Noella’s  research focuses on literacy teaching and learning and in particular writing  acquisition. Previous projects at the master and doctoral levels examined  issues relating to teacher professional learning, teacher morale, the status of  the teaching profession and the impact of extrinsic teaching awards on  recipients and their non-recipient colleagues. Current research projects are  focused on writing acquisition and the relationship between success with early  writing and ongoing literacy development with a particular focus on the  relationship between talking, drawing and writing.

Current and Recently Completed Projects

Building adaptive expertise in the teaching of writing through deepening pedagogy, identifying teachable moments and evaluating impact (2019)

Project commissioned and funded by NSW Department of Education (DoE)

The Project:  Noella Mackenzie (CI)

The project will provide 26 NSW Department of Education schools with the opportunity to re-visit their approaches to the teaching of writing in the first three years of school; to trial alternative ways of approaching this important topic and to research the outcomes. Fifty-five schools volunteered for participation in this project. Twenty-five schools were selected by the DoE.

Memory Performance after Writing: A comparison between taking notes by handwriting and typing on a laptop or tablet (2019)

The Project:

Richard Tindle: Faculty of Business, Justice and Behavioural Sciences, School of Psychology, CSU

Noella Mackenzie: Faculty of Arts and Education, School of Education, CSU

Mitchell Longstaff: School of Health and Human Sciences, Southern Cross University.

The research will:

  1. Replicate the Mangen, Anda, Oxborough, & Brønnick 2015 study with an extended sample and build on these earlier findings by using a more stringent method and generalisable sample.
  2. Compare students’ (aged 15+) memory, and comprehension of lecture content after taking notes by handwriting, typing (laptop and tablet), or not take any notes – just listening. This will identify what mode of note-taking is best for students to retain information.
  3. Examine the quality of note-taking and the fluency of handwriting and typing (e.g., speed). We will identify if students’ learning ability will benefit from improving their handwriting and typing skills within the classroom

Best Advice: Leading learning improvement handwriting and keyboarding

Project commissioned by Department for Education and Child Development, S.A. (2018)

Noella M Mackenzie (CI)

Topic and rationale: The teaching of handwriting and keyboarding are currently at the front of many educative agendas. Should we swap handwriting for keyboarding? Should we integrate instruction in handwriting and keyboarding? At what age should we introduce keyboard skills? What difference does it make to students, teachers and schools? Recent data from Australian teachers and parents inform this paper.

Handwriting and Keyboarding in Victorian Primary Schools (2017/2018)

Project commissioned by the Victorian DET

The Project: Phase 1: Noella M Mackenzie (lead CI) in collaboration with the Victorian DET.

Project will identify and explore what is happening in schools which are integrating the teaching of handwriting and keyboarding in the early years of schooling.

The Project: Phase 2: Noella M Mackenzie (lead CI) in collaboration with the Victorian DET.

Project aims to explore best practice in the integrated teaching of handwriting and keyboarding in the early years in Victorian schools. This includes identifying ‘lighthouse’ schools in Victoria.

Working Above Standard Project (WASP): A St Mary’s School, Myrtleford and CSU Research Collaboration (2017)

Research Team:

St Mary’s School (Partner Investigators):

  • Ashley Marsh (Principal)
  • Gab Jackson (Deputy Principal: Learning & Teaching)
  • Leigh Corcoran (Grade 3/4 Teacher)

CSU Researchers (Chief Investigators – CIs):

  • Dr Noella Mackenzie (Albury), Senior Lecturer in Literacy Education
  • Dr Lena Danaia (Bathurst), Lecturer in Science Education
  • Dr Amy MacDonald (Albury), Senior Lecturer in Early Childhood Mathematics Education
  • Ass Pro Christine Edwards-Groves (Wagga Wagga), Associate Professor in Literacy Studies


The Working Above Standard research project aims to explore what is happening for students at St Mary’s Primary School in Myrtleford, VIC who are or at some stage in their primary school career have been identified as working above standard in literacy and/or numeracy, in particular, why as a group these students do not maintain expected growth on measures of literacy and numeracy (e.g. NAPLAN at Year 3, 5 and 7).

