Associate Professor Mei Kuin Lai

PhD, MA (1st class Hons)


Dr Mei Kuin Lai is Associate Director, Woolf Fisher Research Centre and Associate Professor in the School of Curriculum and Pedagogy, Faculty of Education.

Mei has led or co-led national and large-scale projects on improving and sustaining students' literacy achievement across a variety of contexts, from high poverty multi-cultural schools to rural primary and high schools. Her recent projects are a national project to build evaluative capability in government funded schooling improvement initiatives and a regional intervention to improve reading comprehension and increase the numbers of students gaining national certificates. 

Mei was awarded The University of Auckland Doctoral Scholarship, University of Auckland Masters/Honours Scholarship, Senior Scholar in Education (Top student in School of Education at advanced undergraduate level) and the Certificate of Merit in Statistics (Top 2% in Statistics at undergraduate level).

Her previous experience included work as a Research Analyst responsible for training School Support Services Facilitators in Auckland and Northland in inquiry, and a Researcher-developer in Schooling Improvement Cluster (Mangere Analysis and Use of Student Achievement Data initiative) responsible for programme development and evaluation.

Research | Current


University of Auckland Research Excellence Award


Project leader / co-leader

  • 2008-2012 West Coast Secondary Project (Regional project)
  • 2008-2011 Building Evaluative Capability in Schooling Improvement (National project)
  • 2008-2009 Teaching Learning Research Initiative (TLRI) Project on Sustainability (Large-scale grant)
  • 2008 West Coast Sustainability Project (Regional project)
  • 2005–2007 West Coast Literacy Project (Regional project)

International addresses at disciplinary associations 

  • 2013 - Keynote. International Congress for School Effectiveness and School Improvement Regional Symposium, Sweden
  • 2016 - Invited speaker. Vice-Presidential Invited Speaker Session, Division H, Division H, American Educational Research Association (AERA), USA
  • 2018 - Main Speaker. Post Graduate Research Forum at the International Congress for School Effectiveness and Improvement (ICSEI), Singapore


  • Conferences (e.g., 2010 - American Educational Research Association conference; 2008 - International Congress for School Effectiveness and Improvement conference)
  • Journals (e.g., Reading Research Quarterly, Instructional Science, and School Improvement and School Effectiveness)

Conference committee

  • 2008 - Programme Chair for International Congress for School Effectiveness and Improvement conference
  • 2012 - International Congress for School Effectiveness and Improvement conference interactive symposium

Teaching | Current


Postgraduate supervision

  • 9 doctoral students. Theses topics include a high school literacy intervention and literacy learning over summer in Germany .
  • 14 masters students. Theses topics include the impact of professional learning communities on classroom practice, students' perceptions of academic counselling in high school, and the impact of Samoan bilingual education in a primary school.
  • 3 dissertation students. Theses topics include the analysing facilitation of professional learning communities.


  • Co-authored book Practitioner Research for Educators nominated for the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE) Outstanding Book Award. This award recognises as exemplary books that make a significant contribution to the knowledge base of teacher education or of teaching and learning with implications for teacher education. The book was on the distributer's bestseller list for 2006 (ranked in the top 10 books for Australasia)



Areas of expertise

  • Research and development interventions to improve literacy achievement, in particular, interventions with indigenous and ethnic minority students
  • Sustainability of educational reforms
  • Professional learning communities
  • Analysis and use of data to improve teaching and learning
  • Problem-based methodology

Committees/Professional groups/Services

  • 2012 - School of Curriculum and Pedagogy Research Committee

Selected publications and creative works (Research Outputs)

As of 29 October 2020 there will be no automatic updating of 'selected publications and creative works' from Research Outputs. Please continue to keep your Research Outputs profile up to date.
  • Lai, M. K., McNaughton, S., Jesson, R., & Wilson, A. (2020). Research-practice Partnerships for School Improvement The Learning Schools Model. Emerald Publishing Limited. Pages: 188.
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Aaron Wilson
  • Fjørtoft H, & Lai, M. K. (2020). Affordances of narrative and numerical data: A social-semiotic approach to data use. Studies in Educational Evaluation10.1016/j.stueduc.2020.100846
  • Wilson, A., & Lai, M. K. (2019). Leading Literacy Change Through Collaborative Analysis of Practice. JOURNAL OF ADOLESCENT & ADULT LITERACY, 62 (4), 455-458. 10.1002/jaal.916
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Aaron Wilson
  • Lai, M. K., & McNaughton, S. (2018). LEARNING NETWORKS FOR SUSTAINABLE LITERACY ACHIEVEMENT. In C. Brown, C. L. Poortman (Eds.) (pp. 152-171). ROUTLEDGE.
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Stuart McNaughton
  • Jesson, R., Wilson, A., McNaughton, S., & Lai, M. (Eds.) (2017). Teachers leading inquiry for school problem solving. Wellington, N.Z.: NZCER Press. Pages: 102.
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Rebecca Jesson, Aaron Wilson, Stuart McNaughton
  • Poortman, C. L., Schildkamp, K., & Lai, M. K. (2016). Professional development in data use: An international perspective on conditions, models, and effects. Teaching and Teacher Education, 60, 363-365. 10.1016/j.tate.2016.07.029
  • Lai, M. K., & McNaughton, S. (2016). The impact of data-use professional development on student achievement. Teaching and Teacher Education, 60, 434-443. 10.1016/j.tate.2016.07.005
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Stuart McNaughton
  • Allison, C., Laxman, K., & Lai, M. K. (2016). New setting, same skill: Teaching geography students to transfer information literacy skills From familiar to unfamiliar contexts. International Journal of Education and Literacy Studies, 4 (2), 27-38. 10.7575/aiac.ijels.v.4n.2p.27
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Kumar Laxman

Contact details

Primary office location

Level 6, Room 609
New Zealand

Web links