What NZ educators say


DFNZ has run ‘sold-out’ nationwide workshops for New Zealand educators and parents, sharing tips on how to improve the learning environment for Kiwi schoolchildren. The feedback from these inspiring workshops has been incredible, with many requests to make Neil Mackay’s expertise more widely available. This webspace is the result.

The workshops provided important insights into the status quo in New Zealand schools, and identified both key barriers to learning as well as simple – and largely cost-free ways these could be overcome.

We would like to thank the more than 1300 educators who attended the workshops. At the end of each workshop, participants were challenged to come up with some dyslexia aware “quick fixes” that they knew could be delivered by all New Zealand teachers without additional training, but simply through a desire to be even more effective.

The information shared at these events has been taken into account in preparing this webspace. However, we also thought it important to dedicate space to share a summary of the insights as we received them. They make compelling reading, and clearly identify issues and solutions. In this, they absolutely reinforce the value the new teaching paradigm has to offer.

Barriers to Learning
The main barriers to learning included lack of teacher knowledge; lack of dyslexia aware teaching in the classroom; low student self-esteem and issues with achieving a whole school approach and securing funding, as follows:

  Teacher knowledge
  • Lack of teacher awareness, understanding, professional development and support

  • Teachers not being open to change, focused on negative feedback rather than positive

  Classroom delivery
  • Low expectations of dyslexic students

  • Inflexible teaching styles

  • One size fits all attitude

  • Lack of multi-sensory/kinaesthetic approaches

  • Undervaluing of creativity and out-of-the-box thinking

  • Not enough group work or students put in groups inappropriate for their thinking abilities

  • Too much teacher talk, large classroom sizes

  • Lack of variety in conventional assessment methods

  • Inflexible methods of presentation of work

  • Too much focus on written work and pencil/paper tasks

  • Assumption that only reading, writing and spelling are illustrations of intelligence

  • Rushing students in tests, not allocating enough practice time or examination time

  • Low self-esteem and lack of confidence

  • Stress levels, fear and anxiety

  • Fear of making mistakes

  • Lack of family understanding or support

  School and education system
  • Lack of whole school approach

  • Funding issues

  • Pressure of accountability and Government framework

Ladders to learning
Significant ladders to learning included a whole school approach, professional development, positive teacher attitudes, and parent and community involvement. Effective classroom strategies were highlighted as incredibly important, and these are reflected in the new teaching paradigm. Click here for more detailed guidance on classroom strategies and accommodations.

  Whole school approach
  • School-wide commitment to address dyslexia and school policy re same
  • School management on board and passionate
  • Improve all students understanding of, and respect for, difference

  Professional development
  • Professional development for all teachers to recognise dyslexia
  • More support for implementing simple classroom strategies and accommodations
  • Support system and access to specialised assistance
  Teacher attitudes
  • Acceptance of diversity and focus on student strengths and passions
  • Share resources and knowledge
  • Teacher peer support and school clusters
  Classroom strategies
  • Paired reading and whole class reading
  • Peer reviewing work
  • Multi-sensory learning and acceptance of work in different formats, for example mind maps, videos, photos, diagrams, powerpoint
  • Use oral assessments and phonetic spelling
  • Allow extra thinking time and more time to finish tasks
  • Allow reader/writers for NCEA
  • Use handouts with gaps for students to fill in key ideas and draw their explanations
  • Allow greater access to internet
  • Try new ideas and compare them to old
  • Allow students to choose which piece of writing they want assessed
  Parent/community involvement
  • Educate parents
  • Early intervention and strategies for home support
  • Community awareness and support


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