Biddle wins research award for article examining Coladarci’s work

A paper co-authored by University of Maine assistant professor of educational leadership Catharine Biddle won the Howard A. Dawson Best Research Paper Award at the recent National Rural Education Association annual convention in Louisville, Kentucky.

Biddle is lead author of “On Resisting ‘Awayness’ and Being a Good Insider: Early Career Scholars Revisit Coladarci’s Swan Song a Decade Later,” co-written by Daniella Hall Sutherland of Clemson University and Erin McHenry-Sorber of West Virginia University. The article is a critical examination of a 2007 piece written by UMaine professor emeritus of education Theodore Coladarci, his last work as editor of the Journal of Research in Rural Education.

“It is a piece that has been used to introduce newcomers to the field of rural education research,” Biddle and her co-authors write. “As such, it has significantly shaped the rural education research community over the last 10 years.”

In his article, Coladarci put forth a series of standards by which he felt rural education scholars could best evaluate and advance the field. These standards included more and better descriptions of the rural context in which research takes place, being explicit about framing research questions with a rural focus, and making “the rural argument” — that is, justifying why it is central to their scholarship.

Biddle, Sutherland and McHenry-Sorber explore how Coladarci’s article has influenced rural education studies by reviewing its citations over the decade since it was published. They then discuss what other standards might help define the study of rural education, which Coladarci had invited in his piece. Among their recommendations is that researchers undertake projects that are critical to rural communities, rather than simply rural in focus.

“By reframing the objective of rural research from creating uniquely rural claims to instead providing knowledge relevant to rural communities, we as a field enable greater participation while ensuring critically needed reciprocity with the communities we study,” Biddle and her colleagues argue.

The article is available on the Journal of Research in Rural Education website.