Alison Taylor

Prospective Graduate Students / Postdocs

This faculty member is currently not looking for graduate students or Postdoctoral Fellows. Please do not contact the faculty member with any such requests.


Research Interests

Education, Knowledge and Skills
Educational Context
Political Contexts
Social Contexts
Social Policies

Relevant Thesis-Based Degree Programs

Research Options

I am interested in and conduct interdisciplinary research.

Research Methodology

Qualitative methodologies
Mixed methods

Great Supervisor Week Mentions

Each year graduate students are encouraged to give kudos to their supervisors through social media and our website as part of #GreatSupervisorWeek. Below are students who mentioned this supervisor since the initiative was started in 2017.


It's Supervisor Appreciation Week at #UBC. Kudos to my #GreatSupervisors Dr. Alison Taylor and Dr. Honxia Shan @edstubc for challenging my thinking while supporting and sharing their wisdom with me!


Alison provides gentle guidance and support! My critical thinking & writing skills are better because of her!

Linda Pickthall (2018)


Graduate Student Supervision

Doctoral Student Supervision

Dissertations completed in 2010 or later are listed below. Please note that there is a 6-12 month delay to add the latest dissertations.

Quality assurance in British Columbia higher education : a policy analysis (2023)

The notion of quality in higher education has received considerable attention in the literature in recent years, often acknowledging that it is a contested concept. Given the wide range of views on quality, practices related to quality and quality assurance have at times had a mixed reception within higher education. Quality assurance is broadly described as the practice of assessing quality as an important way of improving quality. Closely connected are other concepts such as accountability, transparency, autonomy, and trust, each of which add to the complex picture around quality within higher education. This study examines the 2016 policy introduced by the Province of British Columbia called the Quality Assurance Process Audit (QAPA). This policy applies to all public post-secondary institutions, and requires that institutions undergo an audit of their quality assurance processes led by an appointed panel of experts. My research looks at the range of influences that led to the development of the QAPA policy to explore how and why it came to be implemented, and how it is being perceived and interpreted in practice by senior academic leaders within BC’s college and institute sector. The study draws on Bowe, Ball and Golde’s (1992) contexts of policy framework, the notion of policy borrowing, and the literature on the sociological concept of institutions, with a focus on Lawrence and Suddaby’s (2006) notion of institutional work. The findings from this study indicate that key influences leading to the QAPA policy include the 2011 Stubbs Report, policy borrowing from Alberta and other provinces, and the growing need to align with international standards and evolving expectations around quality assurance in higher education. The policy is characterized by senior academic leaders as a constructive addition to quality assurance in the province, providing clarity in expectations while recognizing institutional diversity. The policy builds on past practices and contributes to further institutionalizing quality assurance at the provincial and individual institutional levels. It has also amplified the need for intentional work, sustained attention, and knowledgeable, reflexive actors to establish and maintain quality assurance practices to ensure the persistence and stability of the institution of quality assurance.

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Making sense of organizational and occupational identities of management and professional staff at the University of British Columbia (2019)

Universities underwent tremendous change and growth over the last decade triggering a rise in management and professional (M&P) staff. A combination of factors contributed to the changes including the implementation of corporate and new public management (NPM) strategies to manage and monitor specialized and growing areas in higher education. Some of these emerging areas included: internationalization; fundraising and development; community outreach; revenue generating venues; and, innovative teaching and learning initiatives. Universities began to rely increasingly on professional staff, with specialized expertise, to run institutional services and operations. The University of British Columbia (UBC), a large, publicly-funded, research-intensive university located in British Columbia, Canada, was no exception. In 2018, M&P staff numbered 4,530 members (AAPS, 2018), or 28% of the university’s reported workforce of 16,089 employees (UBC, Overview and Facts). M&P staff now makes up the single largest workforce sector at the university. This burgeoning group of highly-educated, skilled ‘new professionals’ (Gornall, 1999) is recognized by the university as a unique employee group through its professional organization, the Association of Administrative and Professional Staff (AAPS). However, despite their professional contributions to the operations and the strategic long-term mission of the university, in institutional literature these employees are bundled under the homogenizing term ‘staff’. This terminology clearly separates them from the ‘other’ employee group, academic faculty, and effectively positions them in a blurred, or ‘third space’ (Whitchurch, 2013), a conceptual place sandwiched between the unionized staff and faculty members. Through one-on-one interviews with 15 participants and document analysis, this research explored how some M&P staff members made sense of, and navigated, their occupational and organizational identities within that third space at the university. In addition, the study explores how participants coped with challenges around recognition, professional development, and high turnover. As the higher education sector continues to evolve and grow, the roles of M&P staff will also evolve and grow. This research contributes to understanding how M&P staff make sense of their positioning within the university, and in turn, how this workforce can be better supported in order to minimize the challenges they face and to promote a more productive work environment.

