Tara O’Neill


Associate Professor,
College of Education

Professor Tara O’Neill has a teaching philosophy rooted in equity and social justice and this has become fortified over her eight years at Manoa through working with pre-service teachers and their Department of Education teaching mentors, educational partnerships with the Polynesian Voyaging Society and Ohana Wa`a, and in representing the College of Education as a crew member on Leg 9 of Hokulea’s Worldwide Voyage. These impacts on her commitment to education in teaching STEM-based courses have resulted in her development of a new educational construct called STEMS 2, the first four letters indicating Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics to which she has added Social Studies and Sense of Place. Dr. O’Neill credits the Hawaiian reciprocal process of A’o, that is, to teach and to learn, as guiding her and her students through “self-reflection and supporting productive and critical science argumentation, while working together through moments of cognitive dissonance and conflict that emerges from democratic exchange.” Her approaches inspire students and colleagues alike. A colleague in the STEMS 2 curriculum found this work with Dr. O’Neill to be “a transformational learning experience” and because of it, she is “embarking on an IT career change to support meaningful experiences in distance education programs.” Another colleague refers to Professor O’Neill’s “versatility, knowledgebility, expertise, high academic and professional standards and her dedication for supporting struggling, worthy students.” She is an exemplary team teacher according to numerous colleagues who give testimony on how much they learn from her progressive, democratic processes. But it is her students that have the definitive word on how her teaching has impacted upon their education. Professor O’Neill’s average rating of 4.8 out of 5 points extends across 17 classes taught over three recent academic years. Ratings from students on whether they would recommend the course or teacher are reflected in a direct experience of a senior faculty colleague overhearing a gathering of students looking over course offerings for their final semester. Their sharing with one another of prior experiences brought forth numerous animated and enthusiastic recommendations for Tara O’Neill’s course as “challenging but enormously worthwhile.”

College of Education