Dr Rena Heap


Dr Rena Heap holds degrees in science (majoring in human physiology) and education. Rena has been lecturing at the Faculty of Education since 2004. Prior to that, she enjoyed a teaching career across a wide range of levels and in a wide variety of schools throughout New Zealand.  At the Faculty of Education, Rena lectures primarily in science education and digital technologies, and through these courses teaches about innovative pedagogies, mobile learning and teacher education.  Her PhD research focus combined science education, teacher education and the use of digital technologies in tertiary education.


Research | Current

Rena’s research focuses on three overlapping areas:

  1. Digital technologies – the pedagogically sound use of digital technologies in primary education, tertiary education and in particular in our teacher education programmes.
  2. Science education – developing pre-service teachers’ understanding of the nature of science, scientific literacy and pedogogical content knowledge.
  3. The Scholarship of Teaching and Learning  (SoTL) – reconceptualising the dynamics of student learning in tertiary settings and researching the ongoing development of pedagogical strategies in teacher education. Particular current foci include teaching using digital technologies, assessment for learning and inquiring into practice. 

Current and recent funded projects include:

2017: Co-Principal Investigator for a research project arising from a CLeaR Seed Fund Project for Innovation in Teaching, 'Encouraging collaborative writing using Google Docs analytics'. This project examines the dilemma in tertiary teaching of how to encourage student collaboration  while formatively or summatively assessing them as individuals. The innovation explored in this project is to use technology-based content analysis tools to identify and visualise the nature and patterns of individual student contributions to collaborative text-based tasks.  

2014-2016: Co-Principal Investigator for a Faculty Research Development Fund project, 'Future-oriented teacher education and professional learning: Evolving and adapting pedagogies when teaching with mobile technologies'. This project explores ways to adapt and evolve our pedagogies, as teacher educators, in relation to the integration of mobile technologies to enhance learning. Our goal is to ensure that high quality student learning remains the key outcome in rapidly changing teaching contexts.

2014-2015: Part of the Ako Aotearoa National Project, 'Learners and mobile devices', with colleages from 6 tertiary institutions across New Zealand. At the Faculty of Education we have established a 6-person practitioner-researcher community of practice to investigate ways in which mobile learning technology and social media can be used effectively to enhance student learning and achievement. We aim to attain deep learning outcomes by using mobile learning to support authentic learning, increase student and teacher motivation, facilitate meaningful student engagement and interaction, establish effective feedback loops, and enhance achievement in our courses.

2013:  Awarded and co-lead a UoA Learning Enhancement Grant, ‘Making learning visible through feedback via mobile technologies’. This project responded to institution-wide initiatives to promote the use of technology and also move to the use of larger interactive teaching spaces.

Teaching | Current

Key Teaching

  • EDCURRIC 720 Digital Enhancement*
  • EDCURRIC 708 Making a Difference-Science*
  • EDCURRIC 610 Science Education*
  • EDCURRIC 635 Exploration
  • EDCURRIC 105 Science Education Primary
  • EDCURRIC 104 Primary Mathematics and Statistics Education 1
  • EDCURRIC 204 Primary Mathematics and Statistics Education 2
  • EDCURRIC 115 Science in the Early Years*
  • EDCURRIC 260 – Teaching to Support Learning in Science*
  • EDCURRIC 338 – Enhancing Teaching Through Science
  • EDFOUND 15F – Mathematics Preliminary
  • EDFOUND 16F – Science and Mathematics for Teaching*

* Denotes courses for which I have been the Course Director.

Postgraduate supervision

Completed supervisions

  • Mixing modes of feedback: Arguments and evidence for the role of feedback in a digital environment.
  • “Game On!” Levelling up writing through gaming.
  • Factors that influence students’ vocabulary development within a digital learning environment.
  • Effective pedagogy and practice of teachers using Explain Everything within digital follow-up activities for reading.
  • Affordances of digital planning—Are learners making the most of Popplet?
  • What are our middle school students reading in class and how do teachers make decisions about what they read?
  • Teacher understanding of Nature of Science in a geology context.
  • Responding to socio-scientific issues through service learning: A pilot approach to developing critical scientific literacy in New Zealand.
  • The effectiveness of a Professional Learning Circle to support the creation and design of purposeful reading activities using a digital application.


Current supervisions

  • Science teachers’ instructional design practices for a Bring-Your-Own-Device (BYOD) environment in New Zealand secondary schools.
  • The effect and value of case-based scenario Web Quests on preservice teachers’ critical thinking and classroom management skills.
  • ECE teachers’ fostering of children’s development of working theories around STEM through a spiral curriculum.
  • Mobile Assisted Language Learning (MALL) Model: Pakistani Context.


