Dr Tanya Lee-Anne Maleina Samu

PhD, MEd, BA, DipTchg


Tanya’s prior experiences include teaching and leadership in geography and social studies within secondary schools in Samoa and New Zealand; writing social studies and geography textbooks, and national curriculum development.

Tanya has nearly twenty five years experience in under-graduate and graduate teaching, including course development and coordination. Her tertiary sector experiences have focused on teacher education , Pacific/ Pasifika education and critical curriculum studies.

In addition to her current research, teaching and service (as detailed in the profile below ), Tanya has contributed, as an international consultant,  to national curriculum development and teacher capacity building education projects in Samoa, Tonga, Kyrgyzstan, Nauru and most recently, Myanmar. 

Research | Current

  • Socio-historical context and development of Pasifika education (policy, practice, research). Ongoing, since 2005.
  • Nga Tau Tuangahuru: MPEI Longitudinal Study, funded by Foundation North. Pasifika education research advisor. The focus of this study is on what success looks like for Maori and Pacific students and their families, and what supports that success. Start up in 2017.

  • The complexities of social studies/ social science curriculum development and implementation. In collaboration with Alexis Siteine, ongoing since 2006.                                                                                                  

Current theoretical explorations

Tanya has been bringing together philosopher of education Jane Roland Martin’s ideas relating to education as encounter; Michel Foucault’s concept of discontinuity as both process and product in relation to the historical analysis of ideas; discourse theorising of a post-structualist nature; and autoethnography, in order to develop new insights about:

  • Pasifika peoples in relation to the knowledge economy discourse that underlies national education policy
  • Current knowledge and understandings about the inter-face between teachers and their Pasifika learners
  • Pacific/Pasifika women and culture crossings experienced via education
  • Pasifika communities of practice within the academe
  • The notion of ‘Pasifika education’ and the concept of ‘oceanic agency’

Teaching | Current

Tanya contributes to courses and lectures that focus on Pasifika education, diversity, research methodologies, the politics of curriculum development and introduction to education studiesfor the Liberal Arts , Teacher Education and Tertiary Foundation Certificate programmes

  • TFC EDUC Aotearoa Society in Context
  • EDUC 322 Special Topic: Re-Thinking Pasifika Education
  • EDCURRIC 310 – Pasifika Learners
  • EDPROFST 612B – Te Whakaako in NZ Secondary Schools
  • Lecture Contributions to: EDUC 207 Decolonising Education; EDUC 211 Schooling Ethnic Diversity;  EDPROFST 754 Critical Research Methodologies in Education.

Postgraduate supervision

Current doctoral supervisions

  • Siliva Gaugatao (co-supervision, with Asso. Prof. Claire Sinnema), EdD. The role of Samoan fathers in their children's education
  • Easter  Fa’aso’o-Tuilagi (lead supervisor, with Asso. Prof. Susan Carter). PhD.Pacific university students and international exchange experiences
  • Elisabeth Ravlich (lead supervisor, with Asso. Prof. Tamasailau Suali’i-Sauni). PhD. Cook Islands students , higher education and role of spirituality

Completed doctoral supervisions

  • Sonia Fonua (co-supervision, with Asso. Prof. Eve Coxon). PhD. Tongan students and science: Engagement, retention, achievement, enjoyment, and success
  • Emma Cunningham ( co-supervision, with Dr. Rebecca Jesson). PhD. Pasifika learners, transition from Y8 to Y9 and academic socialisation

Current Masters supervisions (selected)

  • Vaioleti Tumaai, MEd: Pacific diaspora and education – comparative study Australia and New Zealand (lead supervisor, with Jacoba Matapo)
  • Violeti Faauia, MEd: Tuvalu Curriculum Framework, a critique (lead supervisor, with Dr 'Ema Wolfgramm-Foliaki)
  • Magele Oloataua Fa'amamafa, MEd: Pacific Y5-Y6 boys, their parents/caregivers perceptions of Modern Learning Environments or MLEs (lead supervisor, with Dr Kerry Lee)
  • Annie Iteata, MEd: The experiences of first-in-family I-Kiribati university students (lead supervisor, with Dr 'Ema Wolfgramm-Foliaki)
  • Annastasia Matai, MEd: Transition experiences of Samoan school leavers in primary teaching (lead supervisor, with Dr "Ema Wolfgramm-Foliaki)
  • Flora Apulu, MSW: Young Samoan women and cultural concepts / framework for well-being (co-supervision with Assoc. Prof Barbara Staniforth)
  • Ben Silk, MProfSt: Perceptions of makerspace in secondary schooling (co-supervision with Dr Camilla Highfeild)
  • 'Ana Pahulu, MProfSt: Discourse analysis related to Pasifika learners

Completed Masters supervisions (selected)

