Early childhood teacher practices for supporting oral language acquisition and competency for children from Pacific heritages

Funding year: 
2 years
Victoria University of Wellington
ECE sector
Project start date: 
January 2024
Project end date: 
March 2026
Principal investigator(s): 
Sue Cherrington
Research team members: 
Ali Glasgow, Te Herenga Waka | Victoria University of Wellington; Mele Taumoepeau, Te Herenga Waka | Victoria University of Wellington; Claire McLachlan, University of Waikato; Tara McLaughlin, Massey University; Karyn Aspden, Massey University.
Research partners: 
Sadie Fiti and the teaching team, A'oga Amata EFKS Newtown; Mary Jane Kauraka-Seuli and the teaching team, Te Punanga Reo o te Reo Kuki Airani; Sadhana Maharaj and the teaching team, Moera Kindergarten; Leonie Poynter and the teaching team, Waiwhetu Kindergarten; Norma Roberts and Pippa Groser, Hutt City Kindergartens.


Our project uses a multiple case-study design to investigate how EC teachers in both Pacific and non-Pacific ECE settings can effectively support oral language acquisition and learning for children from Pacific heritages. At the heart of this research is our focus on quality teacher-child practices and interactions that support children’s oral language learning and development. Our project draws on Pacific values of respect, reciprocal relationships, family and belonging (Rimoni, Glasgow & Averill, 2022) together with alofa (love and commitment), tautua (service and responsibilities, and fa'aaloalo (respect and dignity) (Luafutu-Simpson, 2011) and uses Pacific methodologies of teu le va and talanoa to enable researchers, teachers and whānau to share and build understandings of effective practices that support Pacific children’s oral language learning.


Our project aims to build knowledge about how teachers in New Zealand EC settings can support young Pacific children’s oral language development, including in their home language(s), within the context of Te Whāriki (Ministry of Education, 2017) and socio-cultural approaches to curriculum implementation and assessment. Our project will investigate the following overarching research questions:

  • How can EC teachers’ practices and interactions effectively support children’s oral language acquisition and learning?
  • How might EC teachers and whānau draw on Pacific home languages, contexts, and cultural experiences to support mono-lingual, bi-lingual and multilingual children’s oral language learning?
  • How might EC teachers’ inquiries into their oral language interactions with mono- and multi-lingual children strengthen and support their practice?

Why is this research important?

Supporting young children’s oral language development is an important focus for EC kaiako, due to the impact on brain development in relation to language as well as on children’s later ability to read, write, comprehend and reason. The partnership between researchers and teachers from both Pacific and non-Pacific EC centres enables us to investigate young Pacific children’s oral language development and learning across different service types and with teachers who may or may not possess the linguistic communication knowledge and skill across different Pacific languages that the children bring with them. With around fifteen percent of children and young people growing up in New Zealand today of Pacific heritage, our focus on Pacific children is important.

What we plan to do

We will undertake case studies in two Pacific Language Nests and two kindergartens, each of which will engage in successive teaching inquiry cycles to examine how they are able to support the oral language development of their Pacific heritage children. To support teachers’ inquiries, we will use the following project tools:

  • Teacher reflection on practice tool focused on teachers’ confidence and use of practices that support children’s oral language development
  • Child oral language assessment tool completed by teachers and designed to support teams to consider what they know about individual children’s language development and progression
  • Teacher practice observation tool to gather data about practices teachers are using to support oral language development
  • Video-recordings of teacher practice and video-stimulated recall interviews to support teachers to reflect on their practice

We will also gather data about teachers’ views on oral language development through talanoa and focus group interviews at the beginning and end of the project. Parents and whānau will be invited to participate in talanoa at the beginning, mid-point and end of the project so we can hear their perspectives about their children’s oral language development. Project team meeting minutes and analyses of children’s portfolios and assessments will provide further sources of data.

Analysis of teacher practice and child oral language assessments will be undertaken collaboratively by teaching teams and members of the research team as part of the inquiry processes to both inform inquiry cycles and respond to the research questions. At the end of the project, we will prepare combined, anonymised summary tables of data from the teacher practice observations, teacher practice reflections and children’s oral language assessments to map shifts in teacher practice and children’s acquisition and use of oral language across the project.

Our qualitative data (i.e., talanoa meeting notes, focus group interview transcripts, V-SR interview transcripts, research and inquiry meeting notes) will be analysed using content and thematic analysis (Braun & Clarke, 2021). Document analysis of assessment data will focus on shifts in children’s oral language learning and in teachers’ planning and intentional interactions with children. Finally, case study reports for each centre, and a cross-case analysis, will be developed.

Contact details

Sue Cherrington

School of Education, Te Herenga Waka | Victoria University of Wellington

P O Box 600, Wellington 6140, New Zealand


Phone: (+64) 04 463 9552