Professional Practice 

This research theme focuses on overcoming inequity in education through challenging and disrupting current practices, policies and paradigms and inquires into innovative and culturally responsive approaches to include all learners. The focus is on PROFESSIONAL PRACTICE - which includes formal, informal and non-formal teaching, learning, assessment and professional identity for life-long and life-wide learning and wellbeing.

Strands include: designing equitable educational practices for all; the spaces, places and faces of teaching and learning inside the classroom and beyond; professional learning and identity; inclusive values, practices and policies; reflective practice through metacognition and differentiated learning; digital technologies; models of culturally responsive professional practice; supervision and mentoring; and role crafting for life-long practice.

Current Research

Complex Needs

This project examines the perspectives of experienced teachers in New Zealand schools completing a post-graduate distance-learning qualification in support teaching for students with complex educational needs. Course competencies develop teachers’ evidence-based  and interprofessional practice within a broader critical disability studies  and childhood studies framework to support an appreciation of equity and inclusion. The research considers how teachers’ perspectives on inclusion and their practice develop through the first year of the course. The project involves a qualitative analysis of survey data and of teachers’ coursework completed throughout the first year of a 2-year course.

Early Childhood

The Teaching Practices project aims to develop and refine a stakeholder-validated list of teaching practices that promote children’s learning and social-emotional competence in early learning settings. We have used a multi-phase, iterative process of development that involves interviews and observations with practicing teachers, document review and comparison with existing national and international practice lists, input from stakeholders, and an electronic survey with practicing teachers nation-wide. We have developed a list of teaching practices that are valued, culturally relevant, and important for promoting children’s learning and social-emotional competence in early childhood settings in New Zealand. Next steps with the project involve extension into practices for infants and toddlers (see sister project), ongoing refinement of practices, and development of resources to support teacher’s use of practices within an evidence-based teaching and intentional teaching framework.


There is conflicting evidence in relation to the worth of homework and recent research citing the potential detrimental effects of homework. For example, Kohn (2007), a well-known researcher in in the area reports that homework is linked to student frustration and lack of interest in learning and has been shown to cause conflict between parent/caregiver/guardians and their children. Kohn also reports that despite extensive examination of the literature, there is no evidence of any academic benefit from assigning homework in primary or middle schools.

Homework in New Zealand is a practice that is deeply embedded in the culture of schools, and thus has rarely been questioned. There is very limited New Zealand research investigating teachers, students and parent/caregiver/guardians perceptions of the value of homework and their experiences in relation to it.

  • The aim of the project is to examine parent/caregiver/guardians’ perceptions and experiences of homework.
  • This project is led by Alison Kearney and Mandia Mentis
  • For more information or to get involved, contact Alison Kearney at

Learning Stories

The aim of the project is to develop a system for examining learning stories (i.e., the narrative assessment tool used in early childhood settings in New Zealand). The evaluation tool is being designed for two purposes. First, it will be designed for research purposes to examine the overall quality of the written learning stories based on quality themes identified from the research and to categorize the nature of the learning described (i.e., what dispositions, working theories, and outcomes are recorded). Second, it will be designed for practice purposes to support early childhood teachers in the development and evaluation of their learning stories.

Like Minded Peers

There is limited research in New Zealand and overseas that examines the experiences of gifted learners in like-minded groups, though, anecdotally, we know that a primary argument for specialist programmes is a purported benefit for gifted learners to engage in such like-minded groupings. There is very little research to substantiate these claims and the hope is that this study will provide us with a greater understanding of how these opportunities contribute to academic, emotional and social development of gifted and talented students. This study examines opportunities for like-minded grouping in the most commonly reported provisions used in New Zealand, the mainstream classroom and withdrawal programmes (Riley et al., 2004), and addresses a recent call for more research on grouping of gifted learners (Bate & Clark, 2013). Furthermore, it provides an opportunity to explore the perspectives of gifted learners, their teachers and parents regarding the importance of like-minded interactions.

The aims of the project are to:

  1. Determine how gifted and talented students, their teachers and parents explain and understand like-mindedness.
  2. Identify opportunities gifted and talented students have to engage with like-minded peers in their regular classrooms, schools, communities and one-day-a-week classes.
  3. Analyse the nature of interactions by gifted and talented students with like-minded peers across different like-minded groupings.
  4. Seek the perspectives of the students, their teachers and parents on the importance and impact of like-minded interaction in relation to their academic, emotional and social development.
  5. Determine the opportunities for and challenges to like-minded peer relationships

The research is led by Tracy Riley in collaboration with Janna Wardman, University of Auckland, Deborah Walker, New Zealand Centre for Gifted Education and two of her former postgraduate students, Vanessa White and Carola Sampson.

You can find out more about the project by reading some of the online articles:

For more information or to get involved, contact Tracy by email.

Past Research 

The research aimed to examine how secondary school leaders and teachers interpreted and used this term as part of their disciplinary processes to determine the removal of students from their regular learning contexts, for periods of time.

The term continual disobedience (CD) was used as a 'catch-all' phrase by schools with intra and inter-school variances in its definition and application. While acknowledging the need for more consistency in applying disciplinary consequences, schools perceived problem behaviours to be student and family–centric.

This project aimed to develop a scale to measure the self-efficacy of student teachers in the context of practicum placements in low socioeconomic schools with culturally and linguistically diverse learners, and to identify the factors which impact on this. An initial scale was developed, and refined as a result of collaborative discussion with relevant expert groups including a Maori and Pasifika reference group. The scale was then piloted with student teachers in the Postgraduate Diploma of Teaching (early childhood, primary and secondary divisions) at three times related to their practicum placements over the year of their study.

After analysis of the resulting data, the scale was then further refined, and is now being used as a tool for student teachers' self-evaluation in the new Master of Teaching and Learning programme.

Massey Contact Centre Mon - Fri 8:30am to 5:00pm 0800 MASSEY (+64 6 350 5701) TXT 5222 Web chat Staff Alumni News Māori @ Massey