Associate Professor Peter O'Connor
Peter O'Connor

Associate Professor Peter O'Connor
School of Critical Studies in Education

phone +64 9 623 8899 ext 48477
fax +64 9 623 8836
office N309


Associate Professor O’Connor is an internationally recognised expert in applied theatre. His research has focused primarily on using applied theatre as a public education medium to address major social issues including public health, gender equity in schools and the development of inclusive, empathetic and critical school cultures. Recent applied theatre research includes national programmes on preventing family violence and child abuse and parenting programmes in Youth Justice Facilities. His work in Christchurch following the February earthquake has lead to UNESCO funded research and programme development. In 2011 he was named a New Zealander of the Year by North and South Magazine for this work. He is currently engaged in the ongoing debates about charter schools and the nature of quality public education. Peter was previously the National Education Manager for the Race Relations Office and the National Project manager for the Like Minds campaign with the Mental Health Foundation. His 2003 PhD on his work in forensic psychiatric units won the 2006 AATE Distinguished Dissertation Award in Washington DC.

BA DipTchg DipRSA (Drama) PhD

Areas of Expertise
Applied theatre, arts based research, public education, critical pedagogy


Current research

Applied theatre in trauma zones, applied theatre and criticality, charter schools

Postgraduate Supervision

  • Molly Mullen PhD 2010 Managing applied theatre: negotiating murky terrain and tangled webs.
  • Adrian Schoone PhD 2010 ‘Through the unknown, remembered gate’: the AE tutor, pedagogy and possibilities.
  • Claire Coleman PhD 2010 Dancing through the fourth wall: How can the philosophical underpinnings of process drama and critical pedagogy explicitly interrelate, and what tensions and opportunities are offered when they dance together.
  • Jane Luton PhD 2010 Caught Between Worlds: Stories of battle, beliefs and barricades from key drama in education theorist/practitioners.
  • Esther Fitzpatrick PhD 2011 How to enable Pākehā children to construct a positive ethnic identity; exploring teachers’ beliefs, perceptions, and practice.
  • Paul Heyward PhD 2010 Using role-play to enhance teaching and learning in Higher Education.
  • Michelle Johannson MProfStuds 2011 Dusky Maiden - Noble Savage: Pasifika Identity and Representation in NCEA Drama.
  • Luke Devery MA 2011 Troupe Waihi in the light of the vision: A case study of extracurricular dramatic activity as a reflection/extension of the vision of the 2007 New Zealand Curriculum.



Selected Publications (last six years)
  • O’Connor, P. (Ed.)  (2010). Creating Democratic Citizenship Through Drama Education: Selected Writings of Jonothan Neelands.  Stoke on Trent: Trentham Books.
  • Anderson, E. & O’Connor, P. (2006). Playing Our Stories. Drama Years 1-6. Wellington: Ministry of Education.
  • O’Connor, P. (2006). The Lost Bag: Mental Health Resource for Years 7 to 10. Auckland:  Mental Health Foundation.

Book Chapters

  • O’Connor, P. (2012) Theatre in Education: The Pedagogic as the Aesthetic in a Crumbling World in Jackson T. (Ed) Learning Through Theatre. Routledge: London.
  • O’Connor, P. (2012) Drama and Critical Thinking. In Anderson, M and Dunn, J. (Eds) Drama Teaches. London: Palgrave.
  • O’Connor, P and Stinson, M. ( 2011)  Drama and The special Needs Classroom in Wright, S. (Ed).Children, Meaning-Making and the Arts, 2nd edition. Pearson, Australia: Victoria.
  • O’Connor, P. (2010) The performance of Terror in Prentki, T. The Arts in Conflict Transformation, Palgrave MacMillan: London.
  • O’Connor P. (2010) Everyday Theatre: A Case Study of Social Work Practice in New Zealand Schools. In Khazanghatte, J.& Chui, E. Voices of School Social Workers. Continuum Press: London.
  • O’Connor, P. (2009). Open the Loop:  An applied theatre approach to cyberbullying. In M. Anderson, J. Carroll & D. Cameron (Eds.), Teaching drama with digital technologies: applying theatre, drama and technology to learning.  Continuum Press: London. 
  • Stinson, M. and O’Connor, P. (2008). Teaching drama to students with special needs: Designs and Methods. In L. Cohen, S. Wright & K. Poon (Eds.), Special Education: Perspectives and Practices.  Continuum Press: Singapore. 
  • O’Connor, P. (2008). Minimising risk: neither missionary nor messenger.  In K. Donelan & A. O’Brien (Eds.), The Arts and Youth at Risk.  Global and Local Challenges. Cambridge Scholars Publishers. Cambridge.
  • O’Connor, P. (2007).  Process drama: a pedagogy of hope and inclusion.  In M. Anderson, J. Hughes & J. Manuel (Eds.), Drama and  English Teaching: imagination, action and engagement.  Oxford University Press.
  • O’Connor, P. (2006). Keeping a piece of the rainbow: empowerment and disempowerment in drama education.  In L. McCammon & D. McLauchlan (Eds.), Universal Mosaic of Drama and Theatre: The Idea 2004 Dialogues. Ontario: IDEA Publications.

