People - A Better Start: E Tipu e Rea - College of Education, Health and Human Development - University of Canterbury - New Zealand

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People in A Better Start: E Tipu e Rea

Challenge Learning and Literacy Lead Researchers

Professor Gail Gillon – Ngai Tahu
Professor Gail GillonProfessor Gillon is Pro-Vice-Chancellor of the College of Education, Health and Human Development at the University of Canterbury. A professor in speech-language therapy, Professor Gillon is a leading international expert in the efficacy of phonological awareness interventions for children at risk for reading difficulties. Her innovative work in phonological awareness intervention has received particular international acclaim and acknowledged through prestigious American research awards. Her work has been widely published in leading research journals in speech language pathology, education, and reading. She has presented numerous invited conference presentations and keynote addresses throughout the world. Professor Gillon is co-director of the challenge and Prinicipal Investigator on the Literacy stream of the ‘A Better Start: E Tipu e Rea’ project.

Professor Angus Hikairo Macfarlane – Ngāti Whakaue, Ngāti Rangiwewehi
Professor Angus Hikairo MacfarlaneProfessor Macfarlane’s research focuses on exploring Indigenous and sociocultural realities that influence education policy and practice. His prolific publication portfolio has earned him national and international standing in his field of scholarship. He has been the recipient of a number of prestigious awards, including the Tohu Pae Tawhiti Award from the New Zealand Council for Educational Research, and the University of Canterbury Research Medal. Professor Macfarlane is the Kaihautū (Senior Māori Advisor) of the New Zealand Psychological Society, and the inaugural Professor of Māori Research at the University of Canterbury. Professor Macfarlane is a Principal Investigator and Leader of Vision Mātauranga Māori on the ‘A Better Start: E Tipu e Rea’ project.

Distinguished Professor Niki Davis
Distinguished Professor Niki DavisNiki 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 and is Editor in Chief of the Journal of Open Flexible and Distance Learning. Professor Davis is writing a book and associated 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 Literacy stream of the project, including the ‘braid’ of research on emerging bilinguals living in a digital world.

Associate Professor Una CunninghamAssociate Professor Una Cunningham
Una Cunningham is Associate Professor in Learning and Teaching Languages at the University of Canterbury. She leads the Learning & Teaching Languages Research Lab and researches and teaches technology-enhanced language learning and intergenerational transmission of minority languages.  She is the inaugural editor-in-chief of the Journal of Home language Research. She coordinates the Master of Computer-Assisted Language Learning (MCALL) and Master of Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (MTESOL). Her book Growing up with two languages (Routledge 2011) is the basis of her outreach work in supporting parents and professionals in raising children bilingually.  Associate Professor Cunningham is an investigator on the ‘braid’ of research on emerging bilinguals living in a digital world.

University of Canterbury

Professor Philip Schluter
Professor Philip SchluterPhilip Schluter is Professor of Health Sciences and Deputy Head of School, School of Health Sciences at the University of Canterbury. He is also Honorary Professor of Biostatistics, University of Queensland, Adjunct Professor of Biostatistics, AUT University, and co-chair, Public Health Committee, Health Research Council of New Zealand, for project/programme applications. Professor Schluter has over 200 peer-reviewed journal articles, most of an epidemiological nature focused on vulnerable populations, with important health policy implications. Professor Schluter is a key scientist on the ‘A Better Start: E Tipu e Rea’ project, and brings expertise in the areas of epidemiology and population health.

Professor John Everatt
Professor John EverattProfessor John Everatt’s background is in research on literacy acquisition and developmental learning difficulties, such as dyslexia. He completed a PhD on ‘Individual differences in reading’ at the University of Nottingham, UK, then lectured in psychology at the Universities of Surrey and Wales in the UK, before becoming a Professor of Education at the University of Canterbury, NZ. Although his research aims to inform the support of children and adults with learning difficulties in English-language populations, a primary focus of his work is also the investigation of how characteristics of different languages/scripts lead to different manifestations of reading/writing problems. Professor Everatt is a key scientist on the Literacy stream of the ‘A Better Start: E Tipu e Rea’ project.

Associate Professor Brigid McNeill
Associate Professor Brigid McNeillBrigid McNeill, PhD, is a senior lecturer 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 on the management team of the New Zealand Institute of Language, Brain and Behaviour and leads its language acquisition research theme. She is a researcher in the Literacy stream of the ‘A Better Start: E Tipu e Rea’ project.

