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University education researchers receive over $822,000 in research funding

19 December 2019

Three research projects involving researchers from the University of Waikato have received funding from the Teaching and Learning Research Initiative (TLRI), totalling more than $822,000 over three years.

The TLRI supports partnerships between researchers and educators, by funding projects expected to improve outcomes for learners. It is funded by the New Zealand government and administered by the New Zealand Council for Educational Research.

In this year’s funding round, over $1.7m was allocated to eight projects, of which three involve the University of Waikato.

The first project has received more than $197,000 over two years, and is focussed on enhancing mana through kaitiakitanga, led by principal investigator from the University Dr Lesley Rameka.

The basis of the project is that mana is a fundamental element of wellbeing, and the project aims to explore ways that early childhood education (ECE) gives mokopuna opportunities to recognise mana, and understand ways to attain mana through being kaitiaki (guardians) of themselves.

Dr Lesley Rameka.

“This project will aid the delivery of bicultural ECE programmes through sharing knowledge and understandings of Te Ao Māori, and provide access to deeper understandings of curriculum content and practices relates to mana and kaitiakitanga,” says Dr Rameka.

“The research will take place in Māori medium and English medium ECE centres, and as researchers we’ll work with teachers to develop these understandings and practices that reflect mana and kaitiakitanga.”

The second project is a partnership with Victoria University of Wellington, with Waikato University’s Dr Cathy Buntting as one of the principal investigators. Awarded more than $446,000 over three years, it will build on a 2018 pilot project that demonstrated the benefits of using Online Citizen Science (OCS) projects to support primary school science education.

“OCS is relatively new, and brings scientists and wider communities together on real science projects, making them globally accessible,” says Dr Buntting.

Dr Cathy Buntting.

“It gives students access to data and opportunities they didn’t have access to before, and means they can contribute to real science projects around the world as ‘citizen scientists’. In the pilot project, young students analysed light data from satellites to help identify exoplanets, or planets outside of our solar system.

“Students are given an authentic sense of purpose, and the projects they can work on are far larger than their own classroom.”

The project also lines up with the digital technology curriculum that is currently being implemented across New Zealand schools, as it supports developing digital technology skills, as well as science skills.

To help the findings gain wider traction among the teaching profession, case studies and other resources will be published on the Science Learning Hub, which is also managed by the University of Waikato and in the last financial year attracted nearly 8 million viewers.

The third project is headed by Waikato University’s Dr Sashi Sharma, who has received more than $170,000 over two years to investigate how multilingual students make sense of what they learn in mathematical classrooms.

She is focusing specifically on the subject of statistical probability, and how students might use their ‘home language’ to understand learning material in this subject area.

“The language of statistics can be challenging, and more so in English medium classrooms for students where English is their second language,” says Dr Sharma.

“Many classroom teachers are monolingual and/or do not have experience in, or strategies for, working with children whose home language is not English.”

Part of Dr Sharma’s project will involve working closely with teachers in understanding how language is used as a resource among multilingual students. From there, they will work on developing effective teaching tools, with the aim of improving learning outcomes.

“The teaching strategies and cultural resources trialled in our study will help advance students’ understanding of probability.

“We anticipate that the students’ ability to communicate and negotiate their thinking in group and whole-class settings using statistical language and home language will be enhanced, both verbally and in writing.”

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