Research projects to improve outcomes for learners share $1.5 million in funding

The Teaching and Learning Research Initiative (TLRI) funds high-quality research projects that aim to improve outcomes for learners. All projects are partnerships between researchers and educators.

In 2021 the TLRI fund prioritised the following areas:

  • Research on topics of strategic importance within the early childhood education (ECE) and/or compulsory school sectors.
  • Research that supports success for Māori learners as Māori in any sector.
  • Research that supports success for Pacific learners in any sector.

NZCER is proud to announce that this year’s funding of $1.5 million has been allocated to five projects.

  • Two are kaupapa Māori projects.
  • Three projects are in kura or school contexts.
  • Two are cross-sector projects spanning the early childhood and school sectors.

NZCER would like to congratulate the successful recipients. The five projects are briefly summarised below.

The TLRI has been operating since 2003, and this allocation means a total of 172 projects have been funded. Projects may run from 1 to 3 years.

The TLRI is funded by the New Zealand government and administered by the New Zealand Council for Educational Research | Rangahau Mātauranga o Aotearoa.

For further information or to arrange an interview contact:
Te Raehira Wihapi: Kaitohu Mahi Pāpāho Mahi Tauhokohoko | Communications and Marketing Advisor 
Phone 027 200 5527 | Email:

Projects funded

Tikanga and Mātauranga Māori, paramount in effective Speech-Language Therapy for tamariki and whānau Māori

Investigator: Nicky-Marie Kohere-Smiler

Partnership: Te Aitanga-a-Mahaki whānau-hapu-iwi; Mahaki Research Unit; Waipapa Taumata Rau-The University of Auckland; The New Zealand Speech Language Therapists Association.

Funding: $157,875 over 2 years

Many tamariki-mokopuna Māori have speech, language and communication needs, but speech-language therapy (SLT) services are not always culturally appropriate or relevant to Kaupapa Māori Education. This research, conducted with Te Aitanga-a-Māhaki (TAAM) whānau, hapū and iwi, has two goals: to develop a guiding framework for SLTs working with whānau and kaiako of TAAM and; to design and create a Kete-Rauemi for whānau and kaiako supporting tamariki who do not receive publicly funded SLT support. The aim is to ensure that whānau, kaiako of TAAM hapū/iwi have access to information and learning support that they need to nurture the wellbeing of tamariki. This project is also partially funded by Cure Kids and A Better Start.

Ngā pūrākau o Te Kura o Tuahiwi. A Kaupapa Māori Case Study: a mixed methods approach

Investigator: Jennifer Smith

Partnership: Te Whare Wānanga o Waitaha–University of Canterbury; Tuahiwi School.

Funding: $277,287 over 2 years

Pūrākau, as a traditional form of Māori narrative, are central to the sharing of knowledge, culture and philosophy.This research, through a Kaupapa Māori approach, seeks to respond to the needs of Te Kura o Tuahiwi (the location of the case study) through the development of place-based pūrākau as a resource for early literacy teaching. The impact of these pūrākau will be explored, including the usefulness of these as a teaching and learning resource and the impact on vocabulary learning and emerging literacy capabilities of tamariki in dual language and rūmaki contexts.

Pāngarau unleashed: A multiple case study of de-streaming secondary mathematics

Investigators: David Pomeroy & Kay-Lee Jones

Partnership: Te Whare Wānanga o Waitaha–University of Canterbury; Te Pā o Rākaihautū; Te Kura o Hine Waiora, Christchurch Girls’ High School; Onslow College; Mana College; Te Tāhuhu o te Mātauranga–Ministry of Education; Tokona te Raki–Māori Futures Collective.

Funding: $449,352 over 3 years

Many secondary schools in Aotearoa currently ‘stream’ mathematics, despite evidence that streaming exacerbates achievement inequalities and harms self-confidence. The need to ‘de- stream’ mathematics is clear and widely endorsed. However, the transition to mixed ‘ability’ mathematics is challenging and complex, involving changes in pedagogy, assessment, leadership, and community relationships. This project will use a bi-cultural teacher-researcher-student partnership model, grounded in the principles of ako and whanaungatanga, to provide four contrasting case studies of non- streamed secondary mathematics. In doing so, it will illustrate diverse ways to initiate and sustain effective transitions to non-streamed mathematics.

Investigating the effects of a T-Shaped Literacy intervention on Year 7 and 8 students’ reading and writing in subject English

Investigator: Aaron Wilson

Partnership: Waipapa Taumata Rau–The University of Auckland; The Manaiakalani Programme leadership, facilitation and research teams; Up to 40 schools who are part of The Manaiakalani Programme

Funding: $295,528 over 2 years

This project involves a research-practice partnership between university academics and The Manaiakalani Programme (TMP), internationally recognised for its expertise in digital pedagogy. This design-based project will investigate the effects of the innovative T-Shaped Literacy Model on Year 7 and 8 students’ reading and writing in subject-English. A total of 40 teachers from predominantly low-decile schools throughout NZ will partner with university researchers to co-design, implement, investigate and re-design units in which students (n>1000) conduct and synthesise complex literary analyses of multiple, multi-modal texts and apply what they learn about language to their own writing.

Renewing participatory democracy: Walking with young children to story and read the land

Investigators:  Linda Mitchell & Bronwen Cowie 

Partnership: Te Whare Wānanga o Waikato–The University of Waikato; Te Kōhanga Reo ki Rotokawa; Maunganui Kindergarten; Pakuranga Baptist Kindergarten

Funding: $299,900 over 2 years

This project will explore the ways in which walking, reading and storying the land with teachers, community members, iwi, and whānau, enable young children to experience and learn about their local area (its stories, geology, biodiversity and cultural meanings), and envision democratic socio-ecological futures. A participatory design research process will be used in two ECE centres, and a kōhanga reo to analyse pedagogical strategies that promote valued learning and dispositions of being ready, willing and able to actively participate in Aotearoa New Zealand and as ‘citizens of the world’.