Research and Design Lead

Pam O'Connell


Doctor of Philosophy in Education – University of Auckland
Diploma in Teaching – Christchurch College of Education
Bachelor of Arts (Hons first class) – University of Otago

Professional profile

Pam’s career in education began at Aranui High School as a history, social studies and mathematics teacher. It was a great foundation for honing her teaching skills with many opportunities to innovate, learn and come to know her students’ interests, strengths and aspirations.

A move to Wellington in 2000 saw her set up and lead a very successful professional development division of Learning Media. With a team of 30 plus educators she led national professional learning projects in literacy and assessment that had a demonstrable impact on teacher practices and learner outcomes. It was in this context that she undertook her PhD study on sustaining learner gains made through shifts in teacher and school practices.

Pam has worked internationally and nationally on many education panels, groups and projects. As a principal consultant, she partnered with Whanganui Iwi to co-design and implement an iwi-led education response in that rohe. Pam was supported to be critically conscious of the decisions being made in education, recognising where power and privilege impact, and then how tino rangatiratanga could be achieved in local curriculum design.

She has applied this significant learning in her most recent roles as senior manager at the Teaching Council and then chief adviser at the Ministry of Education working in system design for sector capability-building.

Joining CORE Education in 2020, Pam’s strong interest in research, innovation, practice analysis, kaupapa Māori, capability building and strategic action supports her role in leading research and evaluation design, innovation and quality assurance across service delivery, evaluation. She is attested as a cultural capability facilitator.


Pam has deep knowledge and experience to share with others.

  • Evaluation and research design.
  • Professional learning and development design, system change, national priorities for Aotearoa New Zealand.
  • Application of Te Tiriti o Waitangi in educational settings, working collaboratively with Treaty partners in self-determination models.
  • Effective teaching and learning, in culturally sustaining practices.
  • Multi-agency collective impact design and implementation.
  • Workforce development, training and development planning, mentoring and coaching.
  • The education sector, government and policy contexts.
  • Business strategy and development and operational management.


2010 Is sustainability of schooling improvement an act of faith or can it be deliberately crafted? Unpublished doctoral thesis, University of Auckland.
2003 'Devising the questions before looking for answers; Literacy Leadership in New Zealand Schools', in Literacy Today, London.
2010 Coherence and Inquiry as key dimensions of sustainability of professional learning. Wellington, Learning Media.

Recent conference presentations

2017 Collaborative Impact Conference (Auckland) Te Kākahu: Research into Action: An iwi-led response, with Dr Te Tiwha Puketapu.

Personal statement

Like many educators, it is important for me to know that together we make a difference in the lives of our tamariki and their whānau. Certainly, my career as a teacher, writer, adult educator, researcher, chief adviser and manager has been shaped by that endeavour.

I better understand now how Te Titiri o Waitangi can be embedded in learning design. There is much to challenge and to do to get this right. In any role, I thrive on collaboration, where many different strengths can be recognised, accessed and employed to solve enduring issues that remain in our system. Mauriora!