Dr Penelope Winifred St John Watson

PhD, PGDipEd (Distinction), BA, DipTchg, LRSM, LTCL


After a 32 year long career in secondary school teaching, the latter 10 years of which were spent as Head of Music at a large Auckland secondary school, Penny returned to The University of Auckland to pursue postgraduate study in education. She completed her PhD thesis, titled Stereotype Threat and Adolescent Boys In Choirs: A Reflection of Gender Beliefs?, in 2011, and is at present a Lecturer in the School of Learning, Development and Professional Practice. She was Project Manger of the Teacher Expectations Project, is a member of the research team for the Ethnic Identity Study, and is conducting a study to probe the associations between gender self-concept and school belonging.

Previous professional experience:

  • 1996-2008 Director of Choral Music, Takapuna Grammar School
  • 2004-2006 Head of Performing Arts Faculty, Takapuna Grammar School
  • 1997-2006 Head of Music Department, Takapuna Grammar School
  • 1978-1996 Assistant teacher in several Auckland secondary schools


Research | Current

  • The Teacher Expectations Project
  • The Ethnic Identity Study
  • Adolescent gender self-concept and factors affecting school belonging in New Zealand.
  • Gender Identity, Stress, and Coping at School: A Window into Adolescent Mental Health

Research Projects

  • 2017-18: Principal Investigator: Gender Identity, Stress, and Coping at School: A Window into Adolescent Mental Health
  • 2011: Project manager: Teacher Expectations Project (a Marsden-funded project led by Associate Professor Christine Rubie-Davies). Research assistant: The Teacher and Student Beliefs and Student Outcomes Study.
  • Co-supervisor of a Summer Scholarship project investigating tertiary students’ gendered beliefs and expectations in relation to their gender self-concept and activity choices.
  • 2010: Researcher on the BELA project


  • Watson, P. W. St J. (2012). Stereotype threat, gender, and adolescent activity choice: Who dares sings. Saarbrücken, Germany: LAP.

Teaching | Current

  • Educational psychology in general, with a specific interest in gender stereotyping, stereotype threat, and the social psychology of the classroom


  • EDUC 755 The social psychology of the classroom
  • EDUC 351 Understanding behaviour in classrooms: A social psychological  perspective
  • EDUC 223 Educational psychology

Postgraduate supervision

Doctoral students:

Wen Xiong (commenced 2017) 

Exploring students’ perspectives on and practices of cooperative learning in a physical education teacher education program: A Chinese perspective.

Co-supervision with Dr Rod Philpot, Advisor Associate Professor Ben Dyson

Kylie Taffard (commenced 2017)

Girls in trades: Why young women are not choosing the trades from secondary school.

Co-supervision with Dr Pat Bullen

Sari Karmina (commenced 2015)

Peer assessment in cooperative learning classrooms

Co-supervision with Dr Rod Philpot, Advisor Associate Professor Ben Dyson

Lifeng Hao (commenced 2015) 

The moderation and mediation effects of undergraduates’ self-esteem on the relationship between teacher expectations and undergraduates’ satisfaction with school life, well-being, and academic achievement

Co-supervision with Professor Christine Rubie-Davies

Rajshree Gopala Krishnan (commenced 2013)
Do teachers have different expectations for mature students than for younger students?

Co-supervision with Professor Christine Rubie-Davies


Masters students:

Sudheera Nanayakkara (Completed 2018, First Class Honours) Learning perspectives and experiences of Sri Lankan international postgraduate students in New Zealand.

Tematang Iaoniman (Completed 2018, First Class Honours) Teachers’ expectations and boys’ academic underachievement at junior secondary schools in Kiribati: Is there a relationship?

Co-supervision with Professor Christine Rubie-Davies

Clare Jennings (Completed 2018, First Class Honours) Shall we dance?: A multiple case study investigating the implementation of dance within the senior curriculum in New Zealand secondary schools.

Deepika Roy (Completed 2017, First Class Honours) Stereotype threat, identity safety, and the dual identities of female Indian doctoral students in New Zealand.

Co-supervision with Associate Professor Anne Hynds

Adrienne Wood (Completed 2016, First Class Honours) Engaging the disaffected learner: Making teacher-student relationships count. Co-supervision with Lynda Garrett

Michael Erasmus (Completed 2016, First Class Honours) Investigating the positive components of perfomance and mastery goals. Co-supervision with Associate Professor Jason Stephens.

Rajeev Sharma (Completed 2016, Second Class Honours) Student integration:Transitioning experience of students joining school mid-term. Co-supervision with Professor Graeme Aitken

Hanin Bukamal (Completed 2013, Second Class Honours) Teacher expectations of Muslim students' performance in mathematics and readng. Co-supervision with Professor Christine Rubie-Davies.

Honours students:

Tracey Laxon (Completed 2013, First Class Honours) Teacher gender self-confidence and attitudes toward gender-diverse students in New Zealand schools. Co-supervision with Associate Professor Jason Stephens.



  • Postgraduate Diploma in Education (with Distinction)
  • Nominated for Vice Chancellor’s award for best thesis in 2011


  • Lecturer
  • Researcher
  • Chairperson of the Network for Success Committee, and member of the LDPP Leadership Team
  • Member of Faculty of Education and Social Work Equity Committee

Areas of expertise

  • Educational psychology
  • Social psychology of the classroom
  • Gender stereotyping
  • Stereotype threat
  • Teacher expectations

Committees/Professional groups/Services

Chairperson: LDPP Network for Success Committee

Member: LDPP Leadership Team

Member: AERA; EARLI; Gender and STEM network


Selected publications and creative works (Research Outputs)


Contact details

Primary office location

New Zealand

Web links