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Language and Literacy Research Lab

16 February 2024

UC's Language and Literacy Research Lab is a research group that comprises staff from our College of Education and Health and Human Development. We also have links with other groups across the university, including the UC Child Well-being Research Institute and the New Zealand Institute of Language, Brain and Behaviour. Learn more.


The Language and Literacy Research Lab is a research group that comprises mainly staff within UC College of Education, Health and Human Development, though it has links with other groups across the university, including the UC Child Well-being Research Institute and the New Zealand Institute of Language, Brain and Behaviour. Members of the lab are also involved in the work of the Government National Science Challenges, A Better Start – Literacy and Learning Theme, which brings together researchers from around New Zealand.

Members of the lab are established researchers within fields related to the varied use of literacy and language in society and the development of language and literacy skills, particularly from an educational perspective. In addition to academic staff, a large number of PhD and Masters students from within NZ and from around the world conduct research in topics related to language and literacy, and contribute to the activities supported by the lab.

Staff and students bring both breadth of professional experiences and depth of theoretical backgrounds, with backgrounds ranging from teacher education/educational research to psychological assessment to speech and language therapy. Research encompasses: language impairments and interventions, work with special groups (such as childhood apraxia of speech or dyslexia), educational practice for literacy improvement in children and adults, children's literature and work with libraries, teaching English as a foreign language and literacy development across different languages (including Asian, African and European languages), work with Maori and Pasifika students and children from bilingual/multilingual backgrounds, professional learning in teacher education, phonological awareness training and the use of video technology to support literacy learning. Colleagues also work collaboratively with other UC Education labs, working on, for example, e-learning for adult literacy and inclusive/special education for those with language/literacy learning problems.

The aim of the lab is to facilitate collaboration between UC staff and colleagues outside of the college. The lab supports work on research contracts, supervises postgraduate students and produces joint publications.

Members of the lab also contribute to the Postgraduate Diploma in Education endorsed in Literacy, courses on which are recognized by the Ministry of Education as appropriate to apply for tertiary funding support for primary and intermediate teachers. The PGDipEd is designed to give educators, support staff and trainers the opportunity to improve their professional practice and critically examine significant issues within this area.




Research Students

  • Marshal Masilamani <>;
    Thesis title: Influence of morphological, orthographic and phonological awareness in writing skills among bilingual Malay-English speakers
  • Nidhi Sharma <>;
    Research area: Influence of phonological and morphological awareness on reading skills in Hindi/English young bilinguals
  • Hanan Mustafa <>;
    Research area: Writing in a second language, vocabulary size and bilingual dictionary applications
  • Sarath Samaraweera Gamaralalage <>
    Research area: Direct or indirect effects of morphological awareness on developing second language reading comprehension
  • Abdul Saeed <>
    Research area: An evaluation of potential predictors of writing quality in adult ESL learners
  • Ginj Chang <>
    Research area: Phonological v Semantic Interventions in Early Readers with Specific Language Impairment
  • Mimisha Nesan <>
    Research area: Reading comprehension deficiencies among the Malayalam-Hindi-English trilingual learners
  • Hyun Min Kim <>
    Research area: Predicting  early  literacy  success among  Pasifika  children  aged  six years  in  New  Zealand
  • Yogeetha Bala Subramaniam <>
    Research area: Teaching reading to students with English as a second or additional language in a flexible learning space in comparison to a single cell traditional classroom
  • Dian Fajrina <>
    Research area: Writing in an additional language: strategies, cultural transfer, reading skills and vocabulary
  • Mirhossein Hosseini Pozveh <>
    Research area: International postgraduate students’ strategies to improve their English writing difficulties
  • Felicia Mengping Cheng <>
    Research area: A shared reading program for young Chinese heritage language learners: Its effectiveness on learning motivation and Chinese literacy
  • Ping Li (Lily) <>
    Research area: Relationships between Chinese university students’ English writing and syntactic awareness
  • Fathimath Shaheema <>
    Research area: Preservice teachers’ content knowledge for teaching reading
  • Mike Sleeman <>
    Research area: The identification and classification of reading disorders based on the Simple View of Reading
  • Mohammad Mousavi <>
    Research area: Computer assisted reading comprehension & English L2 learners
  • Reem Alanazi <>
    Research area: Pragmatics and learning a second language
  • Aws Hameed <>
    Research area: Cross-language influences in bilingual versus trilingual readers
  • Hongwei Hao <>
    Research area: Varying teaching methods and corpora to support adults learning Chinese as a foreign/additional language and reduce of learner anxiety
  • Wenxin Quan <>
    Research area: Critical reading instruction and its effects on Chinese college students’ context meaning construction from text in EFL reading
  • Ali Rakhshanfadaee <>
    Research area: Predictors of additional language reading skills among New Zealand children
  • Yang Liu (Judy) <>
    Research area: Impact of Working Memory on Chinese EFL learners’ reading comprehension abilities

