TLRI Literacy learning in e-learning research project


Literacy learning in e-learning contexts: Mining the New Zealand action research evidence is a project sponsored by TLRI. Grant holders are Vince Ham and Anne Hatherly (CORE Education), Sue McDowall (NZCER), Ronnie Davey (UC).

Researchers and teachers (ECE, primary, and secondary) are collaborating to re-analyse data from a range of action research inquiries on e-learning (undertaken as part of e-fellowships and the ECE ICT professional learning programmes) to investigate and build theory about the literacy learning that can take place in e-learning contexts.


The aims of the project are to:

  • Help fill gaps in the current NZ research literature on e-learning as contexts for literacy development; and
  • Collectively theorise the literacy-e-learning connections and pedagogical processes that are operating in NZ schools and ECE centres by supporting teacher researchers to ‘(re)tell their stories’ with a common focus that they did not necessarily have when their studies were originally conducted.

The overarching research question for this project is: How can e-learning contexts be used effectively to support the literacy learning needed for the 21st century?  Key sub questions are:

  • What does literacy learning look like in e-learning contexts? That is, what kinds of literacy learning is intended and achieved in e-learning contexts?
  • What particular conditions support literacy teaching and learning in e-learning contexts?
  • How, if at all, do either of these differ or vary across sectors (ECE, Primary, Secondary)?

What are the research, policy, and practice implications for the ways literacy may be taught and learned in the 21st Century?

Why is this research important?

There is a large body of literature addressing concerns about the capacity of current approaches to literacy teaching and learning to equip students for living and learning in the 21st Century, as well as an unresolved debate about what even ‘counts’ as literacy.

There has been much commentary about the affordances of new technologies for learning generally but relatively little work, particularly in New Zealand, on either how this plays out in daily practice or their potential to foster literacy learning. We also know from previous research that teachers want examples of actual teaching and learning they can adapt for their own purposes, and that they can use to further understand and build theory.

What have planned to do

We are using data archived as part of previous action research studies with a focus on literacy learning undertaken in the e-Learning Fellowship, and the ECE ICT Professional Learning programmes. Available data sources include: archives of student work, learning stories, video footage, action researcher journals, transcripts or audio archives of teacher and student interviews, observation schedules, and appendices from the teachers’ original action research reports.


We are using an iterative approach to analyse the data according to themes. One analysis framework we are using to analyse the literacy teaching and learning data is based on the Four Resources Model* This suggests that in an increasingly globalised and technologised world all students can have the opportunity to:

  • Make meaning of and with: audio, gestural, spatial, visual, and multimodal, and print texts;
  • Make meaning of and with: the discourses of different communities;
  • Critique, use, and transform texts;
  • build a meta-knowledge which can be applied to new text forms.

We are using grounded analysis of data for Research Questions 2, 3, and 4. Researchers and teachers are collaborating in sector teams to analyse the existing data in the first instance. The group as a whole will then engage in collective data analysis and discussion of emerging themes.

Our teacher partners:

Margie Meleisea (Nayland Kindergarten); Mere Ngapo (Te Rau Oriwa); Carol Marks (Selwyn Kindergarten); Helen Rennie-Younger (Sunnybrae Primary School); Dorothy Burt (Point England School); Chris Bradbeer (Stonefields Primary School); Marion Lumley (Otaki College); Claire Amos (Epsom Girls’ Grammar); and Toni Twiss (Waikato Diocesan School for Girls).

* See: Freebody, P., & Luke, A. (1990). Literacies programs: Debates and demands in cultural context. Prospect: Australian Journal of TESOL, 5(7), 7–16; and

Luke, A., & Freebody, P. (1999). A map of possible practices: Further notes on the four resources modelPractically Primary, 4 (2). (PDF, 111 KB)

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