Adjunct Professor William Tunmer
Adjunct Professor William TunmerProfessor Tunmer received his PhD in Experimental Psychology from the University of Texas at Austin in 1979, specializing in the areas of theoretical linguistics, psycholinguistics, and cognitive development. From 1980 to 1988 he served on the staff of the Faculty of Education at the University of Western Australia, and from 1988 to early 2016 he held the position of Professor of Educational Psychology at Massey University, where he served as Dean of the Faculty of Education. Professor Tunmer has published over 150 journal articles, book chapters, and books on early literacy development, literacy learning difficulties, and reading intervention. He has served on the editorial boards of Reading Research Quarterly, Language and Education, Reading and Writing, and the Journal of Learning Disabilities, and in 2012 he completed a 5-year term as Associate Editor of Reading and Writing. His most recently published book is: Tunmer, W.E., & Chapman, J.W. (Eds.) (2015). Equity and excellence in literacy education: The case of New Zealand. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan.

Associate Professor Sonja Macfarlane – Ngai Tahu, Ngāti Waewae
Associate Professor MacfarlaneDr Macfarlane affiliates to the Ngāi Tahu and Ngāti Waewae iwi in the South Island of Aotearoa New Zealand. Her research, publications and teaching focus on culturally responsive evidence-based practices in education, psychology, counselling and human development. Her career pathway has seen her move from classroom teacher to itinerant teacher, to special education advisor, to the national Professional Practice Leader: Services to Māori (Pouhikiahurea) in the Ministry of Education, Special Education. Dr Macfarlane is an Associate Professor in the School of Human Development and Movement Studies at the University of Waikato, Aotearoa New Zealand. She is also an Adjunct Associate Professor in the School of Health Sciences at the University of Canterbury.

Dr Karyn Carson

Dr Karyn CarsonDr Karyn Carson is a Lecturer in Special Education as part of the School of Education at Flinders University.  She is currently in the early stages of a research and teaching career with specialist interests in the early identification and prevention of reading disorder particularly for children with spoken language impairment, assessment development using technology in the classroom, and achieving equality in educational outcomes for children with additional needs. She holds an Adjunct position in the School of Teacher Education at the University of Canterbury.

Dr Amy Scott
Dr Amy ScottDr Amy Scott is a recent graduate of the University of Canterbury. Her PhD research focused on supporting the literacy achievement of teenage parents and their young children. A qualified Speech-Language Therapist, Dr Scott is interested in supporting literacy achievement across all age groups, especially at-risk populations. Dr Scott also holds degrees in Psychology and Speech-Language Therapy with Honours from the University of Canterbury, and has experience working with a diverse range of populations including young children, adolescents, and children with Special Needs. Dr Scott is the Senior Research Assistant to the Literacy stream of the ‘A Better Start: E Tipu e Rea’ project.

Tufulasi Taleni
Tufulasi TaleniIn his role as Kai-arahi Pasifika Tufulasi is responsible for fostering and enhancing the relationship with the Pasifika community and promoting Pasifika Education and achievements throughout the College of Education, Health and Human Development, UC and wider educational community. In his previous role as Senior Advisor, Pasifika Education at UC Education Plus, Tufulasi developed professional development programmes and initiatives to support school leaders and teachers at both curriculum and Governance level. He was involved in educational research as a team member and as an individual researcher focusing on Pasifika and contributed to professional material and articles for teachers and school leaders to use to inform their practices. In 2012 he led a Ministry of Education funded initiative known as the ‘Pasifika Success Talanoa Project’, utilising his own model of success to support teachers and school leaders in raising student achievement. Tufulasi has fostered close relationships between schools and the Pasifika community, supporting schools to understand and promote the value of Pasifika cultures, identities and languages. He also established the UC Pasifika Talanoa Centre where community learners come together to raise Pasifika achievement. Tufulasi is the Pasifika advisor to the ‘A Better Start: E Tipu e Rea’ project.

Liz Brown
Liz BrownLiz is a Māori advisor to the ‘A Better Start: E Tipu e Rea’ project.



Otago University

Professor Elaine Reese
Professor Elaine ReeseElaine Reese is a Professor of Psychology at the University of Otago, with a PhD from Emory University in Cognition and Development in 1993. Her research focuses on oral language and literacy development in early childhood, as well as on the way parents support children's cognitive development from infancy to adolescence. Professor Reese is a named investigator on the Growing Up in New Zealand longitudinal cohort study and on the Literacy stream of the ‘A Better Start: E Tipu e Rea’ project.

Dr Elizabeth Schaughency
Dr Elizabeth SchaughencyDr Elizabeth Schaughency is a faculty member in the Department of Psychology at the University of Otago. During her PhD studies and clinical psychology internship, she completed specialised training in clinical child psychology. She has taught future teachers at the undergraduate level and educational and clinical psychologists at the postgraduate level, and has provided professional development to child-oriented professionals from a number of disciplines. Over the past 10 years, she has been studying children’s developing literacy in New Zealand and the ways in which important adults in children’s lives may support developing skills. Dr Schaughency is a co-investigator on the Literacy stream of the ‘A Better Start: E Tipu e Rea’ project.

Key Facilitators

Jan Dobson

Ministry of Education