Lesley Andres


Research Classification

Research Interests

life course research
international comparative higher education
sociology of higher education

Relevant Degree Programs


Research Methodology

Mixed Methods Research
survey research design
life course research
longitudinal research


Doctoral students

life course research, quantitative data analysis

Skilled in advanced quantitative methods.

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Postdoctoral Fellows

Graduate Student Supervision

Doctoral Student Supervision (Jan 2008 - May 2021)
Dimensions of educational stratification: Non-standard employment, workplace task discretion, and educational beliefs (2017)

My dissertation consists of three distinct yet interrelated studies. Its purpose is to extend research and theory on inequality by investigating three educational outcomes: non-standard employment, workplace task discretion, and intrinsic and extrinsic educational beliefs. As a body of work, my research generates insight into how the level and type of educational attainment affect divergent life course pathways. The first study examines gender inequality in early career part-time and temporary employment in Canada. Through two types of decomposition analyses, I research non-standard employment across four cohorts graduating between 1990 and 2010, studying the extent to which gender stratification within fields of study or systemic employment inequality contribute to dissimilar outcomes. I find that rates of non-standard employment vary substantially across disciplines. Furthermore, the over and under-representation of women in certain fields is a main factor explaining gender differences in temporary employment but cannot fully account for disparities in part-time employment. The second study researches the relationship between education and workplace task discretion in 30 countries. Through regression and decomposition analyses, I examine the direct association between education and task discretion and the extent to which skill and occupational sector function as mediators. I compare individual-agency and critical-institutional theoretical perspectives as explanations for direct and indirect associations. My findings mainly support critical-institutional accounts and yield evidence of a relative relationship between education and task discretion. That is, in contexts where task discretion is higher overall and more equal among occupations, education, skill, and occupational sector are less significant mechanisms of stratification. The third study considers how intrinsic and extrinsic educational beliefs change over adulthood. My research is based on a longitudinal study that repeatedly surveyed the same graduating British Columbia high school cohort over 28 years. Through hierarchical growth modelling, I contrast demographic and experience-based explanations to consider the influence of social origin and individual education and employment participation over time. The findings suggest that both life course experiences and social position have an influence on initial educational beliefs in early adulthood and the rate of change over time. Additionally, educational beliefs are more variable in early adulthood and become more stable later in participants’ life courses.

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Public policy and the structural development of postsecondary education in British Columbia, Canada, 1960 - 2015 (2017)

This study examined the structural development since 1960 of the entire postsecondary education system – that is, post-compulsory, formal education for adults – in Canada’s westernmost province, British Columbia. I synthesized changes across teaching and research universities, public colleges, private career colleges, apprenticeship, faith-based institutions, Aboriginal-governed institutions, and continuing education activities. My focus was on sectors, not individual institutions, and I considered the consequences of federal government actions along with those of the provincial government.I divided the era into three periods, from which I analyzed five significant historical moments. After considering the proximate causes of changes during these moments, I assessed the extent to which developments in each moment were consistent with three enduring public policy rationales for postsecondary education in British Columbia.The first policy rationale concerned a set of concepts about fairness that emerged cumulatively to constitute a fulsome understanding of social justice: access to educational opportunity for individuals, compensatory justice, cultural recognition and promotion, and spatial adaptation. The second propelling rationale, economic in nature, emerged from the literature on human capital formation and found expression in both generic and occupationally-specific forms. The third rationale concerned a means perceived to foster effective and efficient educational administration, namely a neoliberal, market-oriented approach that I explicated using some concepts from institutional theory and new public management.All three policy rationales proved helpful in interpreting the historical record, but none was present in all five historical moments. I commented about aspects of these policy rationales that might be useful to consider regarding future postsecondary development. I also made two observations, one about historical themes and the other about the language used to describe postsecondary education, that are relevant regardless of the approach taken when examining the postsecondary history of British Columbia. I offered recommendations concerning the social stratification implications of a growing vertical differentiation among institutions, the role of continuing education, information about the private sectors, a more current usage of human capital theory, attention to sub-baccalaureate education, the implications of international enrolment, open data, terminology, and systems thinking.

