Nancy Tarawhiti

Nancy Tarawhiti

Assistant Professor, Brigham Young University – Hawaii
Doctor of Philosophy candidate


The chance to work with a leading authority on second language learning was a key reason she chose to complete her doctorate at AUT, says Nancy Tarawhiti.

“Because I am passionate about teaching English language learners and those who want to be teachers of English language learners, I wanted to learn from specific experts in our field. Therefore, I was pleased to be accepted as a PhD candidate at AUT, under the tutelage of Professor John Bitchener, my primary supervisor.

“I chose to obtain a PhD in English language teaching because I want to be an advocate for helping students of other languages be successful in their respective field of studies at English speaking universities. I also wanted to be an example for Māori women to take on and be successful in postgraduate studies. I would highly recommend this PhD programme because the staff are well-known and respected in the field of English language, and as a Māori, I felt a sense of belonging at AUT.”

Second language students and academic writing
For her doctoral thesis, Nancy explored how to support second language students with their academic writing.

“I’m researching the types of writing difficulties second language students struggle with when writing expository essays at an English speaking university, and proposing an approach that will address some of those writing difficulties immediately and long-term.”

She enjoys the depth of knowledge she has developed through this level of research, Nancy says.

“My research has motivated me to be a positive contributor to the field of second language teaching. I have become more aware of the pedagogical practices I employ in the classroom ensuring they are appropriate for the group of students that I am teaching.”

Sharing and support
AUT supported her with a very willing and patient supervisor, the AUT alumna says.

“I struggled with writing some of the chapters of my thesis, and, at times, I tried to do my PhD from overseas. Professor John Bitchener and the postgraduate staff supported me in various ways to address the challenges I encountered.”

Networking opportunities with other doctoral students also helped to make PhD study less isolating, she adds.

“Because PhD study has no coursework, it can be a lonely undertaking. To counter that, my supervisor organised monthly meetings where students could come together to discuss a PhD topic, and talk about their achievements and progress while enjoying a potluck dinner. This monthly meeting gave me a sense of belonging in the PhD community.”