  • Carol Mulchay, MProfSt: Kiribati students, caregivers and perceptions of success
  • Daniel Samuela, MProfSt: Pasifika learners, teachers and perceptions of Modern Learning Environments or MLEs (co-supervision with Dr Rae Siilata)
  • Charlotte Gipps, MProfSt: ‘Connecting Counts : Curriculum change for Pasifika learners  (co-supervision with Dr Rae Siilata).
  • Sonia Pope, MA: ‘Exploring the intergenerational views of wellbeing among Tongan women’ (lead supervisor, with Dr Jemaima Tiatia)
  • Koke Leleisiuao: ‘Pasifika students and the critical process of Year 10 subject choices for ‘Future Pathways’ : Examining the knowledge and understanding of students, their families and the school’


  • Māori and Pasifika Scholarship to attend the New Zealand Women in Leadership Programme, Funded by Universities, New Zealand,  2016

  • NZARE Symposium for AERA, 2015 (Chicago). Selected via competitive process. Title: “Advancing Justice in Education for Pacific/Pasifika Peoples through Discourses of Success and Responsiveness”.  Dr Tanya Samu (leader), Dr Rae Siilata, Alexis Siteine, and Dr 'Ala Toetuu-Tamihere, University of Auckland

  • NZARE Pasifika Group Research Award, 2008
    Centre of Innovation, Aoga FaaSamoa Research Group
  • University of Canterbury College of Education doctoral fees scholarship (2009- 2011)


Tanya has served as a Head of School ( Oct 2005- Dec 2007) & as Associate Dean Pasifika ( July 2014-June 2017)

  • Associate Dean Pasifika (Acting) August 2020-February 2021
  • Research Unit in Pacific and International Education


Areas of expertise

  • Discourse analysis, auto-ethnography
  • Pasifika research methodologies
  • NZ education policy-scapes: particularly in relation to the concepts of diversity, difference, and Pasifika education across all sectors
  • Politics of curriculum development
  • The nature and location of Pasifika/ Pacific knowledge and expertise within social studies/the social sciences school curricula
  • National social studies curriculum development and education in New Zealand and non-westernised, developing contexts and settings

Committees/Professional groups/Services


  • New Zealand Association of Research in Education (NZARE) & Pasifika Caucus member
  • American Research in Education Association (AERA)


  • School: CRSTIE Teaching & Learning Committee
  • Faculty: Kainga Pasifika,

Service (External)

  • Secretary/ Treasurer, Indigenous Peoples of the Pacific Special Interest Group, AERA
  • Board of Trustees, Avondale College (Maori & Pasifika Education Initiative , an Education sub-committees)
  • Co-Chair, Indigenous Peoples of the Pacific Special Interest Group, AERA (April, 2017 - April 2019)
  • NZARE Pasifika Caucus Rep (2011-2016)
  • Member, International Relations Committee, a standing committee of the American Education Research Association or AERA (April 2014- April 2017)


Selected publications and creative works (Research Outputs)

As of 29 October 2020 there will be no automatic updating of 'selected publications and creative works' from Research Outputs. Please continue to keep your Research Outputs profile up to date.
  • Siilata, R., Samu, T. W., & Siteine, A. (2017). The Va‘atele framework: Redefining and transforming Pasifika education. In E. A. McKinley, L. T. Smith (Eds.) The handbook of indigenous education (pp. ). Singapore: Springer Nature. 10.1007/978-981-10-1839-8_34-1
    URL: http://hdl.handle.net/2292/40290
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Rae Si'ilata, Alexis Siteine
  • Samu, T. (2016). Intrepid journeys in social studies curriculum development: Critical reflections and insights of a New Zealand educator. Curriculum Matters, 12, 132-153.
  • Samu, T. L. (2015). The ‘Pasifika Umbrella’ and quality teaching: Understanding and responding to the diverse realities within. Waikato Journal of Education, 20 (Special 20th Anniversary Collection, 2015), 129-140. 10.15663/wje.v20i3.229
  • Samu, T. L. (2014). Re-thinking Pacific Education: Reflections from the Pasifika Margins, Pacific Rim. In 'Otunuku M, U. Nabobo-Baba, S. F. Johansson-Fua (Eds.) Of Waves, Winds and Wonderful Things: A Decade of Rethinking Pacific Education. Suva, Fiji: University of the South Pacific Press.
  • Samu, T. L. (2014). Spirit, space and stewardship: A Collective approach to becoming Pacific women in the academe. In P. Fairburn-Dunlop, E. Coxon (Eds.) Talanoa: Building a Pasifika Research Culture. Palmerston North: Dunmore Press.
  • Wendt Samu, T., Mara, D., & Siteine, A. (2013). Education for Pacific people for the twenty-first century. In O'Connor P, S. L. Sauni (Eds.) Within and beyond the reef of Pasifika education. Auckland, NZ: Pearson.
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Alexis Siteine
  • Samu, T. L. (2013). Pasifika Education: Discourses of Difference in Aotearoa New Zealand University of Canterbury. University of Canterbury. Related URL.
  • Samu, T. L. (2011). Tala Mai Fafo: (Re)Learning from the voices of Pacific women. Pacific-Asian Education, 23 (2), 11-22. Related URL.
    URL: http://hdl.handle.net/2292/14984

Contact details

Primary office location

Level 3, Room 371
New Zealand