Learning in Place: Teachers' Experiences with a Place-based Language Arts Curriculum in Rural Appalachia
Rasheed, Michelle Christian
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Research in rural gifted education is garnering increased national attention (Plucker and Callahan, 2014; Lewis and Boswell, 2020), yet inequities in rural gifted services continue to challenge educators in their efforts to meet the needs of a unique population (Azano et al., 2014, 2017). Understandings about existing systemic structural challenges in rural gifted services highlight a need to mitigate opportunity gaps for rural gifted students (Azano et al., 2017). Using Greenwood's (2003, 2008) critical pedagogy of place as the theoretical framework, this qualitative case study examined how 16 teachers in a high-poverty rural district consisting of eight schools experienced the Promoting PLACE in Rural Schools curriculum, a place-based language arts curriculum designed for gifted third- and fourth-grade students. Analytic induction and thematic coding of four distinct sources of evidence (fidelity logs, observation documents, questionnaires, and an interview) were used to make sense of teachers' experiences in implementing of the curriculum. With "an emphasis on experience, understanding, and meaning-making" (Merriam, 2009, p. 19), the researcher explored what teachers' experiences and perceptions could teach us about instruction in high-poverty rural communities and opportunities for gifted learners. Findings illuminated influences on teachers' ability to implement the curriculum such as the under-prioritization of gifted education by the larger school community and teachers' own ingenuity in ameliorating challenges to implementation. The study offers insights about students' access to gifted instruction in one school district in Appalachia. Findings from this qualitative case study may shape gifted instruction in rural places and inform stakeholders of ways in which opportunity gaps for rural gifted populations may be addressed. Insights offer implications for practitioners, administrators, policymakers, community members, and researchers to mitigate instructional challenges and increase students' access to place-based gifted curriculum.
General Audience Abstract
This qualitative case study examined teachers experiences with a language arts curriculum for high-poverty rural gifted students. The study focused on one rural Appalachian school district where 16 elementary teachers working in eight schools implemented the Promoting PLACE in Rural Schools curriculum with third- and fourth-grade students. Methods included analytic induction and thematic coding of four distinct sources of evidence: fidelity logs, observation documents, questionnaires, and an interview. These sources were used to generate understandings about how teachers perceived their experiences with a rural specific curriculum designed for gifted students. These understandings suggested existing barriers influence implementation and impede students from access to the curriculum in its entirety. Insights from this case study offer implications for practitioners, administrators, policymakers, community members, and researchers to mitigate instructional challenges and increase students' access to place-based gifted curriculum.
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