Successful Learning

Becoming a confident reader early leads to success.
Team Snapshot

The Successful Learning team aims to lift early literacy through a “braided rivers” approach to research, which weaves Western science knowledge with traditional Māori epistemologies to gain the best outcomes for children. Four interconnected projects examine how literacy is achieved through an interdisciplinary and cross-cultural perspective.

Project 1 is developing models to predict early difficulties with literacy that are relevant to New Zealand’s diverse ethnic communities.

Project 2 will determine the feasibility, acceptability and appropriateness of an integrated intervention designed to accelerate Year 1 reading development for vulnerable children.

Project 3 aims to support the richness of “linguistic landscapes” for children who are bilingual in early childhood centres and Year 1 classrooms.

Project 4 focuses on how best to accelerate early literacy development in children with developmental disabilities.

For more information on this project, please read our Successful Learning Theme Final Summary Report, June 2019.

What we are doing

  • Working in classrooms of ten primary schools in Christchurch, to co-construct and support the implementation of the classroom-based literacy intervention.
  • Building strong community and stakeholder relationships between the research team and others, such as Speech-Language Therapists, Resource Teachers: Learning and Behaviour, those working in community-based projects such as the Linwood Wellbeing Cluster, and the local Pasifika community.
  • Providing guidelines for fostering emergent bilingual children’s language and literacy development in early childcare centres and primary schools.
  • Using national datasets to improve the understanding of factors that support literacy success in diverse populations within New Zealand.

Team Snapshot

Associate Professor Brigid McNeill

Associate Professor Brigid McNeill

School of Teacher Education, University of Canterbury.

Brigid McNeill, PhD, is an Associate Professor in the College of Education, Health and Human Development at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch, New Zealand. Dr McNeill is an international expert on literacy development in children with childhood apraxia of speech. Her prospective study of the validity and nature of childhood apraxia of speech has been supported by a Fast-Start Marsden grant from the Royal Society of New Zealand. Her research also focuses on developing and evaluating methods to better prepare teachers to support children’s early literacy development. Dr McNeill is the theme leader for A Better Start – Successful Literacy and Learning theme.

Distinguished Professor Niki Davis

Distinguished Professor Niki Davis

School of Education Studies and Leadership, University of Canterbury.

Niki Davis is University of Canterbury Distinguished Professor of e-Learning. She is recognized internationally as a leading expert in ICT in education. Sought by UNESCO, international agencies, and institutions for her expertise, she has over 200 publications. Professor Davis has recently published a book and is associated with the postgraduate course on Change with Digital Technologies in Education within the University of Canterbury Postgraduate Diploma of Education (e-learning and digital technologies). Professor Davis is a leading investigator on the Successful Literacy and Learning stream of the project, including the ‘braid’ of research on emerging bilinguals living in a digital world.


Farewell to our Board Chair, Pat Snedden

Farewell to our Board Chair, Pat Snedden

After almost six years Pat Snedden has stepped down as the Chair of A Better Start E Tipu E Rea National Science Challenge. Pat’s influence on the Challenge and it’s direction has been enormous and we are hugely thankful to him for this. Pat’s commitments have grown...

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Better Start Literacy Approach launched

Better Start Literacy Approach launched

The Challenge's Successful Learning team have launched a new resource hub for educators. The Better Start Literacy Approach is based on several years of research trials investigating the most efficient and effective methods to support children's early reading, writing...

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Related research

Facilitating emotional well-being and positive behaviour in children with literacy learning difficulties

Investigating how culturally responsive and research-based interventions can lift literacy in young readers.

Principal investigator: Dr John Everatt

Genetic diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder

Developing a novel cost effective genetic screening technique to identify children with confirmed ASD from the cohort studies  Growing up in NZ and Minds for Minds. By identifying children with ASD early, clinicians can then offer more targeted therapy.

Principal investigator: Dr Jessie Jacobsen

Partners and Collaborators

Linwood Wellbeing Cluster