Dr Claire Sinnema

EdD, MEdMgmt, BEd (Tchg), DipTchg, LTCL


Claire's research focuses on the improvement of teaching and learning across four main strands--educational leadership, curriculum, practitioner inquiry and standards—fields that each influence (albeit in different ways) the nature of student experience in schooling, and the quality of outcomes for diverse learners. Her research is concerned with understanding how teachers and educational leaders can improve their practice. It is also concerned with the role of policy in such improvement. As such, Claire’s research and advisory work spans the design of education-related policies, the enactment of those policies in educational settings, and the interactions amongst educators as they seek to improve teaching and learning.

Contexts for study have included teacher evaluation, evidence-informed collaborative inquiry, teacher's engagement with research evidence, principal and teacher goal-setting, educational leaders’ conversations aimed at addressing concerns or solving problems, teacher education graduate outcomes, and the national curriculum of New Zealand and other nations. Claire has carried out multiple national evaluations, including of the implementation of New Zealand’s national curriculum (2010), of the Teacher-Led Innovation Fund (2017), and of the International Baccalaureate Primary Years Programme in Aotearoa New Zealand (2015). She also co-led other Ministry of Education funded projects including the Quality Teaching Research and Development project (2010) and the Best Evidence Synthesis in Social Studies/Tikanga-a-iwi (2008).

Claire has served on numerous reference, advisory and expert groups for national education bodies including the New Zealand Ministry of Education, the New Zealand Council for Educational Research, The New Zealand Education Review Office, The New Zealand Teachers’ Council, and others. She has also carried out research and development and/or consultancy work related to Government initiatives in New Zealand and beyond, including South Australia, Wales and Norway.

Claire supervises Masters and Doctoral students and has a particular interest in qualitative, mixed methods and problem-based methodology/theory of action approaches. She led the Faculty of Education and Social Work’s 2015 EdD (Leadership) cohort.

Research | Current


- Problem-solving in educational contexts - resolving concerns

- Interpersonal skills/open-to-learning conversations

- Leadership effectiveness (progressions of leadership practice difficulty,and comparisons of perceptions of leadership effectiveness)

- Goal-setting and goal-achievement

- Teacher appraisal and evaluation


- The implementation of New Zealand's national curriculum

- Curricular comparisons - national curricula, and International Baccalaureate 

- Curriculum policy and design


- Teaching as inquiry

- Inquiry-oriented practice

- Evidence-informed practice (see, for example the Best Evidence Synthesis iteration on effective pedagogy in the Social Sciences with Associate Professor Graeme Aitken 


- Teaching standards - see, for example, the discussion paper on graduating teacher standards prepared for the New Zealand Ministry of Education

- International comparison of teaching standards

- Teaching for Better Learning (TBL): An inquiry-oriented approach to teaching standards



Teaching | Current

  • Research methods
  • Educational Leadership
  • Practitioner research
  • Practitioner inquiry

Postgraduate supervision

Supervision areas:  Curriculum (policy, implementation, design, comparisons); Leadership; Inquiry; Teaching as Inquiry; Teacher appraisal; Teaching Standards; Open to Learning Approaches; Evidence-informed practice; Social Sciences education. Methodologies:  Qualitative; Mixed methods; Problem-based methodology - educational problems of practice.

Completed supervisions:

Laycock, S. (2016). Leadership Approaches to Implementing Professional Learning Communities in Secondary Schools. ((MEd Ldshp Thesis), The University of Auckland.

Brown, J. (2016). Building Beginning Teachers’ Pedagogical Content Knowledge (PCK) Through Induction Programmes. (MProfStudies Dissertation), The University of Auckland.

Dickin, J. (2016). Success in boys' education. (MProfStudies Dissertation), The University of Auckland.

Robertson, Margaret. (2015). Associate teacher feedback to pre-service secondary teachers during practicum: the influence of an inquiry-oriented effective teaching model intervention. (MEd Ldshp Thesis), The University of Auckland.  

Hannah, Darren. (2015). Open To Learning Conversations in Different Language Paradigms. (MEd Ldshp Dissertation), The University of Auckland.  

Johnson, B. (2015). e-Portfolios: Empowering parents to engage with their child’s learning. (MEd Ldshp Thesis), The University of Auckland.  

Makin, Miranda. (2015). It is the conversations that matter: The nature and Influence of leader-teacher professional inquiry conversations. (MEd Ldshp Thesis), The University of Auckland.  

Mathews, P. (2014). Capturing the Realities of the Daily Time-use of School Principals. (MEd Ldshp Dissertation), The University of Auckland.  

Mathews, P. (2013). Issues Involved in Measuring the Time-Use of School Principals A Methodological Exploration. (MEd Ldshp Dissertation), The University of Auckland.  

Allen, S. (2013). The Influence of Talk in Professional Learning Communities. (MEd Ldshp Dissertation), The University of Auckland.  

Davison, M. D. (2013). “It is Really Hard Being in Their Shoes”: Developing Historical Empathy in Secondary School Students. (EdD Doctoral Thesis), The University of Auckland.

