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Published 23 November 2016

2016 Mason Durie Medal: School leadership matters for learning

Distinguished Professor Viviane Robinson, from the University of Auckland, has been awarded the Mason Durie Medal by the Royal Society of New Zealand for her research and development programme on educational leadership.

Professor Robinson identified the impacts of different types of leadership on student outcomes and subsequently focused on researching and developing the capabilities that leaders need to engage in those types of leadership that make the biggest difference for students. 

Throughout her career, Professor Robinson has focused on the role played by school leaders in fostering effective teaching and learning.

Her research has helped to shift the field from a focus on school management to a stronger additional focus on how to lead the improvement of teaching and learning. Effective educational leadership, she argues, is student-centred in that priority is given in every decision to its implications for student learning and well-being.

She has designed and evaluated interventions to increase school leader’s skills for improving teaching and learning and her trademarked leadership development resources are being used, under licence, in New Zealand, Australia and Scandinavia.

The medal selection committee said her research has materially changed national and international educational leadership policy and practice.

On receiving her award, Professor Robinson said, “I am delighted that the critical importance of educational leadership, and leadership more generally, has been recognised through this award. Although the public and politicians are convinced of its importance, leadership is a tough phenomenon to study in a way that shows its impact. I thank all those colleagues at the university and in the profession who have made my research and development programme, and this award, possible.”

Distinguished Professor Robinson is an organisational psychologist based in the Faculty of Education and Social Work at the University of Auckland.  In 2013 she was awarded the University of Auckland Vice Chancellor’s Commercialisation Medal in recognition of her success in the commercialisation of the leadership development resources which are based on her research on the improvement of school leadership capabilities. In 2010, she became the first New Zealand academic elected as a Fellow of the American Educational Research Association.  She has been appointed to many educational adviser roles including for the Australian state of Victoria and as a New Zealand expert advisor to an OECD conference on education in 2014.

Mason Durie Medal:

To recognise a pre-eminent New Zealand social scientist whose research has made an international impact.


To Viviane Marcelle Joan Robinson for her contribution to educational research by identifying the differential impact of different types of school leadership practice on the achievement of learners, which has materially changed national and international educational policy and practice.

Source: Royal Society Te Apārangi