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Using activity theory and expansive learning to co-construct understandings of competencies in K-12 education in British Columbia (2019)

This formative intervention study used activity theory and expansive learning frameworks (Engeström, 2001) to examine how a working group of 12 educational leaders from one British Columbia school district co-constructed their understandings of competencies. These leaders were supporting school and district colleagues with the redesigned curriculum, originally known as the BC Education Plan (2012a) and later as Building Student Success: BC’s New Curriculum (2018a), as well as with the Ministry of Education’s revised Student Reporting Guidelines (2016). Over nine research sessions, participants explored their contexts and future-oriented visions of learning with a focus on competencies. These sessions were audio-taped; the audio tapes were then transcribed. Transcripts were initially sorted for sensitizing concepts according to the theoretical concepts of activity theory: subject, object, mediating instruments, rules, community, and division of labour. This coded data was then analyzed for themes and sub-themes reflecting needs at each state of the expansive learning model: questioning, double-binds of practice, contextual resistance, and reflection on realignments. The analysis that emerged from this process showed how participants co-constructed understandings of competencies that went beyond demonstrations of knowledge, skills, and aptitudes; instead, they focused on competencies as a collective need to honour local collaborative learning communities, co-construct diverse learning paths, and shift systemic practices toward expansive learning. Participants described the importance of professional collaboration, engagement, relationships, and new assessment models, as well as the challenges of supporting colleagues to act on their ideals and contribute to shifting district practices. This study provides a rich perspective on how activity theory and expansive learning can be used as models for understanding the complexities of systemic change in public education systems.

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Master's Student Supervision

Theses completed in 2010 or later are listed below. Please note that there is a 6-12 month delay to add the latest theses.

The road to employability : student voices amidst institutional discourse (2023)

The prevailing beliefs and discourses on employability, in Canada and across knowledge-driven economies, consider that peoples’ potential to be employable depends on their capacity to adapt and invest in their human capital (Brown et al., 2003). Higher education institutions often adopt the self-investment narratives to enhance the profit capacity of graduates (Boden & Nedeva, 2010). One group exposed to these perspectives are undergraduate university working students. Many of these students find employment on-campus (Carnevale et al., 2015), rendering their learning institutions also their employer. Working students’ experiences inform the way they see themselves as workers; however, students’ employability has been under-explored and loosely articulated (Burke et al., 2017). This study seeks to discern how three university-employed working students approach their current and future work and understand their employability. It also explores the beliefs about student employability communicated in university documents by one Canadian higher education institution that provides on-campus employment. The conceptual tools used in the analysis offer critical perspectives to explore language-in-use as a social practice and interrogate taken-for-granted notions of employability. The study’s findings identify that participants’ on-campus work experiences influence how they approach their current and future work. For them, work was a space not only to develop career-relevant skills but also a site of struggle and unequal access, largely affected by workplace conditions and relationships. As such, participants view the road to employability as messy, changing, and affected by personal and external circumstances. Although participants displayed goal-oriented behaviors towards work, contrary to mainstream employability discourses, they saw it as more than a productive practice and desired socially valuable and meaningful forms of work. The university as employer portrays work as a productive activity for students which requires their proactive engagement. It thus communicates an oversimplified perspective of employability because it underdevelops the complexities of workplaces and differences of working students’ circumstances. The juxtaposition of the university’s beliefs and working students’ ideas about work offer a discussion about employability as constrained, political, and relational. This study concludes with ideas for future research considering the diversity of working students’ lives and intricacies of the current world of work.

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