Definition of Working Above Standard for the purpose of this proposal: Students will be considered as working above standard if, based on available school data (Observation Survey, PAT or NAPLAN) they are working 12 months or more above their grade level.

Assessing Children as Effective Communicators in Childhood Education and Care: Literature Review (2017)

Project commissioned by the VCAA

CIs: Christine Edwards-Groves (Lead CI); Christina Davidson; Noella M Mackenzie; Sharynne McLeod; and Sarah Verdon

The Project: The aim of this project is to review the literature regarding the assessment of children as effective communicators in the early years (birth to eight years) and identify assessment/screening tools that are suitable to be used by early childhood educators to screen the communication of children.


Handwriting and Keyboarding in Year 7: Talking to Students and Teachers (2017)

A CSU and Trinity Anglican College (Albury) Research Collaboration

CIsN.M. Mackenzie (Lead CI); R. Spokes (CSU); Trinity Anglican College Principal, Mr Justin Beckett

The Project: This small pilot study seeks input from a cohort of year 7 students in one school (Trinity AC) around their needs in terms of handwriting and keyboarding skills in their first year of high school. The Study will also seek input from year 7 teachers from the school in regard to the skills they expect students to have in terms of keyboarding and handwriting when they start high school.

Handwriting  and the 21st century curriculum (2016/2017)

A two-part  process with multiple stages.  The central focus on understanding and  supporting young writers. The project builds on previous research focused on  early writing.

Part 1: Becoming a  Writer: the place of handwriting in early years classrooms – 2016 in Australia
Co-Investigators: Dr Noella Mackenzie, CSU; Ass  Prof Janet Scull, Monash University, Collaborator: Dr Terry Bowles  University of Melbourne.

Part 2:   weWrite: writing in early primary education [weWrite: Kirjoittaminen ja  näppäintaito alkuopetuksessa] – 2016 in Finland
Co-Investigators: Dr Noella Mackenzie, CSU, Dr  Tuija Turunen, University of Lapland, Finland.

Understanding  and supporting young writers (2015)

Chief Investigator: Dr Noella Mackenzie (CSU)
Associate researchers: Ms C Phillips and Ms M Bishop (VCAA).

Understanding and supporting young writers examined approaches to the teaching of writing in the final year of preschool and the  first year of school; measured the impact of different approaches to teaching young writers and investigated the role of children’s drawing in early writing  instruction. This project addressed an important concern for Australia in current times given that ‘literacy under-achievement has high social and economic costs’ (Department of Education, Science and Training, 2005, p. 7).

*Report, video for Early Childhood Professionals and Parents, and brochure for parents

Exploring  writing in year 1 (2013 – ongoing)

Exploring writing in year 1 was launched with two separate  but connected projects in 2010. The first project involved an exploration of  writing in year 1 in Victoria and NSW. Samples of writing from 1700 year 1  children were gathered and analysed using an analysis tool developed for this  purpose. The second project involved writing and Reading Recovery which is the  highly regarded early literacy intervention which is implemented at year 1  level in many schools.
Investigators: Dr Noella Mackenzie (CSU), Ass  Prof Janet Scull (Monash University), Dr Terry Bowles (University of Melbourne)  and Ms Lynne Munsie (NSW DEC)

In 2013  1000 samples were analysed to form base data for a number of publications.  Quantitative and qualitative methods of data collection and analysis are  applied to the studies outlined above.

Writing  analysis tool

The analysis tool used  in the study and has proven useful to teachers in  classrooms is available here.

0-3  Literacy Project (2015/2016)

This  project addresses a gap in early literacy research by examining Early Childhood  Educators and parents understandings of how to support the literacy learning  and in particular the emergent writing, of children 3 years and younger.
Co-investigators: Dr Noella Mackenzie, Dr Laura McFarland and Ms Natalie Thompson.

Becoming  a writer (2007- 2011)

Becoming a writer (in the first year of formal schooling) began in  2007 and has a particular focus on the relationship between talking, drawing  and early writing. An exciting professional outcome of the Becoming a Writer  Research has been the development of resources to be used by schools with  parents of children starting school.