Accessibility Skip to Global Navigation Skip to Local Navigation Skip to Content Skip to Search Skip to Site Map Menu

Professor Rachel Spronken-Smith

Rachel Spronken-SmithBSc(Hons) and PGDTT (Otago), PhD (British Columbia)

Dean (Graduate Research School)

Email: rachel.spronken-smith@otago.ac.nz
Phone: +64 3 479 5655

About Rachel

Rachel is currently Dean of the Graduate Research School. When not involved in administrative duties she teaches and supervises in both Higher Education and Geography. She initially trained as a geographer, taking up a lecturing position at the University of Canterbury, where she worked for nine years after returning from completing her PhD in British Columbia. Her teaching was recognised with a University of Canterbury Teaching Award in 2002, an OUSA Supervision Award in 2012, a University of Otago Teaching Award in 2013 and a national Sustained Excellence in Teaching Award in 2015.

While studying for a Postgraduate Diploma in Tertiary Teaching through HEDC at Otago, Rachel became more interested in aspects of learning and teaching and was appointed as a Senior Lecturer in HEDC in 2004. She worked as an academic developer and was Head of HEDC from 2009-2012. In 2016 she won the TERNZ-HERDSA medal for Sustained Contribution to the Research Environment in New Zealand, and was also awarded a Fulbright Scholar Award for research in the US on graduate outcomes for PhD candidates. She is currently the Chair of the New Zealand universities Deans and Directors of Graduate Studies.

Research Interests

Rachel's interests in higher education research include learning through inquiry and undergraduate research, the teaching-research nexus, curriculum change, graduate attributes and aspects of the student experience. She regularly undertakes consultancy work for university and polytechnic staff wishing to undertake curriculum renewal, especially when the focus is on embedding inquiry in curricula.

Supervision

Rachel is especially keen to supervise postgraduates in higher education who want to research on inquiry or undergraduate research, as well as graduate attributes and doctoral education.

Current students

  • Senorita John - Becoming educated: Exploring the shades of grey that define the ecosystem of undergraduate education (2016-19)
  • Miriam Gibson - Making Meaning: The role of activity in learning (2015-; part-time)
  • James Windle - Learning and assessment connections occurring between the undergraduate years of the Otago BPharm degree and pre-registration internship, a longitudinal study. (2013-; part-time)
  • Nantida Sripaoraya - Development of a non-formal education program to enhance science communication skills in the Thai students (2017-)

Past students
Recently completed PhD candidates

  • Lee Adam - Troubling plagiarism: University students' understandings of plagiarism (2013-15)
  • Russell Butson - The office: the impact of the digital revolution on the office practices of early career academics (2012-2019; part-time)
  • Jono Conway - Synoptic and surface interactions in an alpine glacier (2010-2014)
  • Joanna Joseph - Critical pedagogy in Higher Education (2011-2014)
  • Adisorn Juntrasook - Leadership with/out position (Exceptional thesis) (2009-13)
  • Sharon Sharmini - Assessing publication-based doctoral theses (2012-16)
  • Donna Smith - Perceptions of degree-based massage therapy education (2012-14)

Teaching

Given Rachel's administrative roles, her teaching is limited. She offers many workshops through the Graduate Research school on aspects of the doctoral journey. She also teaches publishing for postgraduates, and offers professional development workshops for supervisors and convenors of PhD examinations. She teaches on the University's Academic Leadership Development Programme, offering sessions on graduate research, developing a vibrant teaching culture and graduate attributes. Rachel also contributes occasional guest lectures to Geography.

Projects

Ongoing projects include

  • Graduate outcomes and career preparedness for PhD candidates
  • The doctoral curriculum
  • More structured approaches to the development of transferable and professional skills in PhD candidates

Past projects include

  • Graduate outcomes – are they driving learning?
  • Inquiry-based learning in undergraduate education in New Zealand
  • The Matariki Undergraduate Research Network
  • Doctoral attrition
  • Institution-wide curriculum change
  • Gender in academia

^ Top of page

Publications

Windle, J. M., Spronken-Smith, R. A., Smith, J. K., & Tucker, I. G. (2020). Relationships between academic performance of pharmacy students and their postgraduate competence during internship. Pharmacy Education, 20(1), 1-12.

