Current research in education

This page outlines some of the diverse research being undertaken by academic staff in the AUT School of Education.

The political economy of education

Professor Nesta Devine's current research is 'The political economy of education'. There are so many beliefs, traditions, interests, and assumptions that go into the fabric of our education system. Professor Devine likes to take things apart and question them.

She is particularly interested in ideas concerning subjectivity, particularly about how people from different political, theoretical, historical, cultural and even disciplinary traditions see the ‘subject’ – the person. And how does ‘education’ operate upon that ‘person’?

Other research by Professor Nesta Devine

Professor Devine is engaged in several studies: some have to do with the nature of philosophy of education: particularly how it functions as a discipline, and how it relates to ideas of education as emancipatory and transformative. She is also engaged in thinking about the nature of doctoral studies, both in the form of the education PhD and the Doctor of Education degree.

Te reo Māori in the academy

In this Marsden-funded research project, Associate Professor Georgina Stewart is exploring several aspects of the role played by te reo Māori in the academy, including: the challenges and potential benefits of writing doctoral thesis research in Māori; the history of academic writing in Māori; and the relevance of Māori-medium scholarship to the larger goals of biculturalism and bilingualism in Aotearoa-New Zealand.

Perspectives on curriculum, teachers’ work and flexible spaces

Dr Leon Benade develops a critique of aspects of The New Zealand Curriculum, including Teaching as Inquiry, the status of knowledge and the influence of educational reform on the ethical context of teachers’ work. The central focus of his research is on the discourse of ‘21st-century learning’, and the development of new pedagogical approaches, digital use and flexible learning environments (‘ILE’). He applies a critical philosophical, theoretical and policy perspective to these issues. Recent research projects have included:

  • The transition of teachers’ work from traditional to modern/flexible/innovative modes;
  • Community consultation in the planning, execution and development of flexible and innovative learning spaces and practices.

Mindfulness in schools

Dr Ross Bernay’s research focuses on mindfulness to enhance wellbeing of teachers and students.  Initial research identified the benefits of using the Pause Breathe Smile programme for children in primary schools in New Zealand.

Dr Bernay has published articles in the Australian Journal of Teacher Education, New Zealand Journal of Teachers Work, and Advances in School Mental Health Promotion.

His current research focuses on partnerships between universities and schools in initial teacher education and the potential of mindfulness as an underpinning philosophy for school culture rather than an add-on stress reduction strategy.

Mobilising Critical Education Research

This strand of work examines the interface between critical educational research and policy. Dr Ruth Boyask is currently working on the first case study of a series, which will develop iteratively in response to issues arising in the first case study. This case examines the significance of critical research to making policy that addresses student attainment outcomes in North of England schooling. It follows the progress of prominent educational researchers in engaging with policy makers around research findings.

Dr Boyask says: "I have two larger aims to which this case study will contribute: the first is to make a substantive contribution to knowledge of how those outside of educational research perceive critical research in education and the processes that are either enabling or limiting its uptake for informing policy and practice.

"The second aim is to contribute this knowledge to the development of an embedded and sustainable infrastructure for mobilising educational research, where socially critical research plays a substantial role."

Dramatic inquiry

Dr Carrie Swanson is exploring the use of the dramatic inquiry approach Mantle of the Expert to teach science at years 7/8.

Creating communities of creativity

In a TLIF-funded project, Dr Neil Boland looks at establishing ‘communities of creativity’ in early childhood settings. He investigates how teachers develop their own creativity and the effect enhanced creativity has on themselves and their well-being. The project documents if and how enriched creativity affects teachers’ pedagogy and whether this influences teachers’ perceptions of children’s creativity.

Children’s participation in decision-making in primary schools

Alison Smith's current research employs a case study approach to critically examine the nature, extent and potential of children’s involvement in school decision-making, with a particular focus on student leadership roles and student ‘councils’. The study is framed by considerations of social justice and democratic schooling.

Narrative approaches to good reading

We know a significant amount about what it is good readers do while they are reading, including the types of strategies they use and the broad processes they use to control the use of those strategies in their development of comprehension and understanding of text. Less is known about how that process is orchestrated by individuals and the different paths by which those individuals come to an understanding of the texts they read. This research aims to shed light on individual reading styles through taking a narrative approach to describing individuals’ reading processes.

The lived experiences of teachers as inquiring practitioners

Since 2016 Dr Jyoti Jhagroo has been researching the lived experiences of first year practitioners in the school context from a phenomenological perspective. This study continues to create opportunities for her [together with her colleague, Dr Patricia Stringer] to be part of the conversation of practitioner-based research on different platforms. This research contributes to the discussions of ongoing professional learning for practitioners through self-initiated inquiries of their practice.

Leadership and collaboration in and across schools

Since 2015 Dr Howard Youngs has worked with Maggie Ogram from Osprey Consulting facilitating leadership development for the Eastern Learning Network of schools in Auckland. This has afforded him opportunity (along with his colleague Dr Patricia Stringer) to engage in some long term research where they employ a range of data collecting tools.

The research focuses on collaboration, inquiry and leadership practices that endeavour to support enhanced learning for students and the adults who directly or indirectly are engaged with the students.

Girls, sexualities and schooling

Toni Ingram's current research employs a feminist new materialist approach to explore the relations in-between girls, sexuality and the school ball. The aim of the study is to explore the becoming of the school ball-girl through dynamic entanglements of things, bodies, discourses, spaces and imaginings.

Pre-service teachers’ perceptions of social justice

Dr Sue Sutherland’s current research examines the development of professional identities of pre-service teachers from two Masters of Teaching programmes which have particular emphasis on learning to work with priority learners. The study investigates considerable variations in the development of the socially just teacher drawing on an adaptive expertise framework for conceptualising effective teaching. Notions of situating professional knowledge, practice and sense of self as a teacher within wider professional, social, political, economic and cultural contexts are examined.

Bicultural early childhood education

An overarching theme in Dr Chris Jenkin’s research is the implementation of the bicultural early childhood curriculum, with a current focus on the history of this topic in initial early childhood teacher education programmes.

Dr Chris Jenkin is engaged in several studies; many as collaborative research with colleagues including the benefits and challenges of cross cultural supervision, the ethics of practitioner research and the place of administrators in supporting postgraduate international students.

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