Prof John O'Neill

Prof John O'Neill staff profile picture

Associate Director (Research)

Institute of Education

Telephone: +64 (06) 356 9099  ext. 84384

Other contact details

Room 2.21, Institute of Education, Turitea
Ph: +64 6 356 9099 x84384


Professional Biography

I have lived in New Zealand and worked at Massey University since 1994. Previously I lectured at Leicester University in England, following ten years as a teacher of students with special educational needs in primary and secondary schools.

For several years I was an elected Council member of the New Zealand Association for Research in Education, I have served as an invited member on the Marsden Fund Social Sciences Panel and the Performance Based Research Fund (PBRF).

In 2012 I received the Teacher Education Forum of Aotearoa New Zealand career excellence award and a Massey University Research Excelelnce medal.


  • Doctor of Philosophy - Massey University (2001)

Research Expertise

Research Interests

A major strand of my research for over twenty years has been the relationships between education policy and teachers' work and learning. There are two key questions here.

  • First, how do politicians and officials attempt to persuade teachers of the value of new policies, and support them to change their practices?
  • Second, how do teachers mediate, or respond to official policy mandates?

The first requires examination of policy trajectories: how do particular aspects of education get framed as 'problems' or 'crises' that government needs to address, what language and processes are used to frame policy options and on what basis does the preferred policy option get selected? Then, how does the machinery of government, the polity, gear up to persuade teachers that it is in their interests to change their customary ways of teaching and interacting with students?

The second looks at the extent to which, and how, teachers and their representatives respond to policy. Do they change? On what basis do they accept new education policy as valuable, or not? How long does it take for policy to change teaching and learning practices? Whcih policies are beneficial, and which harmful?

Papers on these questions have been published in Teaching and Teacher Education, Journal of Educational Administration and History, Journal of Education Policy, Cambridge Journal of Education, Educational Research and Learning Culture and Social Interaction.

For the last ten years, I have had a leadership role in research ethics both within the university and, more recently, the New Zealand Association for Research in Education. The issues that interest me here concern:

  • the place of ethics in the modern enterprise university;
  • the relationship between institutional ethics committees, researchers and their disciplinary norms; and
  • applied professional ethics in education (researchers and practitioners).

Papers on these issues have been published in the International Journal of Research and Method in Education, Educational Action Research, Ethics and Education and Education Policty Futures.

I am developing research programmes in four areas:

  1. Teaching and learning in everyday activities and settings
  2. Educational charities
  3. Oral histories of teachers' lives, work and careers
  4. The quality of education policy advice

Research Opportunities

  • Teaching and Learning in Everyday Activities and Settings  (Ongoing) This research project explores how people learn in their everyday lives and the relationships between individual learning and family, neighbourhood and local community resources.
  • Oral Histories of Teachers  (Ongoing) This research project aims to build a national oral history archive of New Zealand teachers' work.
  • Educational Charities  (Ongoing) This research project aims to examine the extent to which educational charities fulfil their objectives and provide a public benefit, and to document their networks of influence.


21st Century Citizenship

Area of Expertise

Field of Research Codes
Education (130000): Education Systems (130100): Educational Administration, Management and Leadership (130304): Specialist Studies in Education (130300): Teacher Education and Professional Development of Educators (130313)

Research Projects

Current Projects

Project Title: Research Medal 2012 - Supervisor - Teaching and Learning in community newspapers

This study is part of a larger research project on teaching and learning in everyday activities and settings in the city of Palmerston North This contributing project involves search, retrieval and storage of articles from local community newspaper microfiche archives in the City Library. The purpose of the search is to permit analysis the frequency and variety of non-formal and informal teaching and learning activities offered in the community, and how these may have changed across several decades. As a result of the analysis it should also be possible to map the availability of these activities in different localities within the city and to make preliminary assessments of the 'learning capital' that may exist at the neighbourhood level.
Read Project DescriptionHide Project Description

Date Range: 2013 - 2014

Funding Body: Massey University

Project Team:

Supervision and Teaching

Papers Coordinated

Current Postgraduate Supervision

Supervisor of:

  • Moshi Mislay - PhD
    An analysis of the transition from state production and redistribution of curricular resources to market co-ordination in secondary education in Tanzania

CoSupervisor of:

  • Ryan Morrison - Doctor of Education
    Adult and community education: Lifelong learning

Completed Postgraduate Supervision

Supervisor of:

  • 2013 - Judith Donaldson- PhD
    Between Two Worlds: Tensions of Practice Encountered by Secondary School Music Teachers in Aotearoa New Zealand
  • 2010 - Zoe Brooks- Doctor of Education
    Assessing creativity: Teachers' perceptions of the effect of the National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) on teaching and learning in the secondary drama classroom in New Zealand
  • 2010 - Kama Weir- PhD
    Teaching health education in New Zealand secondary schools: Policy into practice
  • 2009 - Rowena Taylor- Doctor of Education
    Teachers¿ Conflicting Responses to Change: An Evaluation of the Implementation of Senior Social Studies for the NCEA, 2002-2006..
  • 2009 - Mandia Mentis- PhD
    A teacher's research journey into e-learning: Aligning technology, pedagogy and context
  • 2008 - Brian Finch- Doctor of Education
    Children's film viewing practices: A qualitative investigation into engagement with a feature film

CoSupervisor of:

  • 2013 - Ahmad Zabidi Abdul Razak- PhD
    Learning about teachers' resilience: Perceptions, challenges and strategies of policy implementation in two secondary schools in Malaysia
  • 2012 - Jennifer Boyack- PhD
    Singing A Joyful Song: An Exploratory Study of Primary School Music Leaders in Aotearoa New Zealand
  • 2011 - Anne-Grete Elliot- Doctor of Education
    From preservice teacher education to the primary classroom: An investigation into beginning teachers' experiences with information and communication technology.
  • 2008 - Patricia Stringer- Doctor of Education
    Capacity Building for School Improvement: A Case Study of a New Zealand Primary School
  • 2007 - Judie Alison- PhD
    Mind the Gap! Policy Change in Practice. School Qualifications Reform in New Zealand, 1970-2002
  • 2005 - Mr David James Chapman- PhD
    Education for the Environment: Towards Teacher Empowerment.

Media and Links


  • 11 Aug 2013 - Newspaper
    Top tips on how to pick a school
    Feature in Sunday Star Times p. A11 Advice to parents selecting secondary schools for their children

Contact UsMon - Fri 8:30am to 4:55pm0800 MASSEY (+64 6 350 5701)TXT chatMyMasseyStaffAlumniNewsMāori @ Massey