University of Calgary

Xu Zhao

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

Currently Teaching

Not currently teaching any courses.


Ed. D. Human Development & Psychology, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA
M.Ed. Prevention Science and Practice, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA
M.Ed. Intergrated Studies in Education, McGill University, Montreal, QC
Graduate Diploma, Journalism, Concordian University, Montreal, QC
B.A. Business, Northeast University of Finance & Economics, Dalian, China

Courses of Instruction

EDPS 646 Learning Processes
EDPS 648 Lifespan Human Development
EDPS 643 Development, Learning, & Cognition- Adult Development
EDPS 641 Development, Learning, & Cognition- Child and Adolescent Development

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, parents, and counsellors promote children's academic learning and at the same time protect their mental health and socioemotional well-being? Her research in China has focused on understanding how children's psychosocial, moral, and civic development is influenced by academic competition and performance stress that are generated in the education system, through parental practices, and related to broader social, economic and historical processes. Her research in Canada focuses on the transcultural  mental health, well-being, and success of newcomer youth and families. The goal is to understand what knowledge, skills and opportunities help individuals and communities transcend cultural differences, overcome cultural barriers and prejudices, and support the healthy and successful development of children, families, and communities in a multi-cultural society. Dr. Zhao serves on the editorial board of the Journal of Moral Education. She also consults for schools and community programs in Canada and China on the promotion of children's long-term positive development. Her approach to student supervision is to empower students to take ownership of learning, and to support them in building the competence and confidence they need for independent academic research and professional practice.


2018-2020. Promoting Youth Mental Health and Well-being in Schools and Communities (PI). Support by UCalgary International Collaborative Grant ($11,980), Werklund Dean's Office ($5,000), Werklund Teaching and Learning Grant ($10,000), and Werklund Community Engagement Grant ($3,000), in collaboration with Doug Clark & Meadow Schroeder. 

2017-2020. Early Childhood Bilingual Education and Parental Practice in China (PI). Suppported by Goldian International Gift and Research Contract (US$ 439,000), in collaboration with Robert L. Selman & Catherine Snow. 

2016-2018. Young Newcomer Social Integration in Canadian Schools (PI). SSHRC Insight Development Grant ($72,000), in collaboration with Nancy Arthur. "Barriers and Bridges: An Integrated Approach to Understanding the Process of Newcomer Social Integration in Canadian High Schools".  

2016-2018.  An Inter-Professional Approach to Innovative Research and Practices with Newcomers (Co-PI). UCalgary Human Dynamics Research Grant ($150,000), UCalgary Newcomer Research Network. 



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

Peer-Reviewed Journal Articles

Zhao, X., & Selman, R. L. (2019). Bystanders’ responsibilities in a situation of teasing: A Dual Dynamic Approach for understanding culture, context, and youth moral development. Qualitative Psychology.

Zhao, X., Yu, E., & Zhang, S. (2019). Intercultural competence in higher education: A normative anchor, a developmental perspective, and a discursive approach. Journal of Educational Thought, 51(3). 261-280. 

Xiang, X., Zhao, X., Haste, H., Zhang, S., Lee, A., Liu, Z., & Cottman-Kappel, M. (2018).  Good person, good citizen? The discourses that Chinese youth invoke to make civic and moral meaning. Citizenship Teaching & Learning, 13(2). 193–207. 

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 Psychology38(1),38-53.

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(1), 5–28. 

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).14–28.

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).1123-1148.

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. Journal of the International Society for Teacher Education, 14 (1), 19-26.

Book Chapters

Zhao, X., Selman, R. L., & Luke, A. (2018). 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 (pp.144-174). NY: Routledge. 

Gao, M., Fillippino, T., ZhaoX., & McJunkin, M. (2018). Adolescent victim experiences of cyberbullying: Current status and future directions. In Z. Yan (Ed), Analyzing Human Behavior in Cyberspace(pp. 236-254). 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.

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.

Articles for the General Public

Zhao, X. (2019). Newcomers and Canadian high school students are friendly, but not friends. The Conversation, July 23, 2019.

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

770 CHQR Global News Radio (August 13, 2019). Interview with Calgary Today on young newcomer social integration.

The Star (August 12, 2019). Young immigrants ‘friendly but not friends’ with other high school students, researchers say.

UToday (August 7, 2019). Newcomers and Canadian high school students are friendly, but not friends.

CBC Radio One (July 29, 2019). Syndicated interviews on newcomer social intergration research with 9 stations: Edmonton Radio Active, Calgary Homestretch, Charlottetown Mainstreet PEI, Yellowknife Trail’s End, St. John’s On the Go, Victoria All Ponts West, Saskatchewan Afternoon Edition, Sudbury/Thunder Bay Up North, Winnipeg Up to Speed. 

Explore UCalgary  (October 1st, 2018). “Are your dreams over if you fail that exam? Finding ways to overcome anxiety disorders in school kids.”

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.

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

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

Honors and Awards

2016                Harvard Gutman Library Distinguished Book Author
2014                University of Calgary Werklund Postdoctoral Fellowship (2014-2017)
2013                Association of Moral Education (AME) Dissertation Award Finalist
2011                Harvard China Fund Postdoctoral Fellowship
2007                Harvard Graduate School of Education Qualifying Paper Passed with Distinction
2006                Council of Alumni for Social Enterprises (CASE) Fellowship
2003                Harvard Graduate School of Education Entering Award (2003-2005)
1998                Shenzhen Polytechnic Teaching Award
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