My major ongoing research focuses on place, the sustainability of rural communities, and the interests of the least powerful in our society. My work is situated within rural sociology, the sociology of knowledge, educational sociology and social justice and is informed by the spatial turn in social theory and sustainability. I have an ongoing concern about quality and equity in education and the representation of the rural in contemporary society. My research works to disrupt the meta-narratives that have dominated, and hijacked, these import fields through the application of critical theory. My research demonstrates how the technologies of governance magnify disadvantage and deny situated knowledge’s when examined from a ‘place conscious’ critical perspective. I have a significant research track record that extends to my pre-university career, completing major national research projects in the staffing of rural and remote schools and managing large-scale school based research projects. I received my PhD from Charles Sturt University, Australia.
Access, achievement and the spatial distribution of curriculum in NSW Senior Secondary Schooling
- May 2018 – December 2019.
- Lead investigator in collaboration with Academics from ANU and Murdoch, and the NSW Education Standards Authority.
- This project examines potential inequalities in access to HSC Curriculum and HSC achievement. The project aims to undertake a comprehensivestudy of curriculum access and achievement in the NSW HSC, with reference to the socio-cultural characteristics of students and schools. The overall framing of this research is access and achievement in the NSW HSC in relation to the analytical frames of location, rural/urban, gender, socioeconomic status (SES), educational marketization and hierarchies of knowledge.
- Centre for Asia Pacific School and Community Advancement seed grant $15 000.
Bridging rural education and rural studies
- This project underpins my study leave in semester 2 2018. The overall purpose of my study leave is to advance my scholarship towards the objective of bridging rural education and rural studies. The rural education field has tended to work from within its own boundaries. Consequently the field has been becoming increasingly narrow and removed from the parent disciplines. My scholarship over the last five years has been working to overcome this. Central here is the distinction between the various sub-fields of education and their relationships with the parent disciplines. While rural education is somewhat ambiguously placed it draws primarily from the traditions of sociology and geography, with broader engagements with the non-education fields of rural sociology and rural geography (Roberts & Cuervo, 2015). Important here is that sociology, and the sociology of education, does not engage significantly with the rural – hence the development of sub-fields of rural education and rural sociology. Consequently, scholarship is necessary in order to bridge these divides and enhance the quality, and breadth, of scholarship in all related fields.
Rural social attitudes
- February 2017-December 2018.
- This project is explores rural social attitudes, circa 2017-18, with a particular focus on how these attitudes relate to schooling and education. As I travel around rural communities I have been conducting interviews and discussions to understand what the issues are in rural areas pertaining to education as a social and cultural good.
- The attraction and retention of professionals in rural contexts is an ongoing challenge in Australia, and many international contexts. I began my research career in 2003 researching the attraction and retention of teachers in Australia, leading to the publication in 2005 of Staffing an Empty Schoolhouse: Attracting and retaining teachers in rural, remote and isolated communities (publication version). This remains an ongoing research project as a side component of my overall work.
Ruraling Educational Research
- October 2017-December 2018.
- This is an edited book project I am leading in collaboration with leading rural education scholars in Australia. The aim of the project is to produce an edited book on rural education research in Australia. We want it to be a collective ‘statement’ as a field on what this research area represents especially as it intersects with other domains of educational research. Put another way, what does a rural perspective bring to the broad fields of educational research? How does a rural perspective change these fields? We are working with chapters that explore the connection between rurality and the other domains of educational research (e.g. curriculum, pedagogy, community, Aboriginal education, gender and so forth).
- Australian Association for Research in Education, $5000 for the rural education special interest group.
Valuing The Rural: Putting the Rural First
- July 2017-December 2018.
- This is an edited book project I am leading in collaboration with Dr Christine Bottrell. In this book we aim to flip the assumed construction of metropolitan as the centre and rural/ remote as peripheral. In doing so we seek to gain insights from the work being done around service provision that has sustainable practice at the core and values rural places and rural people. We are working with leading rural scholars from Australia and around the world on finalising this exciting project.
Enhancing aspirations for STEM careers in rural, regional and remote communities.
