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REL Central Ask A REL Response


April 2019


What research is available to inform teacher preparation programs in preparing teachers for rural settings?


Following an established REL Central research protocol, we conducted a search for research reports as well as descriptive study articles to help answer the question. The resources included ERIC and other federally funded databases and organizations, research institutions, academic databases, and general Internet search engines. (For details, please see the methods section at the end of this memo.)

References are listed in alphabetical order, not necessarily in order of relevance. We have not evaluated the quality of the references provided in this response, and we offer them only for your information. Also, we compiled the references from the most commonly used resources of research, but they are not comprehensive and other relevant sources may exist.

Research References

Azano, A. P., & Stewart, T. T. (2016). Confronting challenges at the intersection of rurality, place, and teacher preparation: Improving efforts in teacher education to staff rural schools. Global Education Review, 3(1), 108–128. Retrieved from

From the abstract:

“Recruiting and retaining highly qualified teachers in rural schools is a persistent struggle in many countries, including the U.S. While rural education researchers have long lamented the struggle to recruit and retain teachers, there is relatively little known about intentional efforts to prepare teachers, specifically, for rural classrooms. Salient challenges related to poverty, geographic isolation, low teacher salaries, and a lack of community amenities seem to trump perks of living in rural communities. Recognizing this issue as a complex and hard to solve fixture in the composition of rural communities, we sought to understand how teacher preparation programs might better prepare preservice teachers for successful student teaching placements and, ideally, eventual careers in rural schools. In this study, we explore teacher candidates’ perceptions of rurality while examining how specific theory, pedagogy, and practice influence their feelings of preparedness for working in a rural school. Using pre- and postquestionnaire data, classroom observations, and reflections, we assess the effectiveness of deliberate efforts in our teacher preparation program to increase readiness for rural teaching. In our analysis and discussion, we draw on critical and sociocultural theories to understand the experiences of a cohort of teacher candidates as they explore personal histories, the importance of place, expectations, and teaching strategies for rural contexts. We conclude our article with recommendations for enhancing teacher preparation programs in ways that might result in significant progress toward the goal of staffing rural schools with the highly skilled teachers all students deserve.”

Cho, J., Rios, F., Trent, A., & Mayfield, K. K. (2012). Integrating language diversity into teacher education curricula in a rural context: Candidates’ developmental perspectives and understandings. Teacher Education Quarterly, 39(2), 63–85. Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract:

“This study took place at the University of Wyoming, located in the rural mountain West. The University of Wyoming, with approximately 13,000 students, is the only four-year university in the state. The teacher education population of the College of Education is about 600, and demographically, this population is about 90% White, predominately female, and from rural communities across the state and other states that border Wyoming. Likewise, most school districts in the state of Wyoming are less diverse (ethnically, racially, and linguistically) than the national averages. Given this context, the College of Education has tried to address issues of diversity at the program level over the last decade or so. This article provides an account of a curriculum development, integration, and implementation initiative in the educational studies department (EDST). The content to be integrated in the program focused on language acquisition, a critical need given the urgency for teachers to support and honor rapidly growing populations of English language learners (ELLs) in the state, region, and nation. Given the need to develop and implement curricula and pedagogy that support learning for all children, including those who speak languages other than English, the authors felt morally and professionally compelled to begin to consider the ways they might prepare their students, teacher education candidates, for the language diversity they are sure to experience in their careers. This challenge is especially unique in their context, a rural state with a rapidly increasing ELL student population and an unfortunately small number of teachers with ELL credentials and/or experience working with second language learners. It is the authors’ hope that in creating and sharing this account, they are able to advance understandings about the role teacher education can play in preparing the next generation of teachers for the linguistic diversity in their PreK–12 schools.”

Eaton, S. E., Gereluk, D., Dressler, R., & Becker, S. (2017, April). A rural education teacher preparation program: course design, student support and engagement. Paper presented at the annual American Educational Research Association Conference, San Antonio, TX. Retrieved from

From the abstract:

“Attracting and retaining teachers for rural and remote areas is a pervasive global problem. Currently, teacher education in Canada is primarily delivered in face-to-face formats located in urban centres or satellite campuses. There is a need for relevant and responsive teacher education programs for rural pre-service teachers. Recognizing this need, one university has responded by creating a Community-based Bachelor of Education program targeting rural students who reside beyond the reach of these campuses. This paper explores the inaugural year of this innovative program, the only one of its kind in Canada.”

