University of Calgary

Xu Zhao

  • Director Research - Director of Research in Chinese Youth Mental Health and Well Being
  • Assistant Professor


Ed. D. Human Development & Psychology, Harvard University, Cambrdige, MA

M.Ed. Prevention Science and Practice, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA

M.Ed. Education, McGill University, Montreal QC

Graduate Diploma, Journalism, Concordia University, Montreal QC

B.A. Business, Northeast University of Finance and Economics, China

Courses of Instruction

Learning Processes; Lifespan Human Development; Development, Learning, & Cognition

Research & Scholarly Activities

Dr. Zhao's research in North America and China explores one broad question: facing rampant achievement anxiety and social stress, how can educators and parents promote children's academic success and at the same time protect their mental health and socioemotional wellbeing? Integrating approaches from qualitative psychology and critical sociology, her research aims to: (1) examine cultural ideologies and assumptions related to child development and education; (2) challenge social structures that support hegemony and injustice; and (3) engage in social actions to protect youth mental health and promote their long-term social, moral, and civic development. As an instructor, she is passionate about developing new approaches for training teachers and counsellors to think developmentally and culturally. She also consults for a bilingual private kindergarten and an emerging youth mental health centre in China. Dr. Zhao currently serves on the editorial board of the Journal of Moral Education.  

On-going Research Projects

2017-2020. Goldian International Gift and Research Contract (PI). "Parenting in China" (USD 150,000); "Early Childhood Bilingual Education in China" (USD 289,000).

2016-2018. SSHRC Insight Development Grant (PI), CAD 70,000. "Barriers and Bridges: An Integrated Approach to Understanding the Process of Newcomer Social Integration in Canadian High Schools". 

2016-2018. UfC Human Dynamics Research Grant (Co-PI). CAD 150,000. "An Inter-Professional Approach to Innovative Research and Practices with Newcomers". 



Zhao, X. (2015). Competition and compassion in Chinese secondary education. New York: Palgrave McMillan. 

Book Chapters

Zhao, X., Selman, R. L., & Luke, A. (in press). Academic competition and parental practice: A study of habitus and change. In M.Mu, K. Dooley, & A. Luke (Eds.), Bourdieu and Chinese education: Inequality, competition and change. NY: Routledge. 

Gao, M., Fillippino, T., Zhao, X., & McJunkin, M. (in press). Adolescent victim experiences of cyberbullying: Current status and future directions. In Z. Yan (Ed), Analyzing Human Behavior in Cyberspace. Hershey, PA: IGI Global. 

Zhao, X., & Yoshikawa, H. (2013). Parent and child citizenship status and youth development in the U.S., In E. Grigorenko (Ed.), US immigration and education:Cultural and policy issues across the lifespan. New York: Springer.

Peer-Reviewed Journal Articles

Zhao, X., & Selman, R. L. (under review). Bystanders’ responsibilities in a situation of teasing: A Dynamic Discursive Approach for understanding culture, context, and youth moral development.

Xiang, X., Zhao, X., Haste, H., Zhang, S., Lee, A., Liu, Z., & Cottman-Kappel, M. (in press).  Good person, good citizen? The discourses that Chinese youth invoke to make civic and moral meaning. Citizenship Teaching & Learning, 13(2). 

Zhao, X., Yu, E., & Zhang, S. (in press). Intercultural competence in higher education: A normative anchor, a developmental perspective, and a discursive approach. Journal of Educational Thought.

Sang, B., Deng, X., Pan, T., Zhao, X. (2017). Be cool with academic stress: The association between emotional states and regulatory strategies among Chinese adolescents. Educational Psychology. 10.1080/01443410.2017.1309008.

Zhao, X. (2016). Educating competitive students for a competitive nation: Why and how has the Chinese discourse of competition in education rapidly changed within three decades? Berkerley Review of Education, 6(4), 14-28.

Gao, M., Zhao, X., & McJunkin, M. (2016). Adolescents’ experiences of cyberbullying: Gender, age, and reasons for not reporting to adults. International Journal of Cyberbehavior, Psychology, and Learing, 6(4).

Zhao, X., Haste, H., Selman, R. L., & Luan, Z. (2014). Compliant, cynical, or critical: Chinese adolescents' explanations of social problems and individual civic responsibility. Youth & Society,1 (26). doi:10.1177/0044118X14559504. 

Zhao, X., Selman, R. L. & Haste, H. (2014). Academic stress in Chinese schools and a proposed preventive intervention program. Cogent Education, 2(1).

Zhao, X., & Gao, M. (2014). "No time for friendship": Shanghai mothers' views of adult and adolescent Friendships. Journal of Adolescent Research, 29(5), 587– 615.

Zhao, X., & Haste, H. (2012). Promoting democratic citizenship among rural women: A Chinese NGO’s two models. Berkeley Review of Education, 3 (1), 49-70. 

Gao, M., & Zhao, X. (2010). Roles of an educational measurement course in improving pre-service teachers’ critical thinking abilities. Journalof the International Society for Teacher Education, 14 (1), 19-26.

Book Review

Zhao, X. (2017). To Be a Moral Person: One Way or Many Ways? [Review of the book Moral Development in a Global World by L. A., Jensen]. Theory & Psychology.

Newspaper and Magazine Articles

Zhao, X., Haste, H., & Selman, R. L. (2014).Questionable lessons from China's recent history of education reform. Education Week, 33 (18), 32. 

Zhao, X., & Selman, R. L. (2014). Combating academic stress in Chinese schools. China Outlook, February 10, 2015.

Media Coverage of Research

Utoday (February, 11, 2016). Quick chat: Academic competition amongs friends and classmates in China

The Washington Post (February 7, 2016). Jay Mathews, Growing ties between U.S. and Asia are helping schools on both side of Pacific.

The Harvard Crimson (May 6, 2015). Donor funds Ed school research on Chinese academic stress.

Washington Post (February 9, 2014). Jay Mathews, Don't go overboard praising China's schools.

Voice of America (January 21, 2014). English to Asia “Daybreak Asia” program.

Photograph of Xu Zhao
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