Dr Mei Kuin Lai

PhD, MA (1st class Hons)


Dr Mei Kuin Lai is Associate Director, Woolf Fisher Research Centre and Senior Lecturer 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

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 Keynote

  • 2013 - International Congress for School Effectiveness and School Improvement: Sweden Syposium http://www.icsei.net/index.php?id=1676

Team leader

  • 2012-2013 Starpath project (Team leader for multivariate analysis)


  • 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)

  • 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
  • Lai, M. K. (2015). The impact of data-use professional development on student achievement: The learning schools model. Paper presented at American Educational Research Association Annual meeting - Division H, Chicago, Illinois. 16 April - 20 April 2015.
  • Lai, M. K., & Hsiao, S. (2014). Developing data collection and management systems for decision-making: What professional development is required?. Studies in Educational Evaluation, 42, 63-70. 10.1016/j.stueduc.2013.12.006
    URL: http://hdl.handle.net/2292/27012
  • Lai, M. K., Wilson, A., McNaughton, S., & Hsiao, S. (2014). Improving achievement in secondary schools: Impact of a literacy project on reading comprehension and secondary school qualifications. Reading Research Quarterly, 49 (3), 305-334. 10.1002/rrq.73
    URL: http://hdl.handle.net/2292/27011
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Stuart McNaughton, Aaron Wilson
  • Lai, M. K., & Kushner, S. (Eds.) (2013). A developmental and negotiated approach to school self-evaluation. Oxford, UK: Emerald. Pages: 300. 10.1108/S1474-7863(2013)0000014021
  • Schildkamp, K., Lai, M. K., & Earl, L. (Eds.) (2013). Data-based decision making in education: Challenges and opportunities. Dordrecht, Netherlands: Springer. Pages: 216. Related URL.
  • McNaughton, S., Lai, M., & Hsaio, S. (2012). Testing the effectiveness of an intervention model based on data use: A replication series across clusters of schools. School Effectiveness and School Improvement, 23 (2), 203-228. 10.1080/09243453.2011.652126
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Stuart McNaughton

Contact details

Primary location

Level 6, Room 609
New Zealand

Web links