Completed Doctoral Theses

  • Parisa Soleimani Tadi (2018) Fathers’ participation in early childhood education in New Zealand
  • Seema Gautam (2017) Predictors of Punjabi, Hindi and English reading comprehension among multilingual children in the Punjab region of India
  • Pawadee Srisang(2017) Influence of inferential skills on the reading comprehension ability of adult Thai (L1) and English (L2) students
  • Md AlAmin (2017) Charting the river: a case study of English language teaching in Bangladesh
  • Erik Du Toit (2017) Exploring the home-literacy beliefs of parents with young children in New Zealand
  • Janice Belgrave (2016) The impact of dialectal awareness on a phoneme based early literacy intervention
  • Mazharuddin Syad Ahmed (2016) Technology acceptance of Smartphone as mobile learning tools: a contextual comparative study of engineering and education colleges
  • Jane Carroll (2016) Oral language and literacy: teachers’ phonological awareness knowledge and effective classroom practices
  • Leanne Wilson (2016) Advancing collaboration among prospective teachers and speech language therapists to improve children’s language and early literacy outcomes
  • Amanda Denston (2016) Self-esteem and resilience in students with literacy learning difficulties within an educational context
  • Shaowei Ma (2016) Comparisons of the influence of phonological and morphological processing on Chinese reading development: a cross-sectional and longitudinal study
  • Shaimaa AbdelSabour (2016) The influence of language skills on literacy acquisition in Arabic/English bilinguals
  • Amy Scott (2015)Intergenerational literacy engagement: literacy intervention for teenage mothers and their children
  • Mohammad Shamsuzzaman (2015) Perceptions and practices in learning and teaching second language writing in English: influences of backgrounds and language skills
  • Caralyn Purvis (2014) Determining and supporting the reading comprehension and metalinguistic abilities of undergraduate pre-service teachers
  • Amir Sadeghi (2013) Towards a universal model of reading: investigations into Persian monolingual and English-Persian bilingual speakers
  • Karyn Carson (2012) Efficient and effective classroom phonological awareness practices to improve reading achievement
  • Alice Wong (2012) An investigation of the predictors of L2 writing among adult ESL students

Professor John Everatt

Literacy-related learning difficulties assessment in Arabic

Working with colleagues in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, as well as the USA, to develop Arabic learning disabilities assessment tools. These are based on current research both in terms of their background rationale and their development in standardised form. Current measures focus on assessments of reading and spelling, phonological processing, orthographic and morphological awareness, and working memory.

Interventions for children with English as an additional language

Working with colleagues in the UK on an intervention study aimed at assessing a teaching assistant administered tool that is focused on improving phonological awareness and vocabulary enhancement to support English literacy learning in children who speak a language other than English as their first/home language.

