Professor Janet S Gaffney

PhD, MEd, BA


Janet S. Gaffney, Ph.D. is a Professor of Educational Psychology-Literacy in the School of Curriculum and Pedagogy and Director of The Marie Clay Research Centre-LEAD in Early Literacy. She joined us from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign where she held appointments in Special Education, Educational Psychology, and Curriculum & Instruction and was the Illinois Reading Recovery Director and University Trainer for 8 years. At the University of Illinois, she held appointments as a Senior Scientist at the Center for the Study of Reading, Associate in the Center for Advanced Study, and a Faculty Fellow in the Academy of Entrepreneurial Leadership.

Jan’s commitment to children’s literacy learning began with her K-12 teaching experience with Native Americans in tribally operated schools. Jan’s current research foci are literacy learning and leading. She has been able to merge her literacy intervention research with the development of collaborative and innovative teacher leaders, who are transforming literacy outcomes of students and facilitating sustainable processes for system revitalization. The framework of entrepreneurial teacher leading that has evolved from this line of research offers a theoretically coherent view of the evolution of educational leaders, who are teachers. For these teacher leaders, children’s learning is the centripetal force that drives their thinking and actions.

Research | Current


  • Gaffney, J. S. (2018-2020).  Talking Matters: Growing a Networked Research Community Around the Children and Families of Aotearoa New Zealand. Royal Society New Zealand Catalyst Seeding Grant ($79,450).
  • Gaffney, J. S., Jacobs, M. M,, & Tamati, T. (2019). Understand Me: Connecting Families and Teachers of Young Children through Stories. Auckland Airport Community Trust (49,399).
  • Gaffney, J. S. (2016-2018). The Unique Literacy Heritage of Aoteroa New Zealand. Faculty Research Development Fund Award. University of Auckland.
  • Gaffney, J. S. Talking Matters (2016).  Auckland Council COMET/NEXT Foundation Funding. Auckland, New Zealand ($105,000).
  • Gaffney, J. S. (2016). Marie Clay Research Centre-LEAD in Early Literacy. Faculty of Education and Social Work, University of Auckland ($360,000)
  • Gaffney, J. S., Morton, M., & Hart, S. M. (2017, Invited). Aotearoa New Zealand Special Education. In M. Wehmeyer & J. Patton (Eds.), Handbook of International Special Education (Vol. 3, pp. 289-303). Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger.
  • Hart, S., Gaffney, J. S., & Hill, M. (2017). Critical reflections on emancipatory partnerships in research: The process of discerning personal perspectives of young adults with significant disability. Disability & Society, 32(6), 831-852.DOI 10.1080/09687599.2017.1329710
  • Easton, V., Gaffney, J. S., & Wardman, J. (2016). “I need to do better, but I don’t know what to do”: Primary teachers’ experiences of talented young writers. Australasian Journal of Gifted Education, 25, 34-51. DOI: 10.21505/ajge.2016.0014
  • Wilkinson, I. A. G., & Gaffney, J. S. (2016).  Literacy for schooling: Two-tiered scaffolding for learning and teaching. In L. Corno & E. M. Anderman (Eds.), Handbook of Educational Psychology (3rd ed., pp. 229-244). Boca Raton, FL: American Psychological Association & Routeledge/Taylor-Francis.
  • Ruppar, A. L., Gaffney, J. S., & Dymond, S. K. (2015).  Influences on teachers’ decisions about literacy for secondary students with severe disabilities. Exceptional Children, 81, 209-226. DOI: 10.1177/0014402914551739
  • Si’ilata, R., Gaffney, J. S., Stephenson, J., & McCaffery, J. (2015).  Scaffolding new entrant Pasifika Children into English medium schooling–Design and implementation of new entrant pilot programme (PNEP): Gālulue Fa‘atasi (UniServices Task No. 33675.001). Ministry of Education, Wellington, New Zealand.  
  • Entrepreneurial Leadership in STEM Teaching and Learning (EnLiST, 2009). National Science Foundation (5,000,000). Senior Personnel.
  • Gaffney, J. S., Ruppar, A. L., & Ballard, S. (November, 2012). Agency and access: Literacy that matters for students with severe disabilities.  Paper presented at the TASH Conference. Long Beach, CA.
  • Ruppar, A. L., & Gaffney, J. S. (November, 2012). Influences on teachers’ decisions about literacy for students with severe disabilities. Paper presented at the Literacy Research Association, San Diego, CA.
  • Hedin, L. R., & Gaffney, J. S. (2012). Thinking aloud for striving readers: A continuum of interventions. Unpublished manuscript submitted for publication.
  • Hedin, L. R., Gaffney, J. S., & Frericks, C. B. (2012). Intervention specialists: Catalyzing literacy change for third- and fifth-grade striving readers. Unpublished manuscript submitted for publication.
  • Monda-Amaya, L., Dymond, S., Gaffney, J., Halle, J., & Shogren, K. (2011). Preparing leaders in education, access, and data-based decision making in high-need schools-(Project LEAD). Personnel Preparation to Improve Services and Results for Children with Disabilities: Preparation of Leadership Personnel (CFDA 84.325D). Funded by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services ($1,200,000).

