Wednesday, August 1, 4:00-4:30, SUB Ballroom D, Theme: Profession

Geographic locale, specifically rurality, is a consequential, albeit severely understudied, predictor of U.S. students’ social and educational outcomes. Problematically, policymakers and researchers often treat rural settings monolithically, failing to consider regional nuances that distinguish amongst them and diversity that exists within them. Through a comprehensive and systematic literature review, we set out to look for geographic and methodological patterns and gaps in the research.

Our study aims to understand how adequately rural education research findings reflect regional and state-level variations in rural contexts. Unfortunately, no one has comprehensively mapped where rural education research has been conducted. We also interrogated how (and if) rurality is defined in the literature.  Definitions of rural vary widely; U.S. federal agencies alone use more than 20 definitional schemas for geographic locale.

We asked:

  • What locations and participants are included and excluded from studies of education in U.S. rural locales?
  • How do explicit and implicit definitions of rurality potentially obfuscate implications that can be drawn from studies of rural education in the US?

Our preliminary findings are that rural education research in the United States is most commonly conducted in the Midwest and in Appalachia. Severely underrepresented areas include the Mountain West and the Pacific Northwest. Our preliminary data analysis also indicates that there is a dearth of studies that explicitly define “rural” in their research settings in even the most basic terms.