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Envisioning a Higher Education System for the 21st Century: Cambodia (2015)

Higher education is essential for Cambodia’s human, social, cultural, and economic development. Yet, it is ineffective and inefficient. Improving higher education, especially making it more responsive to the needs for human resources, is one of the gravest and most urgent reforms Cambodia needs to undertake. This study aimed to explore options to help Cambodia improve in this area. To achieve this objective, the study incorporated the qualitative research methods of document review and stakeholder interviews as a means of collecting and analysing data. A document review of statistics, technical reports, policy papers, and academic literature sources obtained from both local and international institutions was conducted throughout the research project. During July and August 2014, semi-structured interviews with 18 Cambodian participants were conducted to obtain their perspectives about Cambodian higher education development and challenges. These participants were purposively selected from various backgrounds and included students, parents, faculty, university administrators, higher education officers/expert, employers, and non-governmental staff member. In keeping with the research purpose, three questions were deployed to guide the study: (a) What are the challenges facing higher education in Cambodia? (b) What lessons can Cambodia learn from policy and practice reforms in developing countries and how can these lessons inform higher education policy development in Cambodia? and (c) What do key stakeholders see as issues and directions for Cambodian higher education? Overall, the findings indicated that, despite rapid development and growth after the introduction of private higher education in the mid-1990s, Cambodia’s higher education subsector still faces many overarching challenges that need to be addressed to ensure greater effectiveness and efficiencies. This study points out those problems. Also, it suggests some key changes that higher education institutions and the Cambodian government need to make to correct the mismatch between higher education and labour market demand. The directions proposed in this study are expected to provide policymakers in Cambodia (and hopefully elsewhere) with a foundation for their future higher education policy discussions and debates.

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Exploring the connection between emotional intelligence and first year experiences of undergraduate studets at one Canadian university (2014)

There is a general consensus that the first year of university offers significant challenges, as new students not only adjust to the academic rigor of post-secondary schooling, but also to new social and cultural milieus. Thus, emotional intelligencethe ability to identify, process and manage emotions to affect positive behaviourmust play an important role during this transitional year, but how so? This mixed methods study was designed to answer that question by thoroughly investigating the connections between emotional intelligence (EI) and the first year experiences of students at a Canadian university. To do so, the EI of first year students, as measured by the BarOn Emotional Quotient Inventory (EQ-i), was assessed at the beginning of their studies and at the end of their first year during the 2010-2011 academic year at Thompson Rivers University. Quantitative and qualitative indicators of performance, engagement, experiences, and potential associations were examined, as were changes in EI and gender effects. The findings from this study suggest there is a complicated connection between emotional intelligence and first year experiences of students. Although students felt EI played an important role, the findings revealed no significant correlations between EI and academic achievement, and very few significant associations between EI and students’ nonacademic experiences in first year. However, there was a strong connection between first year experiences and changes in emotional intelligence, as most EI mean scores increased, many significantly, from the pre to the post assessment. Finally, the EI scores of male students differed from those of female students in some facets that appeared to influence engagement, but not academic performance.

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It Takes More Than Good Intentions: Institutional Accountability and Responsibility to Indigenous Higher Education (2008)

No abstract available.

Master's Student Supervision (2010 - 2020)
Configuration conundrum: teachers' beliefs about grade-span configuration and student reading achievement (2020)

Due to shifts in population distribution in British Columbia (B.C.) schools, school districts are scrambling to open, close, and reconfigure schools to meet the needs of fluctuating student populations. However, studies about the impact of grade-span configuration on student reading achievement are inconclusive. This study compared grade 8 teachers’ beliefs about grade-span configuration and student reading achievement through the mediating effects of school transition age and instructional practices. The concepts of sociotechnical systems theory and organizational cultures were used to frame the research. Data was collected from 32 teachers in two B.C. school districts using a mixed-methods survey; 22 respondents taught in middle schools (grades 6-8) while 10 respondents taught in secondary schools (grades 8-12). Participants taught English, Social Studies, and/or Humanities or were classroom/generalist teachers. The study was uniquely positioned to understand the context of B.C. schools because grade 8 students are either the oldest or the youngest in their grade-span configuration, something previous studies did not analyze. Because of the low number of respondents, only the qualitative responses were used in data analysis. The themes that emerged from the data were the supportive nature of middle schools, the need for more inclusive educational practices, and the need for meaningful implementation of the Middle School Concept (MSC). This study highlights the need for further school level research to understand the impact of grade-span configuration and the implementation of the MSC to support students.

