Dr Melissa Derby

Melissa Derby

Senior Lecturer


Children; Culture; Early Childhood/Early Years Education; Human Development; Human Development and Education; Indigenous Education; Literacy Learning; Maori Development and Education; Maori Identity

Qualifications: PhD, MA (Hons 1st class, Dean's List), BA

Iwi: Ngāti Ranginui

Papers Taught

About Melissa

I am a Senior Lecturer teaching early literacy and human development at the University of Waikato's Tauranga campus and online.

I completed my PhD at the University of Canterbury, and my study was part of A Better Start National Science Challenge. My primary area of research is in early literacy, and in particular, in exploring the role of whānau and localised curriculum in fostering foundational literacy skills. More generally, I have an interest in Māori education and success. My scholarship has been recognised through a range of awards, including a Fulbright-Ngā Pae o te Māramatanga Graduate Award, a SAGE Young Writer’s Award, and a Falling Walls Award from the Royal Society of New Zealand.

I am the Editor of Te Kaharoa the eJournal on Indigenous Pacific Issues, and co-edit the New Zealand Association for Research in Education's blog, Ipu Kererū. I am on the Board of Trustees at Matua School in Tauranga, New Zealand, and have served on a tribal trust committee for my hapū in Tauranga, Ngāi Tamarāwaho.

Research Supervised


Virginia Crawford - Doctor of Education, 2021-2023 (co-supervisor)

Lauren Stull - Master of Education, 2020-2021 (sole supervisor)
What are male adolescents’ perspectives regarding the effectiveness of the
school wide behaviour system: Positive Behaviour for Learning, in remediating
behavioural difficulties within an intermediate school setting?

Sheena Baker - Master of Education, 2021-2022 (sole supervisor) 
Conversations with women who homeschooled their children in Aotearoa/ New Zealand: What insights do they offer about their experience as homeschoolers?

Karllie Clifton - Master of Education, 2021-2022 (sole supervisor)
Growing resilience in youth within the New Zealand Secondary Education System

Ashley So'oula - Master of Education, 2021-2022 (sole supervisor)
The Relationship between Resilience and Academic Achievement: A focus on Year 8 Pacific learners at a transitional stage of their academic  journey

Cherie Anderson - Directed Study, 2021-2022 (sole supervisor)
A literature review of the evidence justifying the shift from a Balanced Literacy approach to a Structured Literacy approach within New Zealand Schools

Jessica Sloan - Directed Study, 2021-2022 (sole supervisor) 
The Power of Teacher Beliefs and Expectations of their Students in Determining Students' Self-Fulfilling Prophecy and Academic Achievement in the Primary School Setting

Research Interests

My primary area of interest is in early literacy development, and in particular, working with whānau to strengthen children's foundational literacy skills. I am also interested in both promoting localised curriculum in learning, and in Māori education and success.

My research informed the recent Ministry of Education resource, Talking Together: Te Kōrerorero, and I am working with the Ministry to develop implementation resources for as well as resources that support whānau in fostering children's early literacy skills. I am an expert advisor to the Ministry of Education on new approaches in the teaching of literacy, and have published a children's book in te reo Māori that seeks to connect children to localised curriculum as well as stimulate foundational literacy skills.

More generally, I am involved in numerous research projects that relate to Māori education or early childhood education.

Recent Publications

  • Macfarlane, S., & Derby, M. (2022). Whanaungatanga – Relationships. In Ngā Hau E Whā O Tāwhirimātea Culturally Responsive Teaching and Learning for the Tertiary Sector (pp. 28-33). Christchurch, New Zealand: Canterbury University Press.

  • Derby, M. (2021). Exploring the effects of a home-based literacy intervention on the family literacy practices of Māori preschool children. Australian Journal of Language and Literacy, 44(3), 48-59.

  • de Jesus Dionisio, M. R., Macfarlane, A. H., Walker, D. P., Macfarlane, S. L., Derby, M., Caldwell, R., . . . Waru, R. (2021). Ngā Mātāpono e Rua: Stories of co‐creation for bicultural spatial governance in Aotearoa New Zealand. New Zealand Geographer. doi:10.1111/nzg.12299

  • Derby, M. (2021). A history of Māori literacy success. Journal of Indigenous Research, 9, 1-10. Retrieved from

Find more research publications by Melissa Derby