Associate Professor

Individual Research Interests

Professional learning, emotional work, workplace learning, social construction of skill, prior learning assessment and recognition; immigration and globalization, participatory action research
institutional ethnographic study

Research Supervision Interests

I am interested in supervising MA and PhD students working in the areas of professional learning, immigrant education, immigration and transnationalism,  gender and work, prior learning assessment and recognition, and other areas related to adult education and globalization.


I was born and raised in Mainland China and immigrated to Canada in my adult years. I am a mother, a daughter, a sister, and a wife, blessed with a warm, caring and extended family dispersed across three continents.

By profession, I am an adult educator. I worked as a workplace trainer in China in corporate settings. I have also taught at both graduate and postgraduate levels as well as in the community in Canada.

My individual research activities have focused on (im)migrants’ work, life, and learning experiences. I am not only interested in professional (im)migrants’ changing practices in an increasingly globalized work and life world, but also the social policies, “cultural” discourses and material processes that order and organize peoples’ changing subjectivities, identities, and experiences.

In the past seven years, I have presented and published in the fields of lifelong learning, workplace learning and change, emotion learning/work, community development, population health, digital divide, women and contingent work, and immigration and globalization.


OISE, University of Toronto , PhD

Research Projects

Learning as boundary crossing practice: an exploratory study of immigrants in the engineering profession in Canada Current
June, 2014May, 2016
SSHRC Insight Development Grant

Principle Investigator: H. Shan,
Collaborators: Dr. John Jenness (Engineering) and Karen Sheehan (Nursing) from BCIT; Dr. Tannert Thomas (Civil Engineering) and Dr. Nashon Samson and Chris Campbell (Education) at UBC.

The study challenges the deficit construct of immigrants through a strength-based study of immigrants’ learning within professions. It explores how immigrants advance professionally, with particular attention paid to the roles that they play in the transfer, translation and transformation of knowledge and practices in the engineering profession in Canada. The objectives of the study are: 1) to understand the contributions that immigrants make to professional knowledge and practices and the conditioning of their knowledge and learning practices, 2) to inform workforce professionals with measures to better harness immigrants’ knowledge and skills for the social and economic development of Canada.

Constitution of transnational social space: Migrant women managing careers in sciences and engineering between China and Canada
April, 2014April, 2016
Hampton Grant

Principal investigator: Dr. H. Shan
Co-investigators: Dr. John Jenness (Engineering) and Karen Sheehan (Nursing) from BCIT; Dr. Yueya Ding (Education) from National Academy of Education Administration, Beijing, PRC; Dr. Zhiwen Liu from South China Normal University, Guangzhou, Guangdong, PRC; and Dr. Tannert Thomas (Civil Engineering) and Dr. Nashon Samson (Education) at UBC.

The study asks three research questions: 1) how has transnational movement become a desirable option for women engineers and scientists? 2) how have the women managed their careers in the context of transnationalism? and 3) what social and institutional policies and practices have shaped the migration and settlement experiences and career trajectories of the women across places?

Cross-cultural learning for mentors: The unaccounted impacts of an immigrant workplace connection program Current
March, 2013March, 2014
HSS Grant

Principal investigator: Dr. H. Shan
Co-investigator: Dr. S. Butterwick

This study looks at the cross-cultural learning experiences of 18 mentors on an immigrant mentoring program in Vancouver.

Community Gardens as Third Space: Informal Learning and the Performance of Everyday Practices in Multicultural Spaces Completed
March, 2013March, 2014
HSS Grant

Principal investigator: Dr. P. Walter
Co-investigator: Dr. H. Shan

This study examines how transient migrants of diverse backgrounds learn to grow things and hybrid knowledge and practices in community gardens in Vancouver.

Selected Publications

Journal articles

Shan, H. (2015). Distributed pedagogy of difference: Reimagining immigrant training and education, Canadian Journal for Studies in Adult Education, 27(3), 1-16.

