Alison Taylor


Research Classification

Social Contexts
Political Contexts
Educational Context
Social Policies

Research Interests

Education, Knowledge and Skills

Relevant Degree Programs


Research Methodology

Mixed methods


Master's students
Doctoral students

University students and term-time work. See blog:

Community engaged learning in universities.

I support public scholarship, e.g. through the Public Scholars Initiative, and am available to supervise students and Postdocs interested in collaborating with external partners as part of their research.
I support experiential learning experiences, such as internships and work placements, for my graduate students and Postdocs.

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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 (Jan 2008 - Nov 2019)
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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