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Bridging the rural divide: an exploratory study of a medical school's rural applicants (2018)

It is widely recognized that rural students are underrepresented in medical schools in Canada and many other countries. Some have argued that this underrepresentation stems from admissions selection biases. This study explores the relationship between the location of high school of graduation and applicant demographics, performance on several admissions measures, and incorporates a comparison of rural and non-rural applicant autobiographical submissions. For this study I allocated 1963 UBC medical school applicants from the 2014-15 application cycle into three categories (rural, regional and urban). Three primarily analyses were conducted: a comparison of demographic characteristics (age, gender, highest level of education earned at time of application, Aboriginal identity, and BC residency) across the applicant subgroups, a univariate and multivariate statistical analysis reviewing the relationship between location of high school of graduation and measures of performance in the admissions process, and a quantitative content analysis that compared rural, regional, and urban applicant non-academic and employment history experiences. Results suggest that subtle differences existed across the applicant subgroups. Primarily, rural applicants were more likely to be female, to identify as an Aboriginal person, to perform more poorly on the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT), to work, and to mention employment in trades and forestry related professions than their non-rural peers. These differences, however, were unrelated to the rate at which applicants from the different subgroups advanced through the various stages of the admissions process. Because medical schools struggle to balance the goals and values of their programs with the metrics used to evaluate these traits and characteristics, results reinforce the importance of admissions policies designed to evaluate candidates in a background-appropriate manner so that a diversity of applicants, including those from rural areas, can adequately demonstrate their readiness for a career in medicine.

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Identities of Arab Muslim graduate students: spaces, discourses, and practices at a Canadian university (2018)

Arab Muslim graduate students in Canadian universities continue to grow in large numbers; however, this group of students face several challenges related to their cultural and religious identity. This phenomenological study examines the lived experiences of 10 Arab Muslim graduate students at the University of British Columbia (UBC), Canada. Particularly, in this research I sought to understand how these students describe their cultural and religious identity and how they experience their cultural and religious identity construction within the context of the university, including its spaces, discourses, and practices. Two main questions concern the study: 1. What are the individual perceptions of Arab Muslim graduate students on the construction of their cultural and religious identity within UBC? 2. How do Arab Muslim graduate students perceive the university’s spaces, discourses, and practices in (de)constructing their cultural and religious identities?Findings show that these students face several challenges on-campus. Arab Muslim graduate students face academic challenges in adopting to the Canadian learning environment. All female students reported facing discriminative remarks related to their cultural and religious identity sometime during their stay in Canada. In addition, students with families were limited in their participation at the non-academic activities in UBC. Furthermore, Arab Muslim graduate students understand their cultural identities in relation to religion, nationality, and culture. However, some had essentialist views while others had constructivist views. Despite the differences, students expressed similar needs for religious and cultural integration on-campus. Students also revealed that the university’s policies, dialogues, and personnel advocate diversity and student empowerment at the individual level. However, there is a need for the university to empower and support Arab Muslim students as a group. The Muslim Students Association (MSA) as well as students’ clubs play a role in integrating the religious and cultural identities for some Arab Muslim Graduate students. Finally, the study recommends that the university should offer “small acts of kindness” including providing distributed prayer places on campus, providing a cultural Islamic center, including Muslim students among the diversity initiatives, and raising awareness on-campus about Islamophobia to make the campus a safe and inclusive space for all minority students.

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An exploration into women's understandings of nutritional health: towards a "commonsense" of healthy eating (2011)

The purpose of this research was to explore how women put into practice their understanding of healthful eating when purchasing food. The primary research question was:How do women think about health, health risk and food in their grocery store point-of-purchase food selections? The food choice process is highly complex and understanding women's healthy food selections requires the consideration of the following: women's understandings of health in the context of the social environment, women's perceptions of personal health risk, women's perceptions of food, factors which influence everyday food decisions, such as cost and store location, and nutritional health education. According to the literature, research which considers how individuals make decisions about healthy food selection is limited. Participants were 16 women between the ages of 20 and 49 who selected foods that would benefit their health, who exercised regularly, had access to nutritional health information and a variety of food produce markets, were responsible for their own food purchases, and for whom cost was not an overriding concern. Analysis of the transcripts revealed four broad themes; blueprints, planning, practical application, and reflections on nutritional health education. In the context of this study, blueprint describes a cognitive framework which enabled each woman to simplify the complex decision process through classifying and categorizing a range of values associated with healthy food choice. The blueprint provided a foundation for planning for and the practical application of healthy food selection and purchasing. Collectively, the findings suggest nutritional health education policy and practice lacks information tools which take into account the high degree of variation that occurs in individuals' food choice processes. Furthermore, reaching individuals who do not know about healthful eating practices, in all probability, requires changes to the way that food is considered in the existing social environment which is not, as these findings and previous research suggest, conducive to healthful eating practices. Finally, to assist individuals with their healthful food practices it is necessary to explore ways to promote critical thinking skills which enable individuals to make properly informed decisions about which tools are best suited for their personal food decisions.

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