Dr Melinda Webber

Associate Professor
Speaking at



Starpath Phase Three set out to work with nine schools in Auckland and Northland to investigate an enduring problem of practice: what will enable significantly more Māori and Pasifika students from low socio‐economic schools to achieve UE that allows progression into degree‐level study? Starpath encouraged schools to collect and use a wide range of data to: set high goals (targets) for individual students and groups of students; determine the curriculum content (and rigor) the students were getting; monitor students’ progress allowing for timely intervention; and inquire into teacher and school practice. However, the conversion of UE targets into the strategies required to achieve the targets proved far more difficult. In particular, many schools did not know how to scaffold student learning to reach these targets or design school‐wide acceleration programs to lift Māori and Pasifika student achievement of UE. Ensuring Māori and Pasifika students attain the UE Award can only be realised if the structural barriers (such as course design) are removed, and pedagogical practices are made more responsive to identified students’ needs. Our findings show that school improvement is complex at the best of times and the deeper the educational issue, such as the redistribution of opportunity and success, the more difficult it appears to be to make lasting change.


Dr Melinda Webber is an Associate Professorin the Faculty of Education at the University of Auckland, New Zealand. Melinda is a former Research Director for The Starpath Project. Phase three of the Starpath project worked with nine schools in Auckland and Northland to investigate the factors that enable Māori and Pasifika students to achieve University Entrance (UE).

Melinda is a former Fulbright/Nga Pae o te Maramatanga Indigenous Scholar who has published widely on the nature of ethnic identity development, examining the ways race, ethnicity, culture and identity impact the lives of young people ­ particularly Maori students. In 2016, Melinda was awarded an esteemed Marsden Fast-Start grant to undertake a research project examining the distinctive identity traits of Ngāpuhi, New Zealand’s largest iwi. In 2017, Melinda was awarded a prestigiousRutherford Discovery Fellowship to tackle an important question facing educators – ‘How can we foster cultural pride and academic aspiration among Māori students.