Faculty of Education and Social Work

CRUAT Research Projects

Creative Research Initiative

Funded by a generous gift by the Chartwell Trust, the three year cross faculty project lead by Professor O’Connor aims:

  • To deepen understanding of the creative process through multi- and transdisciplinary research.
  • To develop a self-sustaining and growing team of researchers and teachers in the creative process at the University of Auckland.
  • To engage in world-leading cutting edge research on the role and place of the creative process in education.
  • To develop novel research measures of the creative environment.
  • To disseminate research in a way that can most usefully inform academic debate and inform and influence business leaders and government policy makers.


Creative Schools Initiative

This initiative involves senior academics and researchers from the Universities of Auckland, Sydney and Monash. Central to the project is the development of a robust measure of creative environments in schools. The intention is to develop an index using quantitative data which can be used to inform government policy on education whilst simultaneously providing support to make schools more creative places. This project is therefore at the very forefront of research on creativity and schools.

More importantly aggregation of the School’s Creative index will provide information on the relationship between creativity and student achievement. The project aims to be scalable at a level where policy arguments can be made on the interconnectedness of the environment for creativity and achievement in the key areas of literacy and numeracy and student motivation. A statistically reliable index will build on the qualitative research that has recognised the interrelationship for many years and will speak more readily to government education policy makers.


Tuhia ki te ao - Write to the natural world

Dr Molly Mullen is currently part of the research team for Tuhia ki te ao - Write to the natural world. This TLRI funded project explores how people communicate a relationship and kinship with the natural world within the secondary school context. Through the project the research team will gain understanding of how literacy shapes a sense of our place in the world - our environment, our culture and our identity. Molly is focused on teaching and learning about ecological sustainability within the arts learning area of the New Zealand Curriculum.


Selected past projects

Teaspoon of light

Teaspoon of Light

CRUAT was involved in schools immediately following the February earthquakes in Christchurch. It ran workshops with children as they returned to schools and also training workshops with teachers. The Teaspoon of Light Theatre in Education Company was established through funding and support from UNESCO, The Mental Health Foundation and Norcross Print. In 2012 it worked with nearly 4000 Year 3-5 children in the most quake affected areas of Christchurch.  Ongoing support from UNESCo allowed the project to take other forms over the next two years.

An academic account of the project can be found in O'Connor, P. (2013) Theatre in Education: The Pedagogic as the Aesthetic in a Crumbling World. In: Jackson, T; Vine, C. (Eds.). Learning Through Theatre. 3rd Edition, New York, Routledge. (p.305-321).

Documentation and critical reflections on this project can be found here:



World Vision Australia: Young Mob Evaluation Project

In partnership with the University of Sydney, applied theatre processes were used as the basis of a research report on the progress and future plans for Young Mob, a programme for aboriginal youth leaders in Sydney, Australia.  To find out more see Anderson, M. & O'Connor, P. (2013). Applied Theatre as Research: provoking the possibilities. Applied Theatre Research Volume 1, Number 2, pp. 189-202.


Romeo and juliet

Romeo and Juliet in Youth Justice

The project involved the setting up and running of a multi arts programme in an Auckland youth justice setting. It used Romeo and Juliet as a framing device. The research looks at how the creation of powerful moments of beauty has the potential to shift the culture of detaining institutions.

A detailed description of the project was published in O’Connor, P. and Mullen, M. (2011). Prison theatre: Letting the light in to disciplinary relationships. NJ The Journal of Drama Australia,35.