Sharmini, S., & Spronken-Smith, R. (2019). The PhD: Is it out of alignment? Higher Education Research & Development. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1080/07294360.2019.1693514

Spronken-Smith, R., & Brown, K. (2019). Could micro-credentials be a game changer in better preparing doctoral graduates for career opportunities. Proceedings of the 20th Australasian Research Management Society (ARMS) Conference: Research Management Excellence and Impact: It's Our Business. (pp. 67). Retrieved from http://www.arms2019.org.au

Brabazon, T., Buckley, P., Luca, J., & Spronken-Smith, R. (2019, September). HDR matters [Invited]. Panel discussion at the 20th Australasian Research Management Society (ARMS) Conference: Research Management Excellence and Impact: It's Our Business, Adelaide, Australia.

Anakin, M., Spronken-Smith, R., Healey, M., & Vajoczki, S. (2018). The contextual nature of university-wide curriculum change. International Journal for Academic Development, 23(3), 206-218. doi: 10.1080/1360144X.2017.1385464

Chapter in Book - Research

Day, T., & Spronken-Smith, R. (2017). Geography education: Fieldworld and contemporary pedagogy. In D. Richardson (Ed.), The international encyclopedia of geography: People, the earth, environment, and technology. Wiley-Blackwell. doi: 10.1002/9781118786352.wbieg0523

Spronken-Smith, R., & Stein, S. (2009). Challenging tertiary teachers' beliefs and practices: Facilitating change and development through portfolios. In J. Zubizarreta (Ed.), The learning portfolio: Reflective practice for improving student learning. (2nd ed.) (pp. 197-210). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Zawar-Reza, P., & Spronken-Smith, R. (2005). Air pollution climatology. In J. E. Oliver (Ed.), Encyclopedia of world climatology. (pp. 21-31). Berlin: Springer.

Spronken-Smith, R. (2004). Scale modelling of environmental systems: Is it a valid approach in a Gaian world? In G. Kearsley & B. Fitzharris (Eds.), Glimpses of a Gaian world. (pp. 193-214). Dunedin: School of Social Science, University of Otago.

^ Top of page

Journal - Research Article

Windle, J. M., Spronken-Smith, R. A., Smith, J. K., & Tucker, I. G. (2020). Relationships between academic performance of pharmacy students and their postgraduate competence during internship. Pharmacy Education, 20(1), 1-12.

Sharmini, S., & Spronken-Smith, R. (2019). The PhD: Is it out of alignment? Higher Education Research & Development. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1080/07294360.2019.1693514

Anakin, M., Spronken-Smith, R., Healey, M., & Vajoczki, S. (2018). The contextual nature of university-wide curriculum change. International Journal for Academic Development, 23(3), 206-218. doi: 10.1080/1360144X.2017.1385464

Cornwall, J., Mayland, E. C., van der Meer, J., Spronken-Smith, R. A., Tustin, C., & Blyth, P. (2018). Stressors in early-stage doctoral students. Studies in Continuing Education. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1080/0158037X.2018.1534821

Spronken-Smith, R., Sandover, S., Partridge, L., Leger, A., Fawcett, T., & Burd, L. (2018). The challenges of going global with undergraduate research: The Matariki Undergraduate Research Network. Scholarship & Practice of Undergraduate Research, 2(2), 64-72. doi: 10.18833/spur/2/2/8

Windle, J. M., Spronken-Smith, R. A., Smith, J. K., & Tucker, I. G. (2018). Preadmission predictors of academic performance in a pharmacy program: A longitudinal, multi-cohort study. Currents in Pharmacy Teaching & Learning, 10(7), 842-853. doi: 10.1016/j.cptl.2018.04.018

Stringer, R., Smith, D., Spronken-Smith, R., & Wilson, C. (2018). "My entire career has been fixed term": Gender and precarious academic employment at a New Zealand university. New Zealand Sociology, 33(2), 169-201.

Spronken-Smith, R., Cameron, C., & Quigg, R. (2018). Factors contributing to high PhD completion rates: A case study in a research-intensive university in New Zealand. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 43(1), 94-109. doi: 10.1080/02602938.2017.1298717

McDonald, F. M., Reynolds, J. N. J., Bixley, A., & Spronken-Smith, R. (2017). Changes in approaches to learning over three years of university undergraduate study. Teaching & Learning Inquiry, 5(2), 65-79. doi: 10.20343/teachlearninqu.5.2.6

Adam, L., Anderson, V., & Spronken-Smith, R. (2017). ‘It’s not fair’: Policy discourses and students’ understandings of plagiarism in a New Zealand university. Higher Education, 74(1), 17-32. doi: 10.1007/s10734-016-0025-9

Mitchell, L., Seyedmehdi, S., & Spronken-Smith, R. (2017). PhD student ambassadors: Partners in promoting graduate research. International Journal for Students as Partners, 1(2).

