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  • Case study

Tackling teacher shortages in rural areas

It is a constant challenge to attract teachers to rural and remote Australia. However, teachers are more likely to work in rural schools if they have already completed a rural placement during their teacher training.

Alongside the New South Wales (NSW) Department of Premier and Cabinet Behavioural Insights Unit, NSW Department of Education, and three universities, we ran a set of trials to encourage trainee teachers to apply for teaching placements in rural New South Wales.

To overcome some of the ‘friction’ in the application process, we made it easier to apply for rural placements by replacing the paper application with a partially pre-filled online form and increasing the number of rural schools that could be selected for students’ placements. We also tested a series of prompts, including: extra information about rural schools; encouragement to discuss the idea with family and friends; and a timely reminder before applications closed.

Three times as many trainee teachers applied when these prompts were introduced. The online application process is now the standard and the School of Education at the University of Wollongong is using the lessons learned to trial new communication tools and framing. As teachers are the biggest influence on students’ outcomes, this could make a real difference to the lives of learners in rural Australia.