Teaching | Current

EDCURRIC 718 Teacher Leadership for Learning

EDCURRIC 202  Languages and Literacy Education Primary 2

EDPROFST 702 Challenges of Literacy Difficulties

EDPROFST 705 Issues in Literacy Teaching and Learning

EDPROFST 700 Literacy Education: Research and Practice

Postgraduate supervision



  • Yingmin Wang: Understanding the role of children's self-assessment on writing quality
  • Randima Rajapaksha: Children's agency for learning in early childhood education settings
  • Alison Li: Children's experiences of/in/through storying: A phenomenological case study in inclusive early childhood education in New Zealand and Hong Kong
  • Hoa Pham Minh: Young Vietnamese children's identities construction through their personal stories in Vietnam and New Zealand
  • Duy Thuy Trang Nguyen: Communities of practice of tertiary EFL teachers in Vietnam and the cultural influences on teachers' participation in the communities
  • Yue You: Chinese-as-a-Foreign-Language (CFL) teachers in New Zealand secondary schools: teachers' beliefs and practices with regard to grammar teaching
  • Amanda White. Talking matters but who is listening? Beliefs, expectations and interactions of adult caregivers with infants and toddlers during story time
  • Helena McAlister.  Implementing te reo Māori into mainstream primary classrooms: Can te reo Māori be integrated into existing pedagogy?
  • Yisheng Gao. Chinese Transnational Families’ Practices in New Zealand


  • Neera R. Jain (2020). Institutional ableism and stereotype threat: What promotes and hinders the success of graduate students with disabilities studying the health sciences?
  • Lauren Hitchin (2020). Who cares? Young carers in Aotearoa New Zealand
  • Ting (Sophia) Xu (2020). The effects of anxiety, planning type, and cognitive task variability on Chinese students’ argumentative writing in English as a foreign language
  • Bo Zhou (2019). The influence of Chinese children’s experiences and identities on their meaning making in early literacy activities at home and in kndergarten
  • Sarah Hart (2017). Inclusive transition education curriculum and corporate social responsibility
  • Andrea Ruppar (2012).  Influences on teachers' decisions about literacy for students with severe disabilities
  • Jongseong Jeong (2009). Effects of teacher-directed and student-interactive summarization instruction on reading comprehension and written summarization of Korean fourth graders
  • Laura Hedin (2008). The effect of think-aloud instruction on comprehension, monitoring and self-evaluation of marginalized reading using science text
  • Evangelia March (2008).  Inclusive educational practices for students with disabilities within the European Union
  • Chiung-Chu Wang: Learning to read Chinese: The roles of phonological awareness and morphological awareness



  • Ella Fifita: Teacher perceptions of Pasifika students and Students’ self-efficacy in Business Studies
  • Va'ai Saito Sililoto: Quality teaching and Pasifika learners: An exploratory study of recent policy developments


  • Emma Quigan: Two-eyed seeing in the development of community coaches for interaction and talk:  Trusting and valuing parents.
  • Helena McAlister: Analysing the past to inform a future framework: A critique of existing indigenous language and cultural frameworks
  • Aylene FitzGeraldHarnessing the synergy between oral and written language
  • Jacinta Loto (2016). To read is to understand: Literacy approaches exemplary teachers use to teach Pasifika learners
  • Rachel Cromie (2016). Tell me a Story: Investigating post read-aloud discussion circles
  • Judy Aitken (2016). The development of children’s processing systems for reading: The influence of guided reading in Year One
  • Vernitta Easton (2016). 
    Primary teachers’ understandings of talented young writers: Challenges and rewards