Bond, C. H., Spronken-Smith, R., McLean, A., Smith, N., Frielick, S., Jenkins, M., & Marshall, S. (2017). A framework for enabling graduate outcomes in undergraduate programmes. Higher Education Research & Development, 36(1), 43-58. doi: 10.1080/07294360.2016.1170767

Spronken-Smith, R., McLean, A., Smith, N., Bond, C., Jenkins, M., Marshall, S., & Frielick, S. (2016). A toolkit to implement graduate attributes in geography curricula. Journal of Geography in Higher Education, 40(2), 254-266. doi: 10.1080/03098265.2016.1140129

Smith, D., Spronken-Smith, R., Stringer, R., & Wilson, C. A. (2016). Gender, academic careers and the sabbatical: A New Zealand case study. Higher Education Research & Development, 35(3), 589-603. doi: 10.1080/07294360.2015.1107880

Conway, J. P., Cullen, N. J., Spronken-Smith, R. A., & Fitzsimons, S. J. (2015). All-sky radiation over a glacier surface in the Southern Alps of New Zealand: Characterizing cloud effects on incoming shortwave, longwave and net radiation. International Journal of Climatology, 35(5), 699-713. doi: 10.1002/joc.4014

Spronken-Smith, R., Bond, C., McLean, A., Frielick, S., Smith, N., Jenkins, M., & Marshall, S. (2015). Evaluating engagement with graduate outcomes across higher education institutions in Aotearoa/New Zealand. Higher Education Research & Development, 34(5), 1014-1030. doi: 10.1080/07294360.2015.1011098

Spronken-Smith, R., Buissink-Smith, N., Bond, C., & Grigg, G. (2015). Graduates' orientations to higher education and their retrospective experiences of teaching and learning. Teaching & Learning Inquiry, 3(2), 55-70. doi: 10.20343/teachlearninqu.3.2.55

Sharmini, S., Spronken-Smith, R., Golding, C., & Harland, T. (2015). Assessing the doctoral thesis when it includes published work. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 40(1), 89-102. doi: 10.1080/02602938.2014.888535

Mager, S., & Spronken-Smith, R. (2014). Graduate attribute attainment in a multi-level undergraduate geography course. Journal of Geography in Higher Education, 38(2), 238-250. doi: 10.1080/03098265.2014.910757

Spronken-Smith, R., Mirosa, R., & Darrou, M. (2014). ‘Learning is an endless journey for anyone’: Undergraduate awareness, experiences and perceptions of the research culture in a research-intensive university. Higher Education Research & Development, 33(2), 355-371. doi: 10.1080/07294360.2013.832169

Juntrasook, A., Nairn, K., Bond, C., & Spronken-Smith, R. (2013). Unpacking the narrative of non-positional leadership in academia: Hero and/or victim? Higher Education Research & Development, 32(2), 201-213. doi: 10.1080/07294360.2011.643858

Spronken-Smith, R. (2013). Toward securing a future for geography graduates. Journal of Geography in Higher Education, 37(3), 315-326. doi: 10.1080/03098265.2013.794334

Spronken-Smith, R., Brodeur, J., Kajaks, T., Luck, M., Myatt, P., Verburgh, A., … Wuetherick, B. (2013). Completing the research cycle: A framework for promoting dissemination of undergraduate research and inquiry. Teaching & Learning Inquiry, 1(2), 105-118.

Cullen, N. J., Conway, J., Zawar-Reza, P., & Spronken-Smith, R. A. (2012). Further assessment of the atmospheric controls on night-time air pollution dispersion in Alexandra, Central Otago, New Zealand from idealized modelling experiments. Air Quality & Climate Change, 46(1), 29-36.

O'Steen, B., & Spronken-Smith, R. (2012). Inquiry-guided learning in New Zealand: From an appetizer to an entrée. New Directions for Teaching & Learning, 2012(129), 39-49. doi: 10.1002/tl.20005

Smith, D. M., Smith, J. M., Baxter, G. D., & Spronken-Smith, R. (2012). The drive for legitimation of massage therapy in New Zealand. International Journal of Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork, 5(4), 21-29.

