Projects and partners

We collaborate with a wide range of like-minded organisations and funders.

primary students

Auckland Airport Community Trust

Understand Me: Connecting Families and Teachers of Young Children through Stories

Funder: Auckland Airport Community Trust

PI: Professor Janet Gaffney
Co-PI: Dr Meg Jacobs
Co-Pi: Dr Sophie Tauwehe Tamati

Professor Janet Gaffney and colleagues from the Marie Clay Research Centre launched a small pilot project in January 2019 with $49,399 of philanthropic funds from Auckland Airport Community Trust involving a primary school in the West Papatoetoe Kāhui Ako (Community of Learning). Following a successful pilot, they were pleased to secure a second grant for $24,833 for Phase II (1 January 2020 – 31 December 2020) to integrate the work into the life of the school. The intervention is called “Understand Me: Connecting Families and Teachers of Young Children through Storied Conversations”.

Background of the project

"If they can't understand me, how can I understand them?"

This is a quote from a Māori student in the 2018 report, Education Matters to Me: Key Insights, by Children's Commissioner Andrew Becroft and the New Zealand School Trustees Association (NZSTA) based on 1534 online and 144 face-to-face interviews with students from New Zealand schools. Judge Becroft called for a sea change in hearing children’s voices on issues affecting them. The student’s voice in the quote is the pivot point for the proposed study: Understand Me.

Family sociocultural knowledge that is distant from school-sanctioned knowledge is often undervalued or goes unrecognised in schools, particularly for families who are culturally and linguistically diverse (Si’ilata, 2014). The following question guides the study: How does sharing memorable stories between a child, parent, or teacher create openings for understanding?

We will examine how stories shared between children, their parents and teachers can create pathways of understanding that shape child-family-teacher interactions and influence how family’s lived experiences and sociocultural knowledge are positioned in schools. In an adaptation of NPR StoryCorps, participants will be enrolled as child-parent-teacher triads to engage in a sequence of three story-sharing experiences with a researcher as an attentive listener and facilitator. All sessions will be audio-video recorded and conducted in the family’s preferred language.

In the initial story session, child-parent-teacher will each be asked an open-ended question to initiate conversation and to become familiar with the process. In the second session, the child-parent-teacher will each share a significant and memorable, life experience. Each person’s oral story will be reconstructed as a written story and collated by triad for member checks. In the final session, storytellers in each triad will be invited to talk about the story-sharing experience and the influence of the stories on their understandings of family members or teachers, and of themselves and on any subsequent actions and imagined future actions. The video recorded and collated stories will be available at this session for reference and review.

Stories will be thematically analysed individually, by triad and by role. The impact of stories on understandings will be derived from analysis of the transcribed final sessions and retrospective reference of individuals to shared stories. Our stories are Us. We craft ourselves and our worlds in stories. In this intimate study, we will create a safe, listening-and-telling space for child-parent-teacher dyads to story their connected worlds. The aim is reciprocal understanding of another’s diverse lived experiences and ways of meaning, and about our identities within these defined communities.

Trustees from the Auckland Airport Community Trust present the philanthropic grant for the Understand Me Project (l-r): Emma Howie, Gillian Luke, Dr Meg Jacobs, Associate Dean Pasifika Dr Jacoba Matapo, Karen Miller (Development Manager), Professor Janet S Gaffney, Jill Harrison (AACT Chair) and Natalie Vincent (AACT Trust Manager).

Royal Society Te Apārangi

Royal Society Te Apārangi Catalyst Seeding Grant Overview

Babies begin to make sense of the world and express themselves in interaction with their whānau/families from birth. Family interactions shape children’s thinking and learning as they observe, listen, gesture and talk in their home language. Eighty percent of brain development occurs before age 3. We need to know more about the beginnings (0-3 years) of non-verbal (eye gaze, facial expressions, gestures) and early oral language communication in Te Reo Māori, Pasifika languages and bi-oral literacy.

Promoting first languages of children’s homes will help to reduce the inequitable learning paths that span ethnicities, languages, and gender. Through this project, we will identify growth indicators of communication across languages in Aotearoa-New Zealand. Enhancing children’s opportunities to learn through quality talk with adults in families and early childhood centres is a worldwide, high-need societal issue.

We will build on New Zealand's rich history of early childhood research. International researchers on young children’s oral language learning and development will join key Aotearoa-New Zealand researchers, including Māori and Pasifika, from multiple universities to form the first in the world, networked research community with a laser-like focus on language learning of infants and toddlers in their whānau and in early childhood education.

Projects that hold similar values to the Marie Clay Research Centre

International Literacy Association

The International Literacy Association (ILA) is a global advocacy and membership organization of more than 300,000 literacy educators, researchers, and experts across 75 countries. Their mission is to empower educators, inspire students, and encourage leaders with the resources they need to make literacy accessible for all.

New Zealand Literacy Association

The New Zealand Literacy Association's beliefs about instruction are based on the principle that all instruction is focused on encouraging students to be motivated and enthusiastic readers and writers. A love of, and belief in, the power of literacy and literature, and a commitment to professional development will help to ensure that all students and teachers become lifelong readers and writers.

Auckland Literacy Association

The Auckland Literacy Association is a branch of the New Zealand Literacy Association.