Classrooms and their pedagogy have historically been characterised by a disconnection from the community outside, and this trend is particularly problematic for rural schools (Bryden and Boylan, 2004; Corbett, 2006). There is reduced encouragement for teachers to connect classroom and community with the current focus on standardised testing, national curriculum, and guidance on teaching strategies, all developed for students in general, without reference to local place. However, rural students differ from their metropolitan peers, particularly in their cultural and social experiences, and in the nature of their physical surroundings. For these reasons most rural students have few opportunities to bring their experiences to their learning in school, nor do they always have the background knowledge that will assist with their comprehension of texts and learning to produce texts that fulfil a particular purpose.
Whether or not students attending rural schools decide to remain in their rural community it is important they develop good literacy abilities so they and their community can prosper in the future. Rural students need to learn to become critical thinkers, able to use initiative, to be creative and effective communicators, and entrepreneurial (Darling-Hammond, 2010). A means for engaging rural students with quality literacy learning is place-based education, a pedagogy that puts place at the centre. With this approach students can be given the opportunity to pursue questions relevant to their local place, or identify questions that are important to themselves and their local place. In this way students can also develop stronger ties with and understanding of their local place and of themselves. This paper will consider some examples of place-based learning, and outline ways this approach can promote learning, and benefit the community outside the school.