Refereed Journal Articles

  • O’Connor, P.& Mullen, M.  (2011) Prison Theatre: Letting the Light into Disciplinary Relationships. NJ  Drama Australia 35.
  • O’Connor, P. (2011). Stances and Territories: Drama, interdisciplinarity and social change. NJ Drama Australia 35.
  • O’Connor, P. (2010) Applied Theatre and the Great Financial Collapse. In Research in Drama Education, Vol 15.4
  • O’Connor, P. (2010) The Way the world Wags. The Garth Memorial Address 2009.  English in Australia Vol 45 No1.
  • O’Connor, P. (2009) Education for Now: Key Incompetencies. Teachers and Curriculum Vol 11
  • O’Connor, P. (2009). Education from the edge. Drama Australia Journal Special Edition on National Curriculum 2010
  • O’Connor, P. (2009) Silent, upon a peak in Darien: Education from the Edge.  National (UK) Drama Magazine. Volume 1.
  • O’Connor, P. (2009) (Ed.) Everyday conversations about applied theatre.  Child abuse and family violence addressed through theatre.  Research in Drama Education Themed Edition. Vol 14.4.  (Commissioned editor).
  • O’Connor, P. (2009).   Miracles unnoticed.  Research in Drama Education Themed Edition  Vol.14.4
  • O’Connor, P. (2009).    Editorial.  Research in Drama Education Themed Edition. Vol 14.4
  • O’Connor, P. (2007). Reflection and refraction - the dimpled mirror of process drama.  Youth Theatre Journal Vol 21 pp1-12.
  • O’Connor, P. (2007). Applied Theatre: Pure of Heart-Naively Complicit.  Caribbean Quarterly Vol 53, Nos 1 and 2 pp23-37.
  • O’Connor, P. (2007). The everyday becomes extraordinary: conversations about family violence through applied theatre.  IDEA/ Applied Theatre Researcher Vol 8 at
  • O’Connor, P., O’Connor, B. and Welsh Morris, M. (2006). Making the everyday extraordinary: a theatre in education project to prevent child abuse, neglect and family violence.  Research in Drama Education Vol 11. Issue 2.

Research and Commissioned reports (8)

  • O’Connor, P. (2009) Youth and Community Centres: What Young People Say.  Commissioned by Auckland City Council.
  • Germon, J., Probin, E. and O’Connor, P. (2008). Towards Respectful Relationships: Strategies for Building and Sustaining Cultures of Respect in New South Wales State Schools.  Commissioned by the Department of Education and Training through the Gender Studies Department, the University of Sydney.
  • O’Connor, P. and O’Connor, B. (2008). Where do I go when the world has ended?  Children’s Voices on Child Abuse and Neglect.  Commissioned by The Centre for Social Research and Evaluation Te Pokapū Rangahau Arotaki Hapori. Wellington:  Ministry of Social Development.
  • O’Connor, P. (2008). Our Time Together: An evaluation of the Discovery Programme. Commissioned by Child Connection Charitable Trust.
  • O’Connor, P. (2007). The Use of Applied Theatre Techniques in Mental Health Promotion: An Evaluation of Lost Bag and Headspin Training Programmes.  Auckland:  The Mental Health Foundation.

Recent Plenary and Keynote Conference Presentations

  • 2010 (forthcoming) Keynote presentation to the National Conference for Teachers of English and Literacy, Perth, Western Australia.
  • 2010 The Truth about Stories; Keynote presentation to the Association of Literacy Educators, Northern Tasmania Annual Conference, Launceston, Tasmania at the Applied Theatre Symposium, The University of Victoria, British Columbia.
  • 2009 Plenary reflective keynote of The International Mantle of the Expert Conference, Waikato, New Zealand.
  • 2009 Talking About the Way the World Wags Garth Boomer Memorial Address and keynote presentation to The National Conference for Teachers of English and Literacy, Hobart, Tasmania.
  • 2009 Centuries Old, Still Innovative: Process Drama and Second Language Teaching. Keynote presentation to The Fourth International Conference on Drama and English Teaching, Tainan University, Taiwan.
  • 2009 Where Do You Go when Your World has Ended? Children’s Voices on Child Abuse. Keynote presentation to the Fourth International Conference of Social Work in Schools, Massey, Auckland.
  • 2009 How Far Back From the Edge. Invited keynote presentation to Drama New Zealand National Conference, Wellington.
  • 2008 Risk, Resilience and Resistance. The Basics of Applied Theatre and Mental Health. Keynote presentation to Open the Heart in Arts International Conference on The Arts and Mental Health, Hong Kong.
  • 2008 On a Peak in Darien. Drama from the edge. Keynote presentation to the National Drama Association, Durham, England.
  • 2008 Applied Theatre and Mental Health: What’s in a hug? Keynote presentation to the International Symposium on the Arts and Health, University of Northampton.
  • 2007 Making the Everyday Extraordinary. Keynote presentation to the International Symposium on Applied Theatre, Sydney, Australia.
  • 2007 On the Margins. Invited Speaker at the World Creativity Summit, Hong Kong.
  • 2006 Process Drama: Pedagogy of Hope and Inclusion. Keynote presentation to Drama and English Teaching: Imagination, Action and Engagement Conference, Sydney, Australia.

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