Our campuses are currently closed to the public. Visit www.massey.ac.nz/coronavirus for our COVID-19 updates

Prof John O'Neill staff profile picture

Contact details +64 (06) 356 9099  ext. 84384

Prof John O'Neill

Head of the Institute of Education

Institute of Education

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.


Contact details

  • Ph: +64 6 356 9099 x84384
    Location: 2.21, Institute of Education
    Campus: Turitea

Prizes and Awards

  • Awarded Honorary Life Membership, New Zealand Association for Research in Education, November 2017 - New Zealand Association for Research in Education (2017)
  • Appointed by Minister of Education to the Independent Taskforce to Review Tomorrow's Schools - Office of the Minister of Education (2018)

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

Summary of Research Projects

Position Current Completed
Not Specified 1 1
Project Leader 3 8

Current Projects

Project Title: TLRI: The impact of Children's everyday learning on teaching and learning in classrooms and across schools

We aim to develop a deep understanding of how Year 5 students learn informally in their everyday lives outside school. This knowledge will be used to support teachers across 2 schools to develop and trial classroom pedagogies that are informed by their students' informal learning strengths. By year 3 of the research, these teachers will support other teachers across another 4 schools to access and use the evidence-based resources developed to harness children's informal learning pedagogies and interests. This project explores how the knowledge of children's informal learning outside of school can enhance teaching and learning practice in the classroom. The first year researches young people's informal learning communities (ILCs). Year 5 students will develop rich media informal learning autobiographies that contribute directly to an Ako Manga professional learning process for their teachers. The second year continues the Ako Manga and the ongoing exploration of informal learning outside of school. It focuses on the teachers' experiences of incorporating informal learning (activities, pedagogies and assessments) into formal learning contexts alongside and for their students. The third year of the project involves teachers working across schools to explore whether multiple teacher communities can learn to adapt pedagogical practice across schools.
Read Project Description Hide Project Description

Date Range: 2014 - 2019

Funding Body: New Zealand Council For Educational Research

Project Team:

Completed 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 Description Hide Project Description

Date Range: 2013 - 2014

Funding Body: Massey University

Project Team:

Research Outputs

Teaching and Supervision

Courses Coordinated

  • 258.721 Teaching Students with Literacy Learning Difficulties
  • 259.772 Theory and Process in Educational Leadership
  • 267.781 Research Methods in Professional Practice
  • 267.792 Research Exercise

Summary of Doctoral Supervision

Position Current Completed
Supervisor 2 10
Co-supervisor 0 7

Current Doctoral Supervision

Supervisor of:

  • Huidan Niu - Doctor of Philosophy
    The professional role of teacher unions in NZ
  • Anne-Marie O'Neill - Doctor of Philosophy
    The Politics of Curriculum Change in Aotearoa New Zealand

Completed Doctoral Supervision

Supervisor of:

  • 2018 - Linda Warner - Doctor of Philosophy
    Uncovering everyday learning and teaching within the quilting community of Aotearoa New Zealand
  • 2016 - Moshi Mislay - Doctor of Philosophy
    The Politics of Teachers' Work in the Context of Curriculum Resources Marketisation Policy Reforms in Three Secondary Schools in Tanzania
  • 2016 - Derek Morrison - Doctor of Education
    Exploring New Zealand's Rural Education Activities Programmes (REAPs): Social Capital in a Lifelong Learning and Community Development Context
  • 2016 - Carmen Denekamp - Doctor of Education
    The Development of L2 Arab Writers' Proficiency: Autonomy, Online Self-Access Centres, and Advisement
  • 2013 - Judith Donaldson - Doctor of Philosophy
    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 - Doctor of Philosophy
    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 - Doctor of Philosophy
    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

Co-supervisor of:

  • 2014 - Marilyn Innes - Doctor of Philosophy
    Tomorrows School : Todays Industry. Economic agendas and competitive forces in global education: New Zealand and South Korea
  • 2013 - Ahmad Zabidi Abdul Razak - Doctor of Philosophy
    Learning about teachers' resilience: Perceptions, challenges and strategies of policy implementation in two secondary schools in Malaysia
  • 2012 - Jennifer Boyack - Doctor of Philosophy
    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 - Doctor of Philosophy
    Mind the Gap! Policy Change in Practice. School Qualifications Reform in New Zealand, 1970-2002
  • 2005 - David Chapman - Doctor of Philosophy
    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

Massey Contact Centre Mon - Fri 8:30am to 4:30pm 0800 MASSEY (+64 6 350 5701) TXT 5222 contact@massey.ac.nz Web chat Staff Alumni News Māori @ Massey