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Dr Mei Lai is an Associate Professor at the University of Auckland - Faculty of Education and Social Work, and Director of the Woolf Fisher Research Centre.
Dr Lai has had a career in education spanning different roles with schools, the NZ Ministry of Education, and professional development agencies; as a professional developer, consultant (international and local), researcher, and academic. Her work has focused on integrating research and practice to co-design and co-evaluate sustainable interventions using collaborative analysis of data. This work culminated in the co-design of a research-practice partnership to improve school and teacher practices and valued student outcomes, the Learning Schools Model.
The Learning Schools Model has been implemented for 17+ years in five countries and has successfully improved achievement, in general, for primarily Māori and Pasifika students in low socio-economic communities. She was the joint recipient of the University of Auckland’s Research Excellence Award (2015), awarded for research of demonstrable quality and impact, for the work in co-designing and co-testing the Learning Schools Model.
The International Literacy Association selected Dr Lai's first-authored paper on the Model for reprint in their volume “Theoretical models and processes of Reading (6th Ed)”, and invited speaking engagements at international associations have focused on this work e.g., invited speaker Vice-Presidential session (Division H, American Educational Research Association). She has also led or co-led large-scale and regional projects in New Zealand, winning external grants from national funding bodies such as the NZ Ministry of Education and the Teaching and Learning Research Initiative [TLRI]. Her teaching interests are in leading and designing teaching innovations within the Faculty.
She was also the inaugural Academic Leader of the Manaiakalani Digital Teaching Academy (MDTA), a partnership between the Faculty, Google, and the Manaiakalani Education Trust to support teachers improve teaching and learning in digital learning environments. The MDTA was externally evaluated by the New Zealand Council for Educational Research as a success. She was part of the supervision and design team on a supervision innovation, the Woolf Fisher Lead Teacher scholarship Programme, internally evaluated as having a positive impact on students’ practices post-scholarship.
Dr Lai has held or currently hold leadership roles within the Faculty (Associate Director, Woolf Fisher Research Centre) and with international disciplinary associations including being the Co-chair and then Chair of the International Relations Committee Division H, American Educational Research Association (2017-2020).
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