Dr Darren Powell

PhD (Charles Sturt University); Master of Education with First class honours (University of Auckland); Postgraduate Diploma of Education with distinction (University of Auckland); Diploma of Teaching - Primary (Wellington College of Education); Bachelor of Physical Education (University of Otago)


Darren Powell is a Lecturer in the School of Curriculum and Pedagogy in the Faculty of Education and Social Work.

Darren's previous career was as a primary and intermediate school teacher. Over an eleven year period he taught students across all year levels (Year One - Eight) in schools in Auckland, Glasgow, London and Nottingham. Based on his work with children, Darren developed an interest in children's experiences of health and physical education and conducted research that explored children's understanding of concepts such as 'health', 'fitness' and 'fatness'.

In 2010 Darren joined the University of Auckland 's Faculty of Education as a part-time teaching assistant and was presented with an Outstanding Teaching Award.

More recently, Darren's research has interrogated the role of corporations - mostly food companies - and charities in schools. This includes a critical analysis of the various healthy lifestyles education resources and programmes that are provided free to primary schools and the ways in which certain notions of health are reproduced in ways that align with the private sectors' best interests, but not necessarily the children's.

Darren has published a number of articles, book chapters and videos about these research topics and regularly presents at international and national conferences. He is now writing a book based on his doctoral thesis.


Research | Current

Darren's current research focuses on the childhood obesity 'epidemic' and the ways in which corporations (especially those of the food and drink industry) and charities are now re-inventing themselves as 'part of the solution'. This includes an investigation of how schools, teachers and children are drawn into the global war on obesity, and how corporations are using concerns about children's lifestyles to promote themselves as healthy, philanthropic and educational.

Darren is the Principal Investigator for an FRDF research project: Marketing 'health' to children: an ethnographic study, investigating the ways in which children understand and experience various marketing strategies that attempt to 'teach' children about health. He has also joined an international interdisciplinary research group that is investigating Physical Activity and Nutrition at Sport Mega Events Research - the PHANSMER study - see https://phansmerstudy.com/.

Darren has conducted research on primary school children's understanding of concepts such as fitness, exercise, health and fatness. He is also a co-investigator for the evaluation of the Play.Sport project.

His research interests include:

  • School health and physical education (primary and secondary)
  • Childhood obesity (in particular the effects of the war on obesity)
  • Children's eating, physical activity and bodies
  • Children as consumers (e.g. advertising and marketing to children)
  • The corporatisation and privatisation of health and schooling
  • Corporate philanthropy and corporate social responsibility
  • Sociology of health, education and the body
  • Critical ethnography
  • Visual research methods

Teaching | Current

  • EDCURRIC 763: Special Topic: Sexuality and Health Education
  • EDPROF 740: Promoting learning through inquiry: Understanding our communities
  • HEALTHED101: Food and Education
  • EDCURRIC 604: Health and Physical Education
  • EDCURRIC 430: Critical Issues in Health and Physical Education
  • EDCURRIC 103: Health and Physical Education

Postgraduate supervision

Jean Allen - Doctoral Candidate

Honglu Zhang - Doctoral Candidate

Aimee Simpson - Doctoral Candidate

Ghodsi Izadi - Doctoral Candidate

Jason Nottage - Master of Education


  • Outstanding Teaching Award - University of Auckland, Faculty of Education
  • First class honours in Master of Education: 'Running in circles': Children's lessons in fitness and fatness


Lecturer in Health Education

Areas of expertise

  • Childhood obesity research
  • Corporatisation, privatisation and commercialisation of Health and physical education
  • Primary school health education curriculum and pedagogy
  • Primary school physical education curriculum and pedagogy
  • Corporate philanthropy and social responsibility
  • Critical ethnography

Committees/Professional groups/Services

Membership of Professional Bodies

  • Physical Education New Zealand (PENZ)
  • New Zealand Health Education Association (NZHEA)
  • New Zealand Association for Research in Education (NZARE)

Selected publications and creative works (Research Outputs)

  • Powell, D. (2018). Critical pedagogies of ‘healthy’ consumption. Paper presented at Critical Health Education Studies (CHESS) Conference, New Zealand. 29 May - 1 June 2018. Related URL.
  • Powell, D., & Pluim, C. (2018). ‘5 a day’, stickers, and cabbage, but please ‘no slushies’: The international convergence of school nutrition practices. Paper presented at Critical Health Education Studies (CHESS) Conference, New Zealand. 29 May - 1 June 2018. Related URL.
  • Powell, D. (2018). The ‘will to give’: corporations, philanthropy and schools. Journal of Education Policy, 1-20. 10.1080/02680939.2018.1424940
  • Powell, D. (2018). Primary physical education and health. In G. Griggs, K. Petrie (Eds.) Routledge handbook of primary physical education. New York: Routledge. Related URL.
  • PLUIM, C., Powell, D., & LEAHY, D. (2018). Schooling lunch: Health, food, and the pedagogicalization of the lunch box. In S. Rice, A. G. Rud (Eds.) Educational dimensions of school lunch: Critical perspectives (pp. 59-74). Cham, Switzerland: Palgrave Macmillan. Related URL.
  • Powell, D. (2018). Governing the (un)healthy child-consumer in the age of the childhood obesity crisis. Sport, Education and Society, 23 (4), 297-310. 10.1080/13573322.2016.1192530
    URL: http://hdl.handle.net/2292/40483
  • Powell, D., & Gard, M. (2017). Schools, corporations and promotion of physical activity to fight obesity. In J. Piggin, L. Mansfield, M. Weed (Eds.) The Routledge handbook of physical activity policy and practice (pp. ). Oxon, United Kingdom: Routledge. Related URL.
  • Dyson, B., Cowan, J., Gordon, B., Powell, D., & Shulruf, B. (2017). Physical education in Aotearoa New Zealand primary schools. European Physical Education Review10.1177/1356336X17698083
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Boaz Shulruf

Contact details

Primary office location

New Zealand

Social links