Sue Christina Middleton Author of Evaluating Organization Development

Sue Christina Middleton

Emeritus Professor
University of Waikato

My book 'Henri Lefebvre and Education: Space, History, Theory' was written after my retirement in January 2013. Lefebvre helped me to 'locate' educational ideas in time and space, and weave together the academic, emotional, sensory and practical dimensions of educational experience. I am fascinated by the global 'travels' of educational movements, especially 'New Education' ideas of the twentieth century. I also play jazz piano, enjoy swimming, Pilates, walking, and organic vegetable gardening.


I have a background in secondary, intermediate and primary teaching, interrupted by travelling the world. As mother of a pre-schooler, I returned to university study and moved to Hamilton in 1980 as a lecturer in Education. As the first woman in the Education department, I was hurtled into feminist questioning and devoted many years to researching and writing in women's studies. As I moved into middle management positions in the late 1980s and 1990s, neoliberal ideas were taking root in educational and wider social policies, so my research focus shifted to how these theoretical shifts were reconfiguring the everyday experiences of teachers, students and researchers in education.    Drawing on sociological and geographical concepts, my research  explores the local and global networks and travels of the educational ideas encountered by New Zealand's teachers and students in schools and higher education. My projects have often combined analysis of archival policy documents with personal records such as letters and life-history interviews. My current focus is on New Zealanders' involvements in and contributions to the global "New Education" (or Progressive Education) movement of the 1920s-40s.


    PhD, University of Waikato, 1985
    MA (Victoria University of Wellington) (Distinction), 1979
    Diploma in Teaching (1970), Christchurch Teachers' College.
    BA (Victoria University of Wellington) 1968
    BEd Studies (Victoria University of Wellington), 1978

Areas of Research / Professional Expertise

    In an effort to explore the spatio-temporal 'location' of educational ideas, my work requires a diversity of resources: the texts of 'high theory', policy and institutional documents and accounts of everyday experience - diaries and letters, interviews, novels and poems. How are educational 'ideas' mapped in landscapes and architectural spaces, inscribing of 'bodies' - in sensory experience, emotions, and 'expressed' in teachers' and students' artistic or scientific productions?

    Throughout the 1980s, my main interests related to feminist theories in relation to teachers and feminist teaching practices. As designer and teacher of New Zealand's first university courses on 'Women and Education' and 'Education and Sexuality,' I worked with others to produce local textbooks and contributed to many similar texts for overseas markets.

    In the late 1990s, when my university amalgamated with its local teachers' college, together with colleague Helen May, I undertook life-history interviews of 175 teachers and former teachers to produce an oral history of teaching practice from 1915-1995.

    From the early 1990s, as a result of many years as Assistant Dean Graduate Studies, I did life-history and archival projects on doctoral Research in New Zealand (this included a project on Education as a discipline specifically and another on the Teaching and Learning of Māori doctoral students);

    From 2005-2011, a family history project led unexpectedly to an archival study of the educational experiences and letters sent 'Home' by labouring emigrants from Surrey to Wellington in the early 1840s:  'The Seven Servants of Ham': Labourers' Letters from Wellington to Surrey, 1841-1845;

    From 2002-2005, as Head of a new department during intense institutional restructuring under neo-liberal government imperatives, I carried out interview-based and policy-document analyses in studies of  the Impact of PBRF (Research Assessment) on the Subject/s of Education;

    My recent and current passion is the global New (or Progressive) Education Movement, especially  New Zealanders' involvements in, and contributions to, it.  I have done several projects on teacher and novelist Sylvia Ashton-Warner, and have spent time in British archival resources on the New Education Fellowship. This, and a recent visit to Adyar (Chennai), India, led me to trace the activities of Theosophists - the global Theosophical Education trusts, and the Fraternity in Education, that preceded and were formative of the foundation of the NEF itself. I am currently working with data from the Adyar Library at the World Headquarters of the Theosophical Society (TS), the TS archive at Epsom (Auckland, New Zealand), and data from the NEF/WEF collections in the Newsam Library at the London Institute of Education. I have presented some of this at recent conferences and intend to publish several articles from it in 2015-16. My Lefebvrian perspective will inform this work, as it stressed the 'lived/ emotional/ spiritual/poetic' dimensions of 'theory.'

Personal Interests

    Being a fun grandmother to our three grandsons, walking, playing jazz piano (in a local Hospice and a dementia unit in a rest home); Pilates; swimming and aqua-jogging; organic vegetable gardening; travelling widely and freely; vegetarian and vegan cooking (and eating!);



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