also, I
appreciate the smaller class sizes where you can connect
with your students on a more personal level and create more
positive relationships (ST-22).
This qualitative study explored the perceptions of university
students in Wisconsin about the advantages and challenges
of teaching in a rural community and how such experiences
changed their views about rural teaching. These students
were in practicum and student teaching programs. Firstly,
the findings are presented based on the perceptions of the
students in practicum about the advantages and challenges of
rural schooling, and how the practicum experience shifts their
views about those schools. Secondly, the perceptions of the
students in student teaching program are explained based on
the advantages and challenges of rural schooling, and how the
student teaching experience changes their views about such
Based on the perceptions of the students in practicum,
there are several advantages related with rural teaching. The
students explained that the rural schools have advantages such as being in a small and quiet community, having helpful staff,
knowing students on personal level, and focused learners.
These advantages of teaching at rural schools can be inferred
from Lester (2001) that the staff at these schools are highly
committed for their students and the school. Confirming this,
Wildy and Clarke (2005) stated that rural school generally
experience similar situations in terms of being small and having
supportive staff. This important as also found in this study, the
smaller student body in these schools may help teachers to
spend more time with the students and in return, students
may establish deeper understanding of the topics and relate
them to the real world.
The participants of the practicum said that teaching in rural
schools may be challenging for some teachers as well. They
imply that one of the main challenge for teachers would be
having lower salary compared to those teaching in urban
schools. This overlaps with the study of Clotfelter et al. (2008).
Accordingly, Hendricks (2014) states that salary differences
among teachers may create problems for teacher distribution
in high-need areas. The participants of the study also indicated
the challenges that the school staff in rural community tend to
employ traditional teaching methods and that those schools
do not have enough technological materials. Besides being
underfunded, there is also lack of student diversity as most
of the students in such schools are mainly white. These may
be the reasons why teachers prefer urban schools over rural
schools. Similarly, Imazeki (2005) contends that due low pay,
lack of technology and teaching materials teachers prefer
urban schools. Because higher salary and enough resources
may attract these teachers (Falch, 2011). Therefore, leaders
in education need to come up with viable solutions as lack of
teaching resources have an impact on student achievement
(Chiu & Khoo, 2005).
In the study, how the practicum experience of the students
changed their perceptions about rural schools was examined.
The findings showed that the practicum experience did make
change on their perceptions about rural teaching. Some of the
factors changing their perceptions include positive climate
of the community and caring and hardworking school staff.
Some of the students also stressed that rural schools were no
different from urban schools and in that sense, they did not
have any more stereotypes for such schools. The existence
of quality and hardworking staff is crucial because they can
make substantial changes in students life. Lack of such school
staff may cause big problems in rural schools. In line with this,
Pegg (2007) agreed that schools in smaller communities may
be vulnerable in terms of providing effective teaching when
they do not have quality teachers. Because the members of
the community start questioning the success of the school
when most of the students fail to learn. In parallel with this,
Dunning (1993) explain that there are growing demands
from the community members and policy makers regarding
accountability of rural schools.
In this study, the perceptions of the students in student
teaching program are also explained according to the
advantages and challenges of rural schools, and how such experience changes their views about those schools. First,
the students emphasized that it would advantageous to teach
in rural schools. They said that the advantages of teaching at
these schools include building stronger relationships with the
students and their families, and having close-knit relationships
with the community members, which are very supportive.
Based on these assumptions, Weston (2000) also indicates the
staff in rural schools are helpful and supportive as they bring
about change and improvement for the community. These
findings overlap with the findings of Southworth (2004) that
the existence of supportive teachers in rural schools affect
the quality of teaching, and provide students with powerful
The students in student teaching program suggested that
teaching at rural community may be challenging for some
teachers. The findings showed that the challenges of teaching
a rural school were needing more time to prepare, gossiping
among the members of the community, limited technology,
closed mindsets, and lack of resources. It is important to indicate
that teachers prefer working at economically advantageous
schools (Feng & Sass, 2018; Hanushek et al., 1999). Therefore,
school leaders need to make sure that rural schools have a fair
share of quality teachers and teaching resources. The students
expressed that less funding would create hurdles for getting
enough technology and other resources for rural schools. It
may be inferred from Boe et al. (2008) that teachers do not
prefer working in rural schools that have such problems and far
away from the urban settings. In addition, in long run, it does
not seem that the funding problems at rural schools would
easily be addressed (Griffin & McGuire, 2015).
Based on the findings, how the student teaching experience of
the students changed their perceptions about rural schooling
was examined. Students explained that this experience allowed
them to clearly see the difference between urban schools
and rural schools. They implied that such experience did not
negatively affect their perceptions about rural education. Some
of the factors that positively affected their views included the
positive behaviours of the school staff and community. The
students also added that smaller class sizes help teachers
to establish stronger relationships with their students. The
positive behaviours of the school staff is important especially
when it comes to initiate new educational praxis different than
the traditional ones. Because sometimes, due to the closed
mindsets of people in small communities, it may be difficult to
make any changes. Having similar ideas, Nolan (1998) asserts
that it may harder for new teachers to make changes in the
minds of the students and community members because
they might be unconducive to sustainable reforms regarding
educational teachings. That is why educational leaders should
find effective solutions in finding quality teachers, who can
understand the community well, and accordingly make reforms
in education (Clarke & Stevens, 2009).
As the result of overall findings, this study suggested that
the perceptions of students in both practicum and student
teaching program seem to be alike regarding the advantages and challenges of rural schooling, and how such experiences
change their perceptions towards those schools. According to
the students in both programs, the major challenges in rural
schools were low salary, lack of resources and quality teachers,
closed mindsets, and traditional teaching approaches. All of
these factors may negatively affect the educational outcomes
of the schools in rural community. Resolving these issues must
be a top priority for school leaders and policy makers.
Based on the literature, many challenges exist for students
and staff in rural schools. The students attending rural schools
seem to obtain lower educational outcomes compared to their
peers in urban schools (Human Rights and Equal Opportunity
Commission, 2000). The students in rural schools are less likely
to finish secondary school (Lamb, Walstab, Teese, Vickers, &
Rumberger, 2004) and attend university (James, 2001). Lack of
quality teachers and resources in such schools result in poorer
performance on achievement tests (Chiu & Khoo, 2005; OECD,
2005; Williams, 2005).
In any case, to address the problems in rural educational
settings, advocate of rural education and reformers of national
education should engage in communication to utilize a fair
distribution of teacher labour force and teaching resources
for rural schools (Akiba et al., 2007; Darling-Hammond &
Ball, 1997). They should also help rural teachers and students
achieve learning objectives set by states. The recruitment of
teachers should allow quality teachers to teach in rural settings
as well. That way, students would be able to develop higher
order skills in real-life situations by tackling challenges existing
in the rural community. Students with such critical skills would
not only select the life they want but also make substantial
contributions to the community and make informed decisions.
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