The purpose of this study was to contribute to knowledge on teacher resilience in terms of protective resources and risk factors in rural schools by exploring the significance of higher education institutions (HEI) with rural school teachers. In the comparative case study, following a constructivist meta-theory and Participatory Reflection and Action (PRA) methodology, I used Place-based Social Mobility System theory as lens to compare teacher experiences of purposively sampled teachers (n = 6) in conveniently sampled rural schools (n = 2) with a long-term university-association to those of teachers (n = 12, male = 5, female = 7) in rural schools ( n = 4) in the same school-district without a long-term university-association. Data sources included PRA-interview data and face to face semi-structured teacher-interviews as well as observation data of the rural school context.
Following inductive in-case and cross-case thematic analysis, informed by a constructivist grounded theory, it was apparent that, irrespective of a university-association, teachers shared similar experiences of protective resources and risk factors when teaching in a rural context. Feedback from the HEI members rather than parental and student feedback was valued and a lack of knowledge regarding obtaining sponsors and funds to sustain a HE intervention was identified as a constraint. A finding which merits further investigation is that the expectation from teachers in schools without a HEI association to potentially gain from a future association serves as protective resource of hope to promote teacher resilience.
In contrast to other studies I found that using instructional resources available in a resource-constrained school setting, a lower student-teacher ratio, low community crime, financial compensation and informal teacher development activities as conducive to teacher resilience. Teachers were silent on the role that teacher illness and personal difficulties play in the development of teacher resilience; how teachers utilise student relationships as a protective resource; the role of hobbies and extracurricular activities in teacher resilience; and, lastly, how the effect of the unstable education system and policy demands on rural education advances/not teacher resilience.