Fry, S. W., & Anderson, H. (2011). Career changers as first-year teachers in rural schools. Journal of Research in Rural Education, 26(12), 1–15. Retrieved from

From the abstract:

“The challenges novice teachers face as they adjust to inservice teaching are well documented. However, relatively little attention has been given to beginning teachers in rural schools who have had previous careers in other professions. We used qualitative methods to examine the professional experiences and perceptions of four career-changing first-year teachers in rural schools, seeking to identify significant issues in their professional developmental processes. Three primary themes emerged: evidence of effectiveness as teachers; mentoring career changers, and; adjustment to rural school and community. We conclude with implications and recommendations for educators working to support this unique population of educators in preservice preparation programs and rural school districts.”

Goodpaster, K. P. S., Adedokun, O. A., & Weaver, G. C. (2012). Teachers’ perceptions of rural STEM teaching: Implications for rural teacher retention. Rural Educator, 33(3), 9–22. Retreived from

From the abstract:

“Rural school districts often struggle with attracting and retaining high-quality teachers, especially in science subject areas. However, little is known about STEM in-service teachers’ lived experiences of rural teaching as they relate to retention. In this phenomenographical study, six rural in-service science teachers were interviewed regarding their perceptions of the benefits and challenges of teaching in rural schools in general, and teaching science subjects in particular. Community interactions, professional development, and rural school structures emerged as three key factors related to rural teacher retention. Participants viewed each of these factors as having both positive and negative aspects. Findings from this study confirm existing literature regarding rural teaching, in general, but provide additional insight into the complexities of rural science teaching, in particular. Implications for rural teacher preparation, recruitment, and retention are discussed. ”

Kaden, U. I., Patterson, P. P., & Healy, J. (2014). Updating the role of rural supervision: Perspectives from Alaska. Journal of Education and Training Studies, 2(3), 33–43. Retrieved from

From the abstract:

“Despite the documented importance of professional experiences in teacher preparation, numerous questions persist as to how university supervisors can effectively contribute to rural preservice teachers’ development and to establish lasting collaborations between involved stakeholders (e.g., collaborating teacher, principal, community). This paper provides insight into the challenges and potential for a comprehensive and updated approach to in-person supervision in a rural sociocultural context. Transcriptions of field notes, observation protocols, and conversations from forty supervision travels to remote Alaska villages are examined and interpreted. Results support a fresh, rural-contextual approach to in-person supervision that has the potential to help preservice teachers not only master effective teaching strategies but also support teacher recruitment, retention, and collaboration.”

Yates, P. A. (2016). Indispensable experiences: Preparing preservice teachers for the rigors of teaching special education in the rural setting (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from

From the abstract:

“This qualitative descriptive study explored the research question ‘What do veteran and pre-service special education teachers believe are indispensable experiences when a student is learning to become a special education teacher?’ Data were collected from veteran and pre-service special education teachers who work and study in a two-county rural area. Data were acquired through 58 open-ended surveys, six interviews, and the researcher’s own perceptions and experiences. The results reveal that according to the sample, pre-service special education teachers in a rural area should experience varying and multiple ongoing experiences in the clinical setting, be provided with an in-depth understanding of the Individualized Education Program (IEP) process, understand how to administer assessments and how to use the data, and understand the importance of building relationships. Veteran teachers also identified experiences in working with parents and an understanding of how to work with paraprofessionals as indispensable experiences. This study has implications for pre-service special education programs.”


Search Strings

The following keywords and search strings were used to search the reference databases and other sources:

  • “Teacher preparation” and rural

Databases and Resources

We searched ERIC for relevant resources. ERIC is a free online library of over 1.6 million citations of education research sponsored by the Institute of Education Sciences. Additionally, we searched Google Scholar and Google.

Reference Search and Selection Criteria

When searching and reviewing resources, we considered the following criteria:

  • Date of the Publication: References and resources published between 2009 and 2019 were included in the search and review.
  • Search Priorities of Reference Sources: Search priority was given to ERIC, followed by Google Scholar and Google.
  • Methodology: The following methodological priorities/considerations were used in the review and selection of the references: (a) study types–randomized control trials, quasi experiments, surveys, descriptive analyses, literature reviews; and (b) target population and sample.

This memorandum is one in a series of quick-turnaround responses to specific questions posed by educational stakeholders in the Central Region (Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming), which is served by the Regional Educational Laboratory Central at Marzano Research. This memorandum was prepared by REL Central under a contract with the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences (IES), Contract ED-IES-17-C-0005, administered by Marzano Research. Its content does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of IES or the U.S. Department of Education nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.