What’s on top? Current research in Aotearoa New Zealand education

The New Zealand Association for Research in Education (NZARE) is delighted to share with you a free-access virtual issue of the New Zealand Journal of Educational Studies, NZARE’s official journal. The virtual issue is entitled “What’s on top? Current research in Aotearoa New Zealand education”.


This virtual issue presents a collection of six articles published in the journal during the past 18 months and makes these articles freely available for a limited time. The editors of the journal have selected the articles making up the virtual issue because these articles represent important issues that have been discussed in the journal and that have been of interest to readers. Together, these articles give us a window into “What’s on top?” at present in educational research in Aotearoa New Zealand.

This blog post provides a brief overview of the six articles included in the virtual issue. All six articles in this virtual issue are available free from 15 July – 15 September 2019, so please share widely through your networks.

The first three articles in the special issue (detailed below) all tackle the theme of diversity in educational settings. Celebrating and catering well for diversity are major priorities for education in Aotearoa New Zealand, yet all three articles suggest that we still have a long way to go.

Tofa liuliu ma le tofa saili a ta’ita’i Pasefika: Listening to the voices of Pasifika community leaders (link)

Tufulasifa’atafatafa Ova Taleni, Sonja Macfarlane, Angus Hikairo Macfarlane and Jo Fletcher
New Zealand Journal of Educational Studies, Vol 53(2), pp. 177-192.


“Pasifika education is a shared responsibility and establishing effective partnerships and relationships between community and schools opens doors for effective engagement.” (p. 190)

There is much that we can learn from the wisdom of our Pasifika leaders. For this study, nine Pasifika leaders living in New Zealand participated in talanoa conversations to discuss culturally responsive practice in education and the needs of Pasifika students. The insights provided by the leaders fell into seven main areas: strengthening culturally responsive leadership; Pasifika ‘heart’; deep knowledge of Pasifika cultural world views; the provision of quality teaching and learning; strengthening community engagement and partnership; setting high expectations for success and achievement; and advocating for the Pasifika Education Plan. These priorities can help guide future efforts to support and raise the achievement of Pasifika students in educational settings in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Leadership practices and challenges in managing diversity to achieve ethnic inclusion in two New Zealand secondary schools (link)

Carol Cardno, Manjula Handjani and Jo Howse
New Zealand Journal of Educational Studies, Vol 53(1), pp. 101-117.


“In order to create the conditions in which ethnic inclusion could flourish, school leaders, teachers, students and their parents need to understand the concept of inclusion and beyond this, schools need to implement ethnically inclusive practices on a daily basis.” (p. 114)

New Zealand is becoming increasingly culturally diverse, and Auckland is the most diverse of all our towns or cities. This study explored how two large multi-ethnic Auckland secondary schools responded to this diversity and sought to promote an inclusive climate for all ethnicities. The study also identified the challenges that leaders face in these efforts. In the two schools studied, gaps were seen between what is recommended as effective practice and what was actually occurring in the schools. There was also an almost exclusive focus on catering for Māori and Pasifika students while neglecting students from other ethnic groups. Based on these findings, the authors discuss implications for inclusive practice in these and other educational settings.

Bilingual identities in monolingual classrooms: Challenging the hegemony of English (link)

Jae Major
New Zealand Journal of Educational Studies, Vol 53(2), pp. 193-208.
Read a blog post based on this article


“It seems ironic that there is a great deal of rhetoric about multiculturalism, diversity and inclusion in the NZC, yet the role of languages in each of these principles is ignored.” (p. 204)

Despite the multicultural nature of Aotearoa New Zealand, most of us do not even question the dominance of English in our society – but what problems might New Zealand’s monolingual English bias cause for children from linguistically diverse backgrounds? This study draws on data from primary school classrooms to explore both practices and underlying beliefs related to language diversity and bilingualism. The study highlights the potential ‘othering’ of non-native English speakers, the links between language and identity, the unspoken norms around children’s use of home languages at school, and the deficit positioning of non-English languages. This article can help educators become more conscious of their beliefs and practices and their impact on children from linguistically diverse backgrounds.

The remaining three articles in the special issue tackle other topical issues in Aotearoa New Zealand at this time. These articles consider the value of flexible learning environments, early childhood education, and outdoor education for our learners.

Flexible learning spaces: Inclusive by design? (link)

Leon Benade
New Zealand Journal of Educational Studies, Vol 54(1), pp. 53-68.

Vertical and horizontal connection 1.jpg

“Space is not a container, simply waiting for humans to inhabit it … space can both enable and disable; it can facilitate, or hamper, human actions.” (p. 54)

Educational policy in Aotearoa New Zealand clearly states that educational provision needs to be inclusive of all students, yet we know that we are still not achieving this ambition. This article examines the current push for modern, innovative, and flexible learning environments and questions whether these spaces can truly be inclusive of all students. The article considers the needs of students with auditory, sensory, and socio-cognitive issues, considering whether flexible learning environments may, in fact, be exclusionary for such students. Ultimately, the article highlights the importance of the social practices that occur within a teaching space and educators’ responsibility to ensure that their practice (and use of space) is indeed inclusive of all students.

Early childhood education and later educational attainment and socioeconomic wellbeing outcomes to age 30 (link)

Geraldine F. H. McLeod, L. John Horwood, Joseph M. Boden and David M. Fergusson
New Zealand Journal of Educational Studies, Vol 53(2), pp. 257-273.
Read a blog post based on this article


“Data on the longer term benefits of ECE participation in the New Zealand context are rare … to date no study has reported on longer term academic or socioeconomic outcomes into adulthood.” (p. 259)

Given ongoing government efforts to ensure universal participation in early childhood education (ECE), this study used longitudinal data to examine the outcomes at age 30 that were associated with ECE attendance. Over 1000 children born in Christchurch in mid-1977 were followed until age 35. For this study, the children’s ECE attendance was compared to a range of outcomes in adulthood (at age 30) including educational achievement and socioeconomic wellbeing (including income and employment status). After controlling for family and child characteristics, the data showed that increased ECE attendance was associated with more positive educational and socioeconomic outcomes in adulthood. These findings support ongoing investment in quality ECE provision.

Effects of an outdoor education programme on creative thinking and well-being in adolescent boys (link)

Helena Margaret McAnally, Lindsay Anne Robertson and Robert John Hancox
New Zealand Journal of Educational Studies, Vol 53(2), pp. 241-255.
Read a blog post based on this article


“The Tihoi programme provided an excellent natural experiment to assess the effects of increasing outdoor time in a reduced media environment.” (p. 252)

In the 21st century, many people are concerned about young people’s high use of digital devices and their lower levels of engagement with nature. This article looks at how participating in an outdoor education programme (with no access to digital devices) affected teenage boys’ creative thinking and wellbeing. The programme ran for two school terms, allowing the exploration of changes over time. The students participating in the programme were also able to be compared to their peers who were attending school as normal. Overall, the results suggested that the outdoor education programme was beneficial, supporting other research which has emphasised the benefits of engagement with nature.

We hope you enjoy the articles in this virtual issue! Remember that they are all available free until 15 September 2019, so do make the most of the opportunity to access these great resources.

Want to see your work in a future issue of the New Zealand Journal of Educational Studies? Learn more here!

Image credits: 

  • Image 1 (tapa cloth) – public domain / Los Angeles County Museum of Art
  • Image 4 (flexible learning space) – used by permission
  • Image 6 (trees) – Casey Horner on Unsplash

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