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 Senior 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'.

Darren's 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'.

He is also a recent recipient of a Royal Society Te Apārangi Marsden Fund Fast-Start Grant and is conducting a research project about the impact of marketing health to children in New Zealand.

Darren has published a number of articles, book chapters and videos about these research topics and regularly presents at international and national conferences. He has written a book entitled Corporations, Schools, and the 'War on Childhood Obesity'  to be published by Routledge later this year, and is currently co-editing The Routledge Handbook of Critical Obesity Studies with Michael Gard and José Tenorio Ramirez (University of Queensland).


Research | Current

Darren's research focuses on the childhood obesity 'epidemic', including how schools, teachers and children are drawn into the global war on obesity, and how corporations (and their partners) are using concerns about children's lifestyles to promote themselves as healthy, philanthropic and educational.

Darren is the Principal Investigator for a Royal Society Te Apārangi Marsden Fund Fast-Start Grant: Consuming kids: The impact of marketing ‘health’ to children. Using an innovative ethnographic approach where children (aged 7-9 years) take photographs and videos with wearable cameras, the research examines the ways in which children understand and experience various marketing strategies that attempt to 'teach' them about health, bodies and fatness.

His research interests include:

  • Marketing and advertising to children
  • 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
  • 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

  • EDPROF 740: Promoting learning through inquiry: Understanding our communities
  • HEALTHED 101: Food and Education
  • EDCURRIC 604: Health and Physical Education
  • EDCURRIC 103: Health and Physical Education

Postgraduate supervision

Jean Allen - Doctoral Candidate

Hayley McGlashan - Doctoral Candidate

Honglu Zhang - Doctoral Candidate

Aimee Simpson - Doctoral Candidate

Ghodsi Izadi - Doctoral Candidate

Esha Narayan - Doctoral Candidate

Roberto McLeay - Doctoral Candidate

Rachel Cann - Master of Education


  • Early Career Research Excellence Award (2018) - University of Auckland
  • Early Career Excellence in Teaching Award (2018) - Faculty of Education and Social Work, University of Auckland
  • Awarded Royal Society Te Apārangi Marsden Fund Fast-Start Grant (2017)
  • Outstanding Teaching Award (2010) - University of Auckland, Faculty of Education
  • First class honours in Master of Education: 'Running in circles': Children's lessons in fitness and fatness (2010)


Senior Lecturer in Health and Physical Education

Areas of expertise

  • Childhood obesity research
  • Corporatisation, privatisation, and commercialisation of education
  • Marketing and advertising to children
  • Primary school education
  • Health education: policy, curriculum, and pedagogy
  • Physical education: policy, curriculum, and pedagogy
  • Corporate philanthropy and social responsibility
  • Critical ethnography
  • Food in schools

Committees/Professional groups/Services

Research committee - Faculty of Education and Social Work

Ethics advisor - Faculty of Education and Social Work

Member of Royal Society Te Apārangi

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.
  • 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