Date of Submission



In 2006, the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) identified New Zealand as not only having some of the highest levels of achievement in reading but also, and of far more national concern, having some of the lowest levels. Thus, it was of little surprise that the New Zealand Ministry of Education set goals to address this concern. One of the outcomes of this particular national educational goal was the introduction of the National Literacy Professional Development Project (LDP), a project to improve student performance in literacy, particularly for those students who struggle with reading.

The purpose of this study is to explore why a collective of five schools participating in a localised and highly prescribed Literacy Development Project (LDP), experienced markedly different student achievement outcomes.

The following research questions were constructed from a synthesis of the literature and guided the study.

1. In what ways did the vision influence student academic achievement in LDP?

2. In what ways did professional learning influence student academic achievement in LDP?

3. In what ways did culture influence student academic achievement in LDP?

4. In what ways did leadership of change influence student academic achievement in LDP?

Using a symbolic interactionist theoretical approach to examine this case of variation in achievement between schools in the collective, a two-stage data collection process was adopted. In the first stage of the study, achievement data documents were collected and analysed followed by individual interviews with 25 participants comprising principals, literacy leaders and teachers. The second stage consisted of four focus group interviews. Data were analysed using constant comparative analysis.

This study found four key areas of practice, implementation of a vision, provision of professional learning, leadership of culture and leadership of change affected the implementation of a schooling improvement project which in turn led to a variation of implementation and therefore the variation of outcomes in student academic achievement. Four theoretical proposition are advanced from this study.

The first proposition is that duality of vision (school/ project) impedes successful change. The second proposition is that professional learning models that encourage interaction and shared meaning-making enhance the improvement of academic results. The third proposition is that schools and systems do not attempt to introduce change without first reviewing the culture of the sites to ensure they are conducive to adopting the change. The final proposition is that leadership of change requires complex skills, focused not only on action but more importantly on the quality of personal and professional interactions.

Document Type


Access Rights

Open Access


260 pages

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Faculty of Education and Arts