Spronken-Smith, R., Walker, R., Batchelor, J., O'Steen, B., & Angelo, T. (2012). Evaluating student perceptions of learning processes and intended learning outcomes under inquiry approaches. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 37(1), 57-72. doi: 10.1080/02602938.2010.496531

Cullen, N., Bowden, A., & Spronken-Smith, R. (2012). Partnering between a geography department and a community initiative to provide a wind resource assessment for the Blueskin Bay region, Otago, New Zealand. New Zealand Geographer, 68(1), 49-61. doi: 10.1111/j.1745-7939.2012.01220.x

Spronken-Smith, R., Walker, R., Batchelor, J., O'Steen, B., & Angelo, T. (2011). Enablers and constraints to the use of inquiry-based learning in undergraduate education. Teaching in Higher Education, 16(1), 15-28. doi: 10.1080/13562517.2010.507300

Spronken-Smith, R. A., Walker, R., Dickinson, K. J. M., Closs, G. P., Lord, J. M., & Harland, T. (2011). Redesigning a curriculum for inquiry: An ecology case study. Instructional Science, 39(5), 721-735. doi: 10.1007/s11251-010-9150-5

Tate, A., Cullen, N. J., & Spronken-Smith, R. (2011). Wintertime PM10 measurements and modelling in Alexandra, Central Otago, New Zealand: Understanding the bi-modal peak in evening air pollution. Air Quality & Climate Change, 45(3), 19-25.

Buissink-Smith, N., Spronken-Smith, R., & Walker, R. (2010). You're doing what? Students' experiences of advice from a New Zealand university. Higher Education Research & Development, 29(4), 357-371. doi: 10.1080/07294361003601891

Spronken-Smith, R. (2010). Undergraduate research and inquiry-based learning: Is there a difference? Insights from research in New Zealand. Council on Undergraduate Research, 30(4), 28-35.

Spronken-Smith, R., & Walker, R. (2010). Can inquiry-based learning strengthen the links between teaching and disciplinary research? Studies in Higher Education, 35(6), 723-740. doi: 10.1080/03075070903315502

Smith, D. M., Smith, J. M., & Spronken-Smith, R. (2010). "What's in it for me?": Massage practitioners' perceptions of a degree qualification: A pilot study. Southern Institute of Technology Journal of Applied Research.

Walker, R., Spronken-Smith, R., Bond, C., McDonald, F., Reynolds, J., & McMartin, A. (2010). The impact of curriculum change on health sciences first year students' approaches to learning. Instructional Science, 38(6), 707-722. doi: 10.1007/s11251-009-9092-y

Spronken-Smith, R., & Kingham, S. (2009). Strengthening teaching and research links: The case of a pollution exposure inquiry project. Journal of Geography in Higher Education, 33(2), 241-253. doi: 10.1080/03098260802276813

Maharaj, D., & Spronken-Smith, R. (2009). Seeking autonomy but craving direction: A qualitative study of registrars' learning in obstetrics and gynecology. Focus on Health Professional Education, 10(3), 57-69.

Spronken-Smith, R., & Harland, T. (2009). Learning to teach with problem-based learning. Active Learning in Higher Education, 10(2), 138-153. doi: 10.1177/1469787409104787

Spronken-Smith, R., & Hilton, M. (2009). Recapturing quality field experiences and strengthening teaching-research links. New Zealand Geographer, 65(2), 139-146. doi: 10.1111/j.1745-7939.2009.01156.x

Spronken-Smith, R., Buissink-Smith, N., Grigg, G., & Bond, C. (2009). Millennium graduates' orientations to higher education. College Student Journal, 43(2), 352-365.

Buissink-Smith, N., Spronken-Smith, R., & Grigg, G. (2008). Understanding the Millennial Generation: Can the literature go down under? New Zealand Journal of Educational Studies, 43(1), 127-144.

Tate, A., & Spronken-Smith, R. A. (2008). A preliminary investigation of the air pollution meteorology of Alexandra, Central Otago, New Zealand. Clean Air & Environmental Quality, 42(2), 15-21.

Mulliner, T., Hager, T., & Spronken-Smith, R. (2007). Temporal patterns of PM10 in a small southern town in New Zealand. Clean Air & Environmental Quality, 41(2), 27-32.

Conway, J., Spronken-Smith, R. A., & Zawar-Reza, P. (2007). The clean air down there? Spatial patterns of particulate matter pollution in Invercargill, New Zealand. Clean Air & Environmental Quality, 41(3), 19-25.

Harland, T., Spronken-Smith, R. A., Dickinson, K. J. M., & Pickering, N. (2006). Out of the ordinary: Recapturing the liberal traditions of a university education through field courses. Teaching in Higher Education, 11(1), 93-106.

More publications...