Professor Peter John O'Connor

PhD, BA, DipTchg, DipRSADrama


Professor O’Connor is an internationally recognised expert in applied theatre and drama education. His research focuses on applied theatre in marginalised and vulnerable communities. It has led to developing cutting-edge models of interdisciplinary praxis that explore the nexus of critical and creative pedagogies, aesthetics and social justice. He was the founding director of Everyday Theatre, a national theatre in education programme on preventing family violence and child abuse. His work in Christchurch schools following the series of earthquakes  lead to UNESCO funded research and programme development and the development of the Teaspoon of Light Theatre Company. In 2012 he was named the Griffith University  School of Education and Professional Studies Alumnus of the Year. Peter's most recent research includes multi and interdisciplinary studies on the creative pedagogies and the arts, the nature of embodied learning and the pedagogy of surprise.

Peter supervises Doctoral and Masters students using arts based methodologies with a social justice focus.  He is an experienced suprervisor of the PhD with creative component.



Research | Current

  • Applied theatre in marginalised communities
  • Creative pedagogies
  • Embodied learning

Teaching | Current

Postgraduate supervision

  1. Esther Fitzpatrick. Bringing home the Pākehā: a postcritical ethnographic study of what it means to be a Pākehā educator.  Enrolled 2011.
  2. Claire Coleman. Dancing through the fourth wall. How can the philosophical underpinnings of process drama and critical pedagogy explicitly interrelate?  Enrolled 2011.
  3. Sasha Mathewman. Ecocritical Education: the potential of a subject-led approach to sustainability.  Enrolled 2012.
  4. Katherine Thomas. Youth-Full Theatre: A definition of best-practice in fusing arts practices and positive youth development in New Zealand. Enrolled 2012.
  5. Deborah Greene. Quake Destruction/Arts Creation: Becoming an arts therapist during the Canterbury earthquakes. Enrolled 2013.
  6. Simon Dennan. Reggae Pedagogy. Possibilities of revolution.  Enrolled 2014.
  7. Amber Walls. Creative approaches to improving youth mental health and wellbeing in Aotearoa New Zealand: an evidence based framework to inform practice. Enrolled 2014.
  8. Leny Woolsey. Business theatre and the nature of Community.  Enrolled 2014.


  • 2012 Griffith University School of Education and Professional Studies, Alumnus of the Year Award.                                            
  • 2012 Inaugural recipient of the Antonio Rosmini Award for contributions to Social Justice.  Presented by The Rosmini Order.
  • 2011 Named as one of the New Zealanders of the Year by North and South Magazine for contributions to the children of Christchurch following the earthquakes.
  • 2009 Garth Boomer Memorial Address, Australian Association of Teachers of English, Tasmania                                                                                                                                                                          2006 American Alliance for Theatre and Education (AATE) Most Distinguished PhD Dissertation Award,Washington D.C.        
  • 2006 Life membership of the New Zealand Foundation for Peace Studies.


Areas of expertise

Creativity and education

Creativity, criticality and citizenship

Creative practice research

Applied theatre as research

Committees/Professional groups/Services

Creative Thinking Project Board


Selected publications and creative works (Research Outputs)

  • O'Connor PJ (Ed.) (2016). The Possibilities of Creativity. Cambridge: Cambridge Scholar Press. Pages: 19-.
  • O'Connor PJ (2015). Moments of beauty and resistance through drama education. In K. Freebody, M. Finneran (Eds.) Drama and Social Justice: Theory, Research and Practice in International Contexts (pp. 133-143). Oxon: Routledge.
  • O'Connor P (2015). Things have changed. Research in Drama Education: The Journal of Applied Theatre and Performance, 20 (3), 369-371. 10.1080/13569783.2015.1059750
  • O'Connor PJ (2015). The Arts: Resisting the GERM. In S. Schonmann (Ed.) International Yearbook for Research in Arts Education,Vol 3: The Wisdom of the Many - Key Issues in Arts Education (pp. 464-470). Munster: Waxmann.
  • O'Connor P, & Anderson, M. (2015). Applied Theatre: Research Radical Departures. London: Bloomsbury Publishing. Pages: 312.
  • O'Connor PJ (2015). Theatre in Crisis: Moments of Beauty in Applied Theatre. In T. Prentki (Ed.) Applied Theatre: Development (pp. 185-201). Bloomsbury Publishing.
  • Fitzpatrick, E., Mullen, M., & O’Connor P (2015). Creating CRUAT: disrupting supervision and research through collaborative performance. NJ, 39 (1), 31-44. 10.1080/14452294.2015.1083140
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Esther Fitzpatrick, Molly Mullen
  • O'Connor PJ, & Fitzpatrick, K. (2014). One More Cup of Coffee: the body and embodiment in education. In O'Connor P, K. Fitzpatrick (Eds.) Education and the Body (pp. 1-11). New Zealand: Edify Ltd..
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Katie Fitzpatrick