Academic given royal recognition

Dr David Mitchell presenting his work in The Netherlands during a lecture tour of Europe.

Dr David Mitchell presenting his work in The Netherlands during a lecture tour of Europe.

Dr David Mitchell of Pegasus, North Canterbury, is to become an officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit (ONZM).

Mitchell's work in education is internationally renowned, with his books being published in many languages. His teaching methods have influenced education policies such as Special Education 2000, introduced in the 1997 New Zealand Government budget.

After working as a primary school teacher and then school psychologist in Gisborne, Mitchell became interested in improving the way education was delivered to the ethnically, culturally and socio-economically diverse classrooms of New Zealand. It was a field he further delved into as a lecturer at Waikato University.

"I've always had an interest in children who are disadvantaged and what education could and should be doing to give them a better chance in life," Mitchell said.

His work focussed on teaching children from diverse backgrounds and abilities in the same classroom by implementing scientifically proven teaching methods to help kids achieve in their education. 

"That's what's caught on in Europe, they want to know the evidence. Teachers are not very good at following research and my mission is to translate research into readable, practical ideas. Giving them the essence of what the research is saying." 

His appointment as an ONZM is in recognition for his work in inclusive education and developing strategies to provide education to children with special needs.

Mitchell's latest work Diversities in Education has recently been published in the United Kingdom and is being translated into Danish, Swedish, Dutch and Italian.

"Several countries are using my books, they buy up a heap of them and distribute them to teachers. For example in Sweden, I was lecturing there to 4000 teachers last year."

While a consultant with UNESCO, Mitchell developed education for special needs children in countries like India, China, Thailand, Ethiopia and Kazakhstan.

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His previous book What Really Works in Special Education: Using Evidence–Based Teaching Strategies has been translated into six languages and sold more than 13,000 copies.

That the book and his methods were popular in Arabic countries surprised Mitchell considering the cultural divide.

"If you think of the cultural differences between somewhere like Saudi Arabia and New Zealand, they're very big. But they love the book." 

Mitchell said he had heard that schools in Europe and Australia were putting his ideas into practice and reporting positive results.   

In future, Mitchell said he hoped his recent work would further influence New Zealand education, including investigating what effects in the "wider society" had negative impacts on the education of disadvantaged kids and what could be done to remedy them.

"You just can't take a little bit and think you can bring about change. You've got to look outside the school gate." 

Mitchell will leave on another lecture tour of Europe in April.

 - Stuff


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