Mathematics learning difficulties in Arabic

Working with colleagues in Kuwait, as well as in the UK and NZ, to develop a mathematics teaching programme targeted at children with learning disabilities. This is based on previous research investigating mathematics learning difficulties in Arabic speaking Kuwaiti students and, following development, will be assessed through

Inclusion in mainstream Kuwaiti schools for children with learning disabilities

Working with colleagues in Kuwait, as well as from the UK, to develop a programme of inclusive practice for school within Kuwait specifically targeting children with learning disabilities. This involves increasing awareness and assessing change in understanding of learning disabilities, as well as training teachers and implementing evidence-based practice.

Associate Professor Brigid McNeill

Prospective evaluation of the validity and nature of Childhood Apraxia of Speech (CAS).

Funded by the Royal Society of New Zealand (Marsden Fund). This study aims to resolve these controversies by repeatedly evaluating the presence/absence of CAS symptoms over time in New Zealand children aged 5-7 years with suspected CAS. The analysis of results will reveal which (if any) symptoms cluster together to form a ‘CAS construct’ across time, whether the same children within the sample consistently match a positive or negative CAS diagnosis over time, and the relative prominence of movement versus language representational symptoms within the disorder.

Spelling instructional practices in New Zealand.

Co-investigator: Dr Cecilia Kirk (University of Oregon). This study aims to describe the spelling instructional practices and beliefs of New Zealand teachers. The interaction between spelling instructional practices and student performance will also be explored.

Dr Amir Sadeghi

Literacy learning in English as a second language or multilingual children

Co-Investigators: John Everatt and Brigid McNeill. This study is looking at literacy acquisition among New Zealand multilingual/second-language children in contrast to English first language (monolingual) children. It aims to investigate variations in different aspects of language processing (e.g., phonology, morphology, semantics, and discourse comprehension) and the influence of characteristics of different languages and scripts (e.g., transparency between written and verbal forms). Assessments are undertaken in English as the language of literacy in the mainstream schools that these children are attending. However, data will also be collected in a range of other (home) languages spoken by the cohort of multilingual children – particularly in cases where this other language is the child’s first spoken language.

Literacy in Persian

Co-Investigators: Tahereh Sima Shirazi, Soheila Emami and John Everatt. This work is investigating Persian literacy acquisition to inform theories of reading and writing, and as part of the development of assessment tools to support the identification of those with literacy learning difficulties. For example, current data collection is comparing the roles of morphological, orthographic and phonological skills in Persian reading comprehension, following-on from previous work investigating predictors of Persian reading levels. The analysis of results will extend current models of reading in Persian, but comparisons with Arabic and English will be undertaken to provide the basis on which to consider cross-language models. Such work is informing the development of Persian literacy learning disabilities assessment tools. These are based on current research both in terms of their background rationale and their development for formal standardization processes. Currently, the measures focus on assessments of various components of reading and writing skills, as well as linguistic comprehension, phonological awareness, orthographic knowledge, morphological skills and speed of processing. The work is being undertaken in conjunction with University of Social Welfare and Rehabilitation Sciences (Iran) and the Islamic Azad University, Damavand Branch (Iran).

Faye Parkhill

AVAILLL: Audio Visual Achievement in Literacy, Language and Literacy

AVAILLL is an innovative class literacy programme that continues to show accelerated gains reading engagement and achievement for students aged nine years of age and older in six weeks. These findings are due to the innovative reading activities which interweave literacy skills with subtitles from movies and related novels. Until this research was undertaken, literacy gains using same language subtitling (SLS) from popular movies in classrooms was almost nonexistent. Findings from six studies conducted over the last few years in both Australia and New Zealand have included four studies with Year 7 to 10 students, one with Year 5 and 6 students in low decile Hawkes Bay schools with high proportions of Maori students and currently a new study is underway in South Auckland schools with the majority of students from the Pacific Islands. The awarding of the Beeby scholarship in 2011 allowed the researchers to work with young offenders in a men’s prison. In all of the classrooms, the results using standardized measurements have proved significant and self-reported gains from participants reveal much enthusiasm for this approach and perceived benefits particularly in reading fluency and word knowledge.

