Research excellence awarded

12 May 2015
Dr Marek Tesar

Five Faculty of Education and Social Work academics have received top awards for research excellence at the University of Auckland.

Dr Marek Tesar won a University of Auckland Early Career Research Excellence Awards (ECREA) and Professor Stuart McNaughton with Dr Mei Lai, Dr Rebecca Jesson and Dr Aaron Wilson won a Research Excellence Award (REA).

Marek’s award acknowledges his research achievements and leadership in research during the early stages of his career at the University.

In 2013, Marek earned a place on the Dean of Graduate Studies list (Dean’s List) in recognition of his PhD thesis on the construction of childhoods, and last year he won the prestigious American Educational Research Association's (AERA) Qualitative Dissertation Award .

His latest research award comes with $25,000, which Marek will use to pursue his next research project - an investigation into young children’s relations to materiality of the places or spaces they live and play in, and how their nature and culture comes together in order to influence local policies.

This research project will involve working with early years centres, children, teachers and parents, to research the notion of child-friendly cities in New Zealand’s North Island.

Marek says the study will respond to a lack of research theorising young children’s voices of their experiences of their childhoods in the city. It will also use the narratives of children, their parents and teachers to produce an analysis of data that maps children’s perceptions of New Zealand society and urban life.

“This new knowledge will inform policy and planning decisions for young children, to enhance their experiences and wellbeing in local urban spaces, and it will make an original contribution to international scholarship, that informs planning for young children in cities around the world, that honours children’s rights.” 

Marek says the award was and “incredible honour” and encouragement to continue his research work with young children and and their childhoods.

“It justifies the importance of early childhood education and childhood studies, and most importantly the voices of young children that need to be taken seriously to create a just and fair society in the urban world dominated by adults' notions and ideas.” 

The Research Excellence Award (REA) received by Professor Stuart McNaughton with Dr Mei Lai, Dr Rebecca Jesson and Dr Aaron Wilson highlights a 12 year commitment to developing and testing a model to raise and extend student achievement. ,

The research team worked in more than 50 schools and with more than 10,000 children to develop the Learning Schools Model (LSM).

This model is a design-based approach for whole-school improvement, based on research and professional partnerships, and developing bespoke solutions to context-specific educational problems.

Principal investigator Stuart McNaughton says, “The model has been tested and shown to be effective in a number of experimental intervention studies in different schooling contexts (urban, rural), across all sectors (primary and secondary schools), across the Trans-Tasman and in different domains of learning  such as reading, writing, and curriculum subject areas. It is also recognised as one of New Zealand’s most successful research programmes to improve educational results for Māori, Pacific and children from low socioeconomic communities.”