- Last Updated on March 22, 2012
- Written by CMI Staff
Dr. Chris Craig, Director of School of Education and Child Development at Drury University, and his colleagues recently started a program called Rural Learning Communities (RLCs) to address issues of accessibility to graduate education and “teaching in isolation” in Missouri.
“We’re looking for a graduate experience and figure out a way to pull those guys together in clusters called rural learning communities,” Craig says.
The program, which began in the spring of 2012, is focused on providing classroom teachers with master’s degrees in instruction, squarely grounded in the context of community.
“I’ve had comments from teachers saying, ‘I never thought I could pursue a master’s degree or a graduate degree until we could access this program from Drury,” Craig says.
He said the reaction from teachers have been very affirming and very positive because they were “bringing graduate education in a really accessible way.”
Craig said the idea for program originated from conversations with various superintendents about the need for a graduate program that was substantial, informative and rigorous so that teachers would have “purposeful master’s degree.” Another important issue that came up was “teaching in isolation,” a real factor in small, rural schools.
“We looked at approved programs and saw how to get them delivered into schools to meet these targeted needs,” Craig says.
Two RLCs have been developed in the small towns of Galena and Miller, Missouri. 45 teachers are part of this new initiative, collaborating on coursework and learning opportunities. The RLCs are sponsored in part by the Community Foundation of the Ozarks, which provides some funding for the program’s key components including a course on the culture of the Ozarks and a possible conference on education, to bring all 45 participants together.
“Good things happen in the Ozarks all the time,” Craig said. “Often there’s not that opportunity for teachers to communicate their successes and what they’re doing every day to address rural poverty and other forms of student diversity.”
As the RLC program develops, Craig hopes that teachers will learn how to use technology resources more effectively such as Blackboard (education software) or social media to get dialogue going in between communities so if the RLC in Galena does something innovative, Miller can know about it, too.
For the first phase of the program, technology instructors are on site teaching teachers to access Drury’s Blackboard and get materials to implement its common core. To help with this technology restructuring, teachers are partnered with a group called the Southwest Regional Professional Development Center (SRPDC) providing direct, hands-on experiences on how to operate the common core.
“In some ways technological infrastructure is lacking, but we‘re helping them use what they have more efficiently.”
Craig says his RLC program is looking forward to working with CFO and the Center for Midwestern Initiatives in future.