Mrs Maria Rose Cooper

MEd (1st class hons), PGDipEd, BCom, DipTchg (ECE)


Maria Cooper teaches and researches in the School of Learning, Development and Professional Practice. Her in-progress doctoral research focuses on collective leadership in the context of infant-toddler education and care. Her research/teaching interests include educational leadership, infant-toddler curriculum and pedagogy, Pasifka/diverse learners, and teacher-family collaboration. Maria is current co-editor of The First Years Ngā Tau Tuatahi NZ Journal of Infant and Toddler Education and co-director of the Early Childhood Seminar Series. She is also a fully registered teacher and experienced teacher registration/certification mentor. Maria is of Samoan/Czech heritage and was born and raised in New Zealand.

Research | Current

Maria's research specialisation is early childhood education and leadership. Her research projects are based on qualitative methodologies and sociocultural/cultural historical activity theoretical frameworks, inspired by the work of Lev Vygotsky, Barbara Rogoff, Yrjö Engestrom and Anne Edwards. Maria's research projects cover a range of topics including everyday collective leadership, sociocultural assessment, teachers’ pedagogical content knowledge, children’s interests and inquiries, working theories and learning dispositions, and early childhood academics as storytellers and everyday leaders.

Maria was co-investigator (with AP Helen Hedges and teacher-researchers) on a two-year Teaching and Learning Research Initiative project (2012-2014) titled Inquiring minds, meaningful responses: Children's interests, inquiries and working theories.

Teaching | Current

Maria teaches within the Faculty's early childhood programmes at the undergraduate, graduate and postgraduate levels. Current courses include:

  • Infant Care and Education (undergraduate - course director)
  • Te Whāriki for Diverse Learners (undergraduate - course director)
  • Assessment for Learning and Teaching (undergraduate - lecturer)
  • Early Years Curriculum (graduate - lecturer)
  • Learning and Teaching in the First Years (postgraduate - course director)
  • Early Childhood Leadership (postgraduate - course director)

Postgraduate supervision

Current postgraduate supervision:

  • Joanne Bagley - Leadership and management in ECE
  • Selina Tonkin - Quality education and care for children up to three
  • Natalie Donald - Leadership and emotional labour in ECE
  • Steph Chen - Teaching practice for Chinese immigrant children’s learning in NZ ECE
  • Carol Wallace Bateman - Chinese immigrant families' aspirations in ECE

Previous postgraduate supervision topics

  • Children's transition anxiety in early childhood education
  • Happiness in the infant-toddler context
  • Infants and toddlers as capable and comptent contributors in a mixed-age setting
  • Nature pedagogy in early childhood education on Waiheke Island
  • Teacher expectations for Pasifika students learning NCEA Level 1 Science


  • 2015 Recipient of Faculty of Education and Social Work Teaching Excellence Award (Innovation in Teaching)
  • 2014 Nominated for Teacher Educator Forum of Aotearoa NZ (TEFANZ) Emerging Educator award
  • 2013 Co-recipient of NZ Association for Research in Education Rae Munro award for an excellent Masters' level thesis with implications for teaching practice and teacher education (citation)
  • 2013 Recipient of Faculty of Education Outstanding Teaching Award (Early Career)


Teaching, research, and service

Areas of expertise

  • Qualitative, interpretivist methodology/methods
  • Case study research
  • Cultural Historical Activity Theory, Sociocultural theory
  • Early Childhood Education (ECE)
  • Leadership in ECE
  • Infant-Toddler pedagogies and curriculum
  • Sociocultural assessment in ECE
  • Early years curriculum