- October 2016 – May 2018
- Chief Investigator / project leader. This project aims To understand the relationship between rural students knowledge of STEM in rural careers, their aspirations towards STEM careers, subject choices and university admission. Rural students often have less access to STEM subjects in senior secondary high school, a situation that in turn limits their ability to gain entry to university study. This project will explore the relationship between students’ understanding of the role of STEM subjects in rural careers, their aspirations for rural STEM careers, how this influences senior school subject selection, which in turn impacts upon subsequent university study.
- Higher Education Participation and Partnerships Programme National Priority Pool $65 000
- In partnership with UC Office of the Dean of Students, SPERA, PIEF, NCSEHE, RIRDC.
‘Doing’ history: what is the capacity of museums to engage visitors in processes of historical inquiry?
- September 2016 – July 2017
- Co-Chief Investigator (with Dr Tiina Ropolla). This project will examine the capacity of museums to engage visiting communities in processes of ‘doing’ history, which can be contrasted to being ‘told’ history. The project examines the tensions between memory-history and disciplinary-history. In doing so this project will critique the typical framing of museums as institutions of collective memory.
- Australian Institute for Sustainable Communities Early Career Researcher Grant $4 500
Building connections with rural China
- September 2015 – July 2016
- Chief Investigator. The objective of this project is to build the groundwork for collaborative work exploring rural education in China. The plan is to map the field and look at where there area areas of overlap with my existing work, as well as identify future issues for investigation. Rather than focus solely on education the intention is to include a perspective about the social construction of the rural in these contexts and issues of rural-regional sustainability.
- Australian Institute for Sustainable Communities Early Career Researcher Grant $4 000
- October 2013 –May 2016.
- Project Leader & Chief Investigator. I developed and negotiated the funding application. Coordinating colleagues across 3 universities and research staff.
- The project explores community understandings of ‘sustainability’ and how local understandings are, and can be, engaged with in education to achieve more collaborative outcomes. To achieve this collaborative understanding the project explores approaches to place-conscious education as a vehicle for social inclusion and community representation in dominant knowledge systems.
- Part of the MDBfutures CRN, as such project has additional internal funding. Murray-Darling Basin Authority $123 000.
- URL: http://www.canberra.edu.au/murray-darling-crn/projects/place-based-education
- March 2013 – December 2013.
- Project Leader & Chief Investigator. This project comprised my Faculties major contribution to the Centenary of Canberra. This was a major event in the history of the territory and a significant event on the University Calendar with Alumni and dignitaries in attendance. It uses an approach of ‘History for Education’ to investigate the unique socio-historical circumstances that led to the development of a new education authority in 1975 and how this context influenced the character of education in the territory. It also incorporated the development of University of Canberra as part of this period.
- Faculty Funded $10 000
- URL: http://centenary.estem-uc.edu.au
The Spatial Distribution of Curriculum in (rural) NSW schools.
- Project Leader & Chief Investigator, coordinating colleagues across 2 universities.
- This project relates to, and begins to extend, aspects of my dissertation work. It explores the idea of the curriculum hierarchy, that is ideas of powerful knowledge encoded in the school curriculum and the selection of this knowledge. It extends previous work in this area by introducing spatial thinking from the social sciences to look at how this knowledge is spatially distributed, its relationship to communities and place, and the spatial influences on its selection and enactment in schools.
Pre-Service Teacher Attitudes to the Profession. Funded through faculty staffing.
- January 2011 – January 2014.
- This longitudinal project is based on the major reform I co-led in the Graduate Diploma of Secondary Education. I designed and managed the research project to explore the attitudes to the profession graduate students bring with them, and the influence of our course design on the understandings they graduate with. An important perspective of the reform and research was overcoming the theory-practice divide that is common in pre-service education in this field. To date the project has resulted in an Excellence in Teaching Award, A Symposium at the Australian Association for Research in Education that I coordinated, and three publications (1 under review).
- This is a National Symposium I initiated and coordinated in 2011. The symposium was aimed at connecting museum education and history education and exploring ways to overcome the theory-practice divide and the practitioner – researcher divide. The successful event was held over three days and was attended by 120 leaders in the field in Australia. The proceedings and discussion paper were available online at the university research repository.