  • 2016:  University of Auckland  CLeaR fellowship - Enhancing engagement through e-learning
  • 2015:  University of Auckland Women in Leadership
  • 2012:  Awarded Faculty of Education Teaching Excellence Award (Innovation in Teaching).
  • 2010:  Awarded National Tertiary Teaching Excellence Award (Sustained Excellence).
  • 2008:  Awarded The University of Auckland Teaching Excellence Award (Early Career).
  • 2008:  Awarded the Rae Munro Award from the New Zealand Association of Research in Education in recognition of thesis, ‘Myth busting and tenet building: Primary and early childhood teachers’ understanding of the nature of science’.


  • Associate Head of School (Academic Quality Assurance), 2014-2017.
  • Chair / Co-chair / or Committee Member of the Teaching and Learning Quality Committee, School of Curriculum and Pedagogy, 2010-2017.
  • ISATT 2015 Organising Committee. See http://isatt2015.com/ 
  • Dean's representative on the University of Auckland Ethics Committee, 2014-2016.
  • Faculty of Education ethics advisor, 2007-2014.
  • Writer for the Science Learning Hub funded by Ministry of Science, Research and Technology, then Ministry of Science and Innovation, 2005-2012.

Committees/Professional groups/Services

  • 2009–Present: Reviewer, Australian Journal of Teacher Education.
  • 2007–Present: Proposal Reviewer for the Annual Meeting of the European Science Education Research Association, New Zealand Association for Research in Education, National Association for Research in Science Teaching Annual International, European Association for Research on Learning and Instruction, and British Educational Research Association.
  • 2008–Present: Member and/or Chair of SMT then CURRPD Teaching & Learning Quality Committee.

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.
  • May, L., Mei, B., & Heap, R. (2019). Rapid prototyping as an approach to designing online learning. Paper presented at HERDSA Conference 2019: Next Generation, Higher Education: Challenges, Changes and Opportunities, Auckland, New Zealand. 2 July - 5 July 2019. Related URL.
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Lawrence May, Bing Mei
  • Tolosa, C., Heap, R., Ovens, A., & Garbett, D. (2017). Pedagogical hesitations in a mobile technology rich learning environment: A self-study of redefining expertise. In D. Garbett, A. Ovens (Eds.) Being self-study researchers in a digital world: Future oriented research and pedagogy in teacher education (pp. 117-131). Cham, Switzerland: Springer International Publishing. 10.1007/978-3-319-39478-7_9
    URL: http://hdl.handle.net/2292/34906
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Dawn Garbett, Alan Ovens, Constanza Tolosa
  • Garbett, D., Tolosa, C., Ovens, A., & Heap, R. (2016). Survivors’ oaths: Collaborating beyond survival memos. In D. Garbett, A. Ovens (Eds.) Enacting self-study as a methodology for professional inquiry (pp. 127-132). Herstmonceux, UK: Self-Study of Teacher Education [S-STEP] Practices Community.
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Dawn Garbett, Alan Ovens, Constanza Tolosa
  • Heap, R., Tolosa, C., Garbett, D., & Ovens, A. (2016). Technology bridging the middle earth between pedagogy and feedback. In N. Wright (Ed.) There and back: Charting flexible pathways in open, mobile and distance education: Conference proceedings, 54-58. Hamilton, New Zealand: University of Waikato.
    URL: http://hdl.handle.net/2292/38665
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Constanza Tolosa, Dawn Garbett, Alan Ovens
  • Bigwood, K., Bruce, T., Heap, R., Leichtweis, S., Moyle, A., & Neveldsen, P. (2015). From Fantasy to Reality: Six Critical Success Factors for Integrating Mobile Devices in Higher Education. Paper presented at TERNZ 2015, AUT, Auckland, NZ. 25 November - 27 November 2015. From Fantasy to Reality: Six Critical Success Factors for Integrating Mobile Devices in Higher Education. Related URL.
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Toni Bruce, Paul Neveldsen
  • Matthewman, S., Bowes, M., Burchill, D., Heap, R., & Tickner, S. (2015). The digital challenges to curriculum thinking. In J. Morgan (Ed.) The 21st century curriculum? (pp. 107-121). Auckland, New Zealand: Edify.
    URL: http://hdl.handle.net/2292/27901
  • Anderson, E., Heap, R., & Hedges, H. (2015). Curriculum enacted: You can’t “google” that. In J. Morgan (Ed.) The 21st century curriculum? (pp. 84-94). Auckland, New Zealand: Edify Ltd.
    URL: http://hdl.handle.net/2292/39593
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Elizabeth Anderson, Helen Hedges
  • Ovens, A., Garbett, D., & Heap, R. (2015). Using assessment to enhance twenty-first century learning. In C. Koh (Ed.) Motivation, leadership and curriculum design: Engaging the net generation and 21st century learners (pp. 173-183). New York: Springer. 10.1007/978-981-287-230-2_14
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Dawn Garbett, Alan Ovens

Contact details

Primary office location

Level 2, Room 204
New Zealand