Place, Purpose, and Practice: A Case Study Examining Rural Teachers’ Sense of Community and Its Impact in the Classroom

Faith Beyer Hansen, Boise State University


In an era in which education policy directs schools towards economic outcomes and away from local and/or community goals, this research is rooted in the notion that place matters (Howley & Howley, 1995). More specifically, this study examines what impact a rural teacher’s sense of community has on her experiencing both the broader community, the community of her individual classroom, and on her practice.

This collective case study followed six teachers in one rural middle school in the mountain west. Participants were nominated using a Sense of Community Index (SCI-2) and fell into the following categories: teachers with a low, medium, and high sense of community. Data sources were interview, classroom observation, and reflexive journaling.

The findings of the study suggest that rural teachers with a high sense of community versus those with a low had different motivations surrounding three major areas: 1) coming to a rural place, 2) connection to community, and 3) insight into the community. Furthermore, a rural teachers’ sense of community appeared to impact her practice, particularly her use of local references and willingness to engage in discussions of the status quo.