Our people

The Starpath team consists of a group of leading educational quantitative and qualitative researchers. The team is supported by a Board of Governance consisting of senior representatives from The University of Auckland, The Manukau Institute of Technology and the Ministry of Education.

Deputy Director - Joy Eaton


BA, DipSM, DipTchg

Joy joined the Starpath team in early 2011 as Deputy Director. She started her career in education as a geography and social studies teacher at Tangaroa College and has since held a number of senior management roles in mid-low decile schools, including four years as principal at Henderson High School in West Auckland.

Joy has a deep academic interest in the role of hope in the sustainability of innovation and change in education and, as part of a Research Fellowship with Unitec, produced a paper entitled The Life and Death of Change. She was also invited to be part of an international research team making a comparative study of middle leadership in schools in New Zealand and the United Kingdom. Recently, Joy has been actively involved in environmental education and has continued to support community work with an interest in youth mentoring, teen parent education and the issues of deprivation that create barriers to school attendance.


Senior Research Fellow - Dr Irena Madjar



Qualitative Research Coordinator

Irena Madjar, a European New Zealander of Ruthenian background, has worked in nursing education and health research in New Zealand and Australia. Her particular area of expertise is in qualitative research methods and she has a long-standing interest in cross-cultural issues in health and education and in research ethics. She joined Starpath in 2007 and has led a small qualitative research team as well as providing support across the project as a whole.

Full list of publications


Senior Research Fellow - Dr Earl Irving


PhD, MEdAdmin(Hons), BA, BEd, DipTchg

Quantitative Research Coordinator

Earl Irving was a secondary mathematics teacher for 29 years, as well as a deputy principal for 13 of those years prior to joining The University of Auckland in 1999. He has extensive knowledge and experience in assessment as a School Certificate examiner in mathematics, and as a manager on Project asTTle for four years, with responsibility for item development and curriculum alignment. Earl has lectured on assessment to undergraduate and graduate courses, and is a co-author of a textbook on assessment and evaluation. He is involved in regular research around student conceptions of assessment, feedback and learning, using survey methodologies and quantitative analysis.



Researcher - Dr Melinda Webber


PhD, MEd(1st class Hons), BEd, PGDipEd

Melinda Webber joined the Starpath team as a qualitative researcher at the start of Phase Two. She has many years experience as a primary school teacher, lecturer and researcher. Her research interests relate to the study of racial-ethnic identity development, Māori conceptions of giftedness and educational social-psychology. The focus of her doctoral research was the role of racial-ethnic identity among young adolescents who attend large, multi-ethnic urban high schools in New Zealand.

In 2008 Melinda published a book based on her masters research entitled Walking the Space Between: Identity and Māori/Pākehā. Melinda is also engaged in research in her tribal area of Rotorua and is a member of the research consortium Te Ara a Ihenga which is committed to examining the factors that impact Māori student success in the Rotorua district.


Researcher - Dr Andrés Santamaría



Andrés P. Santamaría is a researcher for the Starpath Project, a lecturer for Educational Leadership courses in the School of Learning, Development and Professional Practice, and an Open-to-learning™ accredited facilitator for The University of Auckland Centre for Educational Leadership.   

His research agenda focuses on low-decile, secondary school community engagement, strategic planning and professional development to improve Māori and Pasifika student achievement and access to tertiary education and postsecondary career pathways; school leadership for Māori success as Māori; and leadership for social justice and equity.  In 2012, Andrés and his wife Dr Lorri Santamaría published a book entitled Applied Critical Leadership in Education: Choosing Change, which explores a leadership model they developed arising from critical theory and critical pedagogy traditions and makes leadership for social justice accessible, feasible, and more practical for aspiring and practicing leaders alike.

Prior, Andrés served as a Primary School Principal for six years in San Diego, California.  His leadership practice concentrated on improving school outcomes for culturally and linguistically diverse students while navigating NCLB school accountability measures.  Andrés began his professional career as an intermediate science teacher followed by five years as a primary and intermediate level special education teacher.