  • Senior Researcher, Center for the Study of Reading, University of Illinois (1988-2012)
  • Faculty Fellow, Academy of Entrepreneurial Leadership, University of Illinois (2009-2012)
  • Campus Award for Excellence in Graduate and Professional Teaching, University of Illinois (2007)
  • Graduate Teaching Award, College of Education, University of Ilinlois (2006)
  • Associate, Center for Advanced Study, University of Illinois (2004-2005)
  • Alvin C. Purves Research Award, National Council for Teachers of English for article in the Research in the Teaching of English (2000)
  • Undergraduate Teaching Award, College of Education (1999)
  • Illinois (state) Faculty Fellow in Service Learning, Illinois Campus Compact (1988-1989)
  • Doctoral Fellow, Arizona State University-Tempe (1983-1984)
  • Regents Graduate Academic Scholarship, Arizona State University-Tempe (1982-1983)

Areas of expertise

  • Facilitating literacy learning and teaching expertise
  • Promoting innovation and collaboration of teacher leaders
  • Emphasizing the learning and engagement of children and youth with and without disabilities in comprehension of informational text
  • Contributing to design of school-based literacy interventions
  • Working with school, community, and university partners for systemic and sustained academic progress of underserved children and youth

Committees/Professional groups/Services

  • Editorial Advisor, Reading Psychology (2016)
  • Editorial Advisor, The SAGE Handbook of Special Education (2nd ed.)
  • Editorial Board Member, Journal of Teacher Education (Guest Reviewer, 2013-2014; 2015-present)
  • Editorial Board Member, Reading Research Quarterly (2007-present)
  • Editorial Board Member, Journal of Literacy Research (2001-present)
  • Board of Reviewers, Teacher Education Quarterly (2014-present)
  • Board of Reviewers, Teacher Education and Special Education (1984-present)
  • Guest Reviewer, Teaching and Teacher Education (2015, 2016, 2017)
  • Guest Reviewer, Educational Research Review (2016)
  • Guest Reviewer, American Journal of Education (2015)
  • Guest Reviewer, Review of Educational Research (2014, 2016)
  • Guest Reviewer, Remedial and Special Education (2008, 2009, 2013, 2015, 2016)
  • Guest Reviewer, Journal of Science Teacher Education (2015)
  • Guest Reviewer, American Educational Research Journal (2012, 2013)
  • Guest Reviewer, International Journal of Disability, Development and Education (2012)
  • Guest Reviewer, Scientific Study of Reading (2011)
  • Guest Reviewer, Research in the Teaching of English (2008-2011)

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.
  • Aitken, J., Villers, H., & Gaffney, J. (2018). Guided reading: Being mindful of the reading processing of new entrants in Aotearoa New Zealand primary schools. Set: Research Information for Teachers (1), 25-33. 10.18296/set.0099
  • Gaffney, J. S., & Rodgers, E. (2018). Scaffolding research: Taking stock at the four-decade mark. International Journal of Educational Research, 90, 175-176. 10.1016/j.ijer.2018.04.001
  • Hart, S. M., Gaffney, J. S., & Hill, M. (2017). Critical reflections on emancipatory partnerships in transition research: discerning perspectives of New Zealand Students on the autism spectrum. Disability and Society, 32 (6), 831-852. 10.1080/09687599.2017.1329710
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Mary Hill
  • Gaffney, J. S., Morton, M., & Hart, S. M. (2017). Aotearoa New Zealand. In M. Wehmeyer, J. R. Patton (Eds.) The Praeger international handbook of special education (pp. 289-303). Santa Barbara, USA: Praeger.
  • Wilkinson, IAG, & Gaffney, J. S. (2015). Literacy for Schooling: Two-Tiered Scaffolding for Learning and Teaching. In L. Corno, E. M. Anderman (Eds.) Handbook of Educational Psychology. Boca Raton, FL: American Psychological Association & Routeledge/Taylor-Francis. Related URL.
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Ian Wilkinson
  • Ruppar, A. L., Gaffney, J. S., & Dymond, S. K. (2015). Influences on teachers’ decisions about literacy for secondary students with severe disabilities. Exceptional Children, 81 (2), 209-226. 10.1177/0014402914551739
  • Hedin, L. R., & Gaffney, J. S. (2013). Tutoring Sixth Graders Who Struggle with Reading: Illustrations of Wood's Contingent Interventions. Reading Psychology, 34 (3), 207-256. 10.1080/02702711.2011.621510
  • March, E. Z., & Gaffney, J. S. (2010). Relational identities of students, families, and educators: Shaping educational pathways. Remedial and Special Education, 31 (1), 3-16. 10.1177/0741932508324393


Contact details

Alternative contact

Building N, Rm 610

Gate 3, Epsom Campus


Primary office location

Level 6, Room 610
New Zealand

Web links