Dr Michelle Johansson

BA, Grad Dip Tchg, Grad Dip TESSOL (Teaching English in Schools to Speakers of Other Languages, Post Grad Dip Arts in Drama Studies, MA (Hons), MProfStuds in Education (Hons)

Research | Current

Michelle is a Creative PhD candidate and a Professional Teaching Fellow in Pacific Studies, Education, and English, Drama and Writing Studies. Her research is primarily concerned with Pasifika education and theatre in Aotearoa. She is particularly interested in Polynesian identity, representation and authenticity and the way these are made manifest, particularly in the largest Polynesian city in the world.

Michelle is a confident practitioner of and advocate for culturally responsive pedagogy and has delivered workshops and papers in this field in Aotearoa, Samoa and Hawai‘i. As a Polynesian Arts professional and educator, Michelle's research recognizes that as a lens through which young people view themselves, the world, and their place in the world, drama and drama texts are a powerful means of affirming or undermining positive cultural identity and self-image. 

Teaching | Current

2014  Manukau Institute of Technology – Lecturer, Creative Arts

2014  University of Auckland – Professional Teaching Fellow, Faculty of Education

2012-2014 University of Auckland - Professional Teaching Fellow, English Drama and Writing Studies/Pacific Studies

2010-2014  University of Auckland – Graduate Teaching Assistant, English Drama and Writing Studies

2009-2013  University of Auckland – Graduate Teaching Assistant (Tuakana), Faculty of Arts, Equity

2004-2011  Wesley College – Head of Department of English and Drama



University of Auckland Doctoral Scholar

New Zealand Federation of Graduate Women Fellowship

Maori and Pasifika Leadership Grant recipient


In the secondary school education sector Michelle has worked in middle and senior management. She has also worked for the Ministry of Education as an NCEA marker; as Pasifika Advisor for the development of Teaching and Learning Curriculum Guides and in research and report writing on Pasifika Professional Learning and Development.

Michelle is the managing director and playwright of the critically acclaimed Black Friars theatre company who work to challenge dominant stereotypes surrounding Pasifika people.  In this role she has written and directed productions and programmes in theatres, schools, youth prison and communities around Aotearoa.  As a company, the Black Friars have been contracted to the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Social Development to design and administer theatre programmes that promote social justice.  They also deliver drama in education based workshops on request.

Areas of expertise

Pasifika theatre

Polynesian Performance

Pasifika education

Secondary education in Aotearoa

New Zealand secondary school English curriculum

New Zealand secondary school Drama curriculum

NCEA Drama

Selected publications and creative works (Research Outputs)

  • Johansson, M. R. (2017). “I am the play”: The drama of authenticity in John Kneubuhl’s Mele Kanikau The University of Auckland. ResearchSpace@Auckland.
    URL: http://hdl.handle.net/2292/31949
  • Johansson, M. R. (2014). Being Brown: Pasifika Theatre and culturally responsive pedagogy. Drama New Zealand Journal, 40 (1). Related URL.
    URL: http://hdl.handle.net/2292/25282
  • Johansson, M. R. (2014). Polynesian poly-vocal performance power and pedagogy: Sup and the Spoken word revolution. English in Aotearoa (82), 16-22. Related URL.
    URL: http://hdl.handle.net/2292/23245
  • Johansson, M. R. (2014). Michelle Johansson: Black Friars. Playmarket Annual, 49, 8-9.
    URL: http://hdl.handle.net/2292/23860
  • Johansson, M. R. (2014). Cultural Crisis in Post-Colonial Pacific Theatre: John Kneubuhl's 'Mele Kanikau: A Pageant'. AlterNative, 10 (2), 110-122. Related URL.
    URL: http://hdl.handle.net/2292/23244
  • Johansson, M. R. (2012). Dusky Maiden - Noble Savage: Pasifika identity and representation in the NCEA drama classroom. Curriculum Matters, 8. Related URL.
  • Johansson, M. R. (2012). Dusky maiden—noble savage: Pasifika representation in the NCEA drama classroom. Curriculum Matters, 8, 69-89. Related URL.
    URL: http://hdl.handle.net/2292/23470

Contact details

Primary location

Level 3, Room 304
New Zealand