Jaggs, P. (2012). Improving experienced principals’ capabilities in dealing with staff performance issues. (MEd Thesis), The University of Auckland.  

Moselen, C. (2012). Is it all just Google?  The research behaviour of education masters students. (MEd Thesis), The University of Auckland.  

Niehaus, M. (2011). The relationship was between teachers’ interpretations of Values in the New Zealand Curriculum and their teaching practices. (MEd Dissertation), The University of Auckland.   

MEdLdshp - Class Placement of Pasifika Students

MEdLdshp - The approaches to and impact of schools approaches to engaging pasifik families

MEdLdshp -  Feedback to pre-service teachers not yet meeting expectations

MEdLdshp - Boys’ Engagement in Writing in Intermediate Schools.

Current supervisions:

PhD - Characterising the nature of 21st century food literacy

PhD - Open-to-learning conversations and their link to improving student achievement in reading

PhD - Distributed leadership and creative problem solving

PhD - Enhancing the effectiveness of teacher performance appraisal in higher education

PhD - Educational Assessment in Relation to Policy and Practitioner Culture: A Policy Case Study in the  Indonesian Education System

MEd -  Understanding the Theories of Action Underpinning the Foundation Year Curriculum Design at Cambodian Tertiary Institutions

EdD - Navigating across cultural contexts in open to learning approaches to address concerns in educational settings

EdD - Improving the leadership of inquiry conversations and their influence on practice

EdD - The impact of nursing education on patient outcomes

EdD - Opportunities to Learn to Write: Accounting Academics Approaches to Embedding and Giving Feedback on Writing

EdD - The identification and remediation of problems of clinical reasoning in undergraduate medical students

MEdLdshp - Resource Teachers of Learning and Behaviour (RTLB) implementing a collaborative-consultation model in casework

MEdLdshp - Patterns in educational leaders’ attempts at social problem solving

MEdLdshp - From Policy to Practice:  A comparative analysis of policy makers' and practitioners' theories of action in an educational improvement initiative



Selected invited keynote addresses

October, 2015 - Invited (by the Norwegian Secretariat) Keynote Address to Ludvigsen Committee Conference on Pupil’s learning in the School for the Future:  Curriculum Leadership in Times of Curriculum Change

March, 2013, Novotel Hotel, Rotorua - Invited Keynote Address to the He Kakano Conference: Teacher appraisal and inquiry-oriented conversations:  Sowing the seeds of appraisal for learning

November 2011, Copthorne Hotel, Waitangi - Invited Keynote Address to the Northland Principals’ New Zealand Curriculum Symposium: Beyond compliance in curriculum implementation: Attending to curriculum complexity, learner experience and theory engagement.

April 2011,Rosebank School - Invited Keynote Address to The Waitakere Area Schooling Improvement Project: Teaching as inquiry:  Strengthening Inquiring practice

April 2011, Crowne Plaza Hotel - Invited Keynote Address to the National Aspiring Principals' Programme (NAPP) Hui: Leading pedagogical change through inquiry.

 June 2009, Waipuna Hotel - Invited Addresses for the University of Auckland Centre for Educational Leadership Seminar Series: Leading the Curriculum" A Leadership and Teaching Framework for Improving Student Outcomes


Programme Leader of the 2015 cohort of the Doctor of Education (Leadership) offered by the School of Learning, Development and Professional Practice at the Faculty of Education and Social Work- http://www.education.auckland.ac.nz/en/about/programmes/postgraduate-programmes/edd-programme-home/inquiry-pathways/2015.html

This EdD (Leadership) aims to develop scholarly practitioners as they become leaders who are self-reflective, ethical and knowledgeable as they lead improvement that serves diverse communities and learners in Aotearoa/New Zealand. The programme is aimed at practitioners in diverse educational settings including early childhood, primary, secondary, tertiary and inclusive education contexts. In the EdD (Leadership) student carry out research that is ethical, rigorous and focused on problems of practice in order to contribute to educational improvement, make an original contribution to knowledge and engage with and serve relevant communities of practice.

This doctoral pathway is  for those who aspire to use and conduct empirical research to build their own and others’ educational leadership capability. Our concept of leadership includes both formal and informal leadership roles and is thus inclusive of all educators whether or not they hold a formal leadership role. There are nine EdD candidates in this cohort.

Areas of expertise

  • Educational leadership
  • Curriculum- design, policy and implementation
  • Policy - design, enactment and evaluation
  • Teaching standards
  • Pedagogy
  • Teaching as Inquiry/Practitioner Inquiry/Evidence-informed practice
  • Practitioner research
  • Teacher appraisal/Teacher evaluation

Committees/Professional groups/Services


  • Chair of the School of Learning, Development and Professional Practice Research Committee

  • Member of the University of Auckland Human Participants Ethics Committee

  • Member of the Faculty of Education and Social Work Research Committee

  • Member of the School of Learning, Development and Professional Practice Post-graduate Committee

  • Member of the University of Auckland Information Technology Faculties Forum


  • Member of the International Consortium on Schooling Effectiveness and Improvement (ICSEI) - www.icsei.net
  • Member of the American Educational Research Association (AERA) - www.aera.net
  • Member of the International Study Association on Teachers and Teaching (ISATT) - www.isatt.org