Committees/Professional groups/Services

  • Director: Leadership in Early Childhood Education Symposium, Faculty of Education and Social Work, 2018
  • Deputy Chair: School of LDPP Teaching Learning and Quality Committee since 2017 (Acting Chair, 2018)
  • Associate Dean Pasifika representative: Faculty Teaching Learning and Quality Committee since 2016
  • Industry representative: Early Childhood Education Programme ICL Graduate Business School Advisory committee since 2017
  • ECE representative: School of LDPP PGDipTL development team 2017
  • Editorial board member: Early Childhood Folio since 2016
  • Executive editor (with Dr Marek Tesar): The First Years: Nga Tau Tuatahi/NZ Journal of Infant and Toddler Education since 2015  
  • Founder/director (with Dr Marek Tesar): the Early Childhood Seminar Series since 2013 
  • Chair: ISATT 2015 pre-conference sub-committee (with Susan Batchelar/Joanna Williamson)
  • Editorial board member: The First Years: Nga Tau Tuatahi/NZ Journal of Infant and Toddler Education 2014
  • Member: International Society for Cultural and Activity Research (ISCAR) since 2014
  • Member: NZ Educational Leadership Society (NZEALS) since 2014
  • Member: Te Tari Puna o Aotearoa/NZ Childcare Association since 2013
  • Member: International Study Association for Teachers and Teaching (ISATT) since 2013
  • Member: Faculty Kainga Pasifika (previously Komiti Pasifika) since 2013
  • Member: Faculty Initial Teacher Education Sectors (ECE) Committee 2013, 2014
  • Member: NZ Association for Research in Education (NZARE) since 2011
  • Full teacher registration/certification with Education Council of Aotearoa NZ (previously NZ Teachers Council) since 2005

Selected publications and creative works (Research Outputs)

  • Hedges, H., & Cooper, M. (2018). Relational play-based pedagogy: theorising a core practice in early childhood education. Teachers and Teaching, 24 (4), 369-383. 10.1080/13540602.2018.1430564
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Helen Hedges
  • Hedges, H., Weisz-Koves, T., Cooper, M., & Lovatt, D. (2017). Beyond activities: Exploring real questions for deeper understandings of children’s interests. Early Childhood Folio, 21 (2), 8-14.
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Helen Hedges, Tamar Weisz-Koves, Daniel Lovatt
  • Cooper, M. R., & Hedges, H. (2017). Posing big(ger) ideas and questions. In A. Fleet, C. Patterson, J. Robertson (Eds.) Pedagogical documentation in early years practice: Seeing through multiple perspectives (pp. 159-161). London, England: Sage.
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Helen Hedges
  • Lovatt, D., Cooper, M. R., & Hedges, H. (2017). Enhancing interactions: Understanding family pedagogy and funds of knowledge “on their turf”. In A. Gunn, C. Hruska (Eds.) Interactions in early childhood education: Recent research and emergent concepts (pp. 99-112). The Netherlands: Springer Singapore. 10.1007/978-981-10-4879-1_8
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Daniel Lovatt, Helen Hedges
  • Hedges, H., & Cooper, M. (2017). Collaborative meaning-making using video footage: Teachers and researchers analyse children’s working theories about friendship. European Early Childhood Education Research Journal, 25 (3), 398-411. 10.1080/1350293X.2016.1252153
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Helen Hedges
  • Hedges, H., & Cooper, M. (2016). Inquiring minds: theorizing children’s interests. Journal of Curriculum Studies, 48 (3), 303-322. 10.1080/00220272.2015.1109711
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Helen Hedges
  • Cooper, M. R., Lovatt, D., & Hedges, H. (2015). Curriculum for very young children: Challenging perceptions. In J. Morgan (Ed.) The 21st Century Curriculum? (pp. 73-83). Auckland, New Zealand: Edify.
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Daniel Lovatt, Helen Hedges
  • Cooper, M., Hedges, H., & Dixon, H. (2014). Weaving RIE with Te Whāriki : re-thinking family involvement in assessment of learning dispositions. Early Child Development and Care, 184 (5), 733-748. 10.1080/03004430.2013.818987
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Helen Hedges, Helen Dixon

Contact details

Alternative contact

Office H311

Primary office location

Level 3, Room 311
New Zealand

Social links

Web links