Dr Anne van Bysterveldt

Children with Down syndrome telling a story: Does listener familiarity matter?

Co-investigator Dr Marleen Westerveld (Griffith University). Funded by the Institute of Language Brain and Behaviour, this pilot study aims to investigate the influence of listener familiarity on the personal narratives and conversational speech of school aged children with Down syndrome. The perceptions of parents and teachers/teacher aides in relation to  story telling, oral language development, and their enablers and barriers for children with Down syndrome will also be sought.

Assessing the impact of self-directed video coaching on shared book-reading between children with Down syndrome and their families

Co -investigator Dr Susan Foster-Cohen (The Champion Centre). The study seeks to determine the impact on the book-reading practices of families with children with Down syndrome of a DVD entitled ‘Turn The Page With Me’. This DVD was developed by the New Zealand Down Syndrome Association in collaboration with The Champion Centre and is aimed at families with children from infancy to school age.

Events 2014

Learning and Teaching Languages Symposium

22 October 2014, Wheki 302 1pm - 5:30pm Wednesday 
The Teacher Learning and Innovations in Practice Research Hub invites teachers, researchers and students to come together to share ongoing research and classroom practices in Learning and Teaching Languages (e.g. te reo Māori, ESOL, EFL, French, Samoan, Hindi).

In the first part of our Symposium, researchers and current masters and doctoral students will present their work in a Research Session. Then we break for afternoon tea and poster presentations of research, inquiry and practice. Following afternoon tea, language educators at all levels will present in a Sharing Practice Session, presenting their successes and puzzles of practice in learning and teaching languages.

Events 2013

Phonological Awareness One Day Workshop

with Professor Gail Gillon (College of Education, Health and Human Development)
9-2.30pm Wednesday 15th May 2013

Lab Meetings 2013

January 2013

  • PhD presentation, Michelle Brown

February 2013

  • PhD presentation, Seema Gautam

March 2013

April 2013

  • Tips for publishing success, Professor Bill Evan, Visiting Canterbury Fellow, University of West Florida

May 2013

  • Language and Literacy Lab Mini-Conference

July 2013

  • Research presentation: How do they learn English as another language? An investigation on the Bai students in Dali, Lydia Li, Visiting scholar, Southwest Foresty University (China)
  • Research presentation: Lexical Attrition in Iranian bilingual children in New Zealand, Khadijeh Gharibi, Doctoral candidate, Victoria University (Wellington).

August 2013

  • PhD presentation, Ann-Pawadee Srisang

September 2013

  • PhD presentation, Leanne Wilson
  • PhD presentation, Amanda Denston

Events 2012

International Reading Comprehension Symposium

Thursday 4th - Friday 5th October 2012
For more information download the programme (PDF).
Contact Dr Anne van Bysterveldt or Associate Professor Brigid McNeill

Lab Meetings

August 2012

  • Conference discussion meeting

September 2012

  • PhD presentation, Amir Sadeghi
  • PhD presentation, Jane Carroll

October 2012

  • Research discussion led by Professor Kate Cain, Visiting Canterbury Fellow, Lancaster University

November 2012

  • PhD presentation, Amy Collings

December 2012

  • Research planning meeting
  • Research presentation: Initial findings from the Wai Project, Melanie Riwai-Couch, Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Te Whānau Tahi


Please help raise awareness of SLI

One child in every reception classroom is affected by a specific language impairment, a little-recognised condition that affects all aspects of life, prompting a group of leading academics to come together and launch RALLI, a video led campaign to raise awareness. Specific language impairment (SLI) hinders understanding and expressive language and can impact on how children learn, form friendships and on educational development.  Despite how common the condition is, it receives little recognition, with many children and their families missing out on accessing much needed help and support as a result.

To find out more about SLI and to watch the launch videos, please go to RALLI’s YouTube page.

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