Kate Thornton

Dr Kate Thornton profile picture

Associate Professor School of Education


Teaching in 2019


PhD, MEd, DipTchg(Sec),BSc, CertWorkComm Well


Kate has worked at VUW since 2004; she is a former secondary school teacher and professional development facilitator. Kate’s research interests include educational leadership and leadership development, blended learning, mentoring and coaching, and professional learning communities. Kate is a former Head of School and is currently acting as advisor on the VUW Head of School project. She currently teaches in post-graduate courses, as well as supervising both Master's and PhD thesis students working on leadership related topics.

Research interests

Educational leadership and leadership development; mentoring and coaching; professional learning communities.

Current research focus

  • Leadership development for principals and Heads of School
  • Professional learning communities in ECE

Recently completed research projects

  • Leadership and sustainability of professional learning communities in the New Zealand ECE sector
  • Responsibilities and competences associated with Head of School role

Supervision interests

Thesis topics related to the above areas and studies of a qualitative nature, particularly interpretive case studies.

Recently completed supervision

Doctoral thesis completions

Tien Huynh (2015). "Vietnamese academic’s research capacity in tertiary contexts." Second supervisor.

Thuy Tran (2015). "The role of leadership in promoting and supporting the basic English curriculum design and delivery at two Vietnamese universities." First supervisor.

Master's thesis completions

Rachel Denee (2017). Distributed leadership for professional learning: Effective leadership practices in early childhood education.

Brigitte Alamani (2017). Strengthening the relational trust between a professional leader and the team.

Ana Pickering (2015). "Breaking the Circle of One: Reflection in Montessori Early Childhood Settings in Aotearoa New Zealand." First supervisor.

Current supervision topics

  • Effective principalship in lower socio-economic primary schools (PhD, first supervisor)
  • Professional learning communities to support collaborative leadership in Singapore ECE settings (PhD, first supervisor)
  • Factors influencing the implementation of actions resulting from academic quality audit (PhD, second supervisor)
  • Factors influencing scientific learning for children in early childhood education (ECE) centres (PhD, second supervisor)
  • Pedagogical leadership in ECE (EdD, first supervisor)
  • Developing ECE art teaching practice through a network professional learning community (PhD, first supervisor)
  • Reconceptualising leadership in ECE within a Pasifika context (PhD, second supervisor)
  • Teacher standards and professionalism (MEd, first supervisor)



Teaching in 2019