Advisory/Reference/Expert Groups

2015 – present   Member of the New Zealand Council for Educational Research and Ministry of Education Educational Leadership and Teaching Practices Advisory Group

2014  - 2015       Member of the Academic Experts Group for the New Zealand Education Review Office’s (ERO) review of Evaluation Indicators for School Reviews  

2014 – present   Academic Advisor to the Centre for Educational Leadership, The University of Auckland

2014 – present   Member of the Board of the Centre for Educational Leadership, The University of Auckland

2013                    The National Monitoring Study of Student Achievement -Social Sciences Panel for the Educational Assessment Research Unit at the University of Otago, in collaboration with the New Zealand Council for Educational Research

2011 – 2013        New Zealand Teachers’ Council –  Steering Group Member for Teacher Appriasal and the Registered Teacher Criteria

2011                    New Zealand Government Treasury – Advice on teacher evaluation policy and practice in New Zealand

2011 – present   Member of Learning Media Associates

2011 – 2013        Ministry of Education/Learning Media Ruia Appraisal Tools Advisory Group

2010 - 2012        Ministry of Education National Curriculum Advisory Group for the New Zealand Curriculum and National Standards

2010 - 2012        Lead consultant, Learning Media, Ruia: Tools to Support School Leaders Project for the Ministry of Education

2009 – 2010        Representative for the Ministry of Education on the Social Studies National Education Monitoring Project Team

2009                    Ministry of Education The New Zealand Curriculum Implementation National Advisory Group

2008 – 09            Ministry of Education Curriculum Implementation Materials Advisory Group

2008 – 09            Core Education Early Childhood Education Information and Communication Technology Professional Development Project Advisory Group (ECE ICT PD)

2008 – 09            Ministry of Education/Learning Media QTRD Publications Advisory Group

2008 – 09            Ministry of Education/Learning Media Social Sciences Publications Advisory Group

2008                    Cognition Consulting Social Sciences Resource Material Advisory Group

2006 - 07            Ministry of Education New Zealand Curriculum Project Reference Group

2006 - 07            Ministry of Education Social Studies in the New Zealand Curriculum Advisory Group

Selected publications and creative works (Research Outputs)

  • Sinnema, C. E., Meyer, F., & Aitken, G. (2017). Capturing the complex, situated and active nature of teaching through inquiry-oriented standards for teaching. Journal of Teacher Education, 68 (1), 9-27. 10.1177/0022487116668017
    URL: http://hdl.handle.net/2292/31933
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Graeme Aitken, Frauke Meyer
  • Sinnema, C. E. L., Ludlow, L., & Robinson, V. M. J. (2016). Educational Leadership Effectiveness: A Rasch Analysis. Journal of Educational Administration, 54 (3), 305-339. 10.1108/JEA-12-2014-0140
    URL: http://hdl.handle.net/2292/28599
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Viviane Robinson
  • Sinnema, C. (2015). The ebb and flow of curricular autonomy: Balance between local freedom and national prescription in curricula. In D. Wyse, L. Hayward, J. Pandya (Eds.) The SAGE Handbook of Curriculum, Pedagogy and Assessment (pp. 965-965). London.
  • Sinnema, C., & Aitken, G. A. (2015). Teaching as Inquiry. In M. Hill, D. Fraser (Eds.) The Professional Practice of Teaching in New Zealand (pp. 79-97). Cengage. Related URL.
    URL: http://hdl.handle.net/2292/27413
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Graeme Aitken, Mary Hill
  • Le Fevre, D. M., Robinson, V. M. J., & Sinnema, C. E. L. (2015). Genuine inquiry: Widely espoused yet rarely enacted. Educational Management Administration and Leadership, 43 (6), 883-899. 10.1177/1741143214543204
    URL: http://hdl.handle.net/2292/33126
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Viviane Robinson, Deidre Le Fevre
  • Sinnema, C. E., Robinson, V., Ludlow, L., & Pope, D. (2015). How Effective is the Principal? Discrepancy between Teachers’ and Principals’ Perceptions of Principal Effectiveness. Educational Assessment, Evaluation and Accountability, 27 (3), 275-301. 10.1007/s11092-014-9209-y
    URL: http://hdl.handle.net/2292/24315
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Viviane Robinson
  • Robinson, V. M. J., Sinnema, C. E. L., & Le Fevre, D. (2014). From Persuasion to Learning: An Intervention to Improve Leaders’ Response to Disagreement. Leadership and Policy in Schools, 13 (3), 260-296. 10.1080/15700763.2014.922997
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Viviane Robinson
  • Sinnema, C., & Aitken, G. (2014). Teachers’ use of research to improve practice: Why should we, how could we?. In A. St George, S. Brown, O'Neill J (Eds.) Facing the Big Questions in Teaching: Purpose, power and learning (pp. 146-153). North Shore, N.Z.: Cengage Learning. Related URL.
    URL: http://hdl.handle.net/2292/24750