 Shan, H. (2015). Women, gender, and immigrant studies in Canadian adult education: An ethnographic content analysis, Canadian Journal for the Study of Adult Education, 27(2), 46-63.

 Shan, H. (2015). Towards a participatory model of governance: Settlement services in the training and education of immigrants. New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education (NDACE), 146 summer, 19-28.

 Shan, H., Liu, Z. and Li, L. (2015). Development by Design: Vocational training for Liushou women in Rural China, Journal of Vocational Education and Training. 67(1),11-25.

 Shan, H. & Walter, P. (2014). Growing Everyday Multiculturalism: Practice-Based Learning of Chinese Immigrants Through Community Gardens in Canada, Adult Education Quarterly, DOI: 10.1177/0741713614549231.

 Shan, H. (2014). Complicating the entrepreneurial self: Professional Chinese immigrant women negotiating occupations in Canada, Globalisation, Societies and Education. 10.1080/14767724.2014.934069

Shan, H. (2014). Continuous learning and its social organisation for engineers: An exploratory study in China, Australian Journal of Adult Learning.

Shan, H. (2013). The disjuncture of learning and recognition: Credential assessment from the standpoint of Chinese immigrant engineers in Canada, European Journal for Research on the Education and Learning of Adults, 4 (2), 189-204.

 Shan. H.(2013). Skill as a relational construct: The hiring practices in the engineering profession in Canada. Work, Employment and Society, 27 (6): 915-931.DOI: 10.1177/0950017012474710

Shan, H. & Guo, S. (2013). Learning as sociocultural practices: Chinese immigrant professionals negotiating differences in the Canadian labour market. Comparative Education.

Guo, S, & Shan, H. (2013). The politics of recognition: Critical analysis of the foreign qualification recognition discourse in Canada. International Journal of Lifelong Education. DOI:10.1080/02601370.2013.778073

Shan, H., Muhajarine, N., Loptson, K., & Jeffery, B., (2012). Building social capital as a pathway to success: Community development practices of an early childhood intervention program in Canada, Health Promotion International. DOI:10.1093/heapro/das063

Shan, H. (2012). Learning to “Fit in”: The Emotional Work of Chinese Immigrant Engineers in Canada, Journal of Workplace Learning, 24(5): 351-364.

Sangha, J., Slade, B., Mirchandani, K., Maitra, S. and Shan, H. (2012). Skilled Invulnerability:An ethnodrama on learning in the racialized culture of contingency. Qualitative Inquiry. 18(3), 286-296.

Ng, R., & Shan, H. (2010). Lifelong learning as ideological practice: An analysis from the perspective of professional immigrant women.  The International Journal of Lifelong Education, 29(2), 169-184.

Shan, H. (2009). Practices on the periphery: Chinese immigrant women negotiating occupational niches in Canada. Canadian Journal for the Study of Adult Education, 21(2), 1-18.

Shan, H. (2009) Shaping the re-training and re-education experiences of immigrant women: The    credential and certificate regime in Canada. The International Journal of Lifelong Education,28 (3), 353-369.

Maitra, S. & Shan, H. (2007). Transgressive Vs. conformative: Immigrant women learning at contingent work. Journal of Workplace Learning, 19(5), 286-295.

Book chapters

Shan, H. & Guo, S. (2014). Massification of Chinese higher education: Opportunities and challenges in a globalizing context, in M. Kariwo, T. Gounko, & M. Nungu (Eds.), A Comparative Analysis of Higher Education Systems: Issues, Challenges and Dilemmas (pp.9-24), Rotterdam: Sense Publishers. 

Shan, H., Muhajarine, N., Loptson, K. (2014). Tripartite collaboration and challenges: Reflecting on the research process of a participatory program evaluation, in B. Jeffery, I. Findlay, D. Martz & L. Clarke (ed.), Journey in Community-based Research (pp. 122-136). Regina: University of Regina.

Shan, H. (2012). Articulating the self to the engineering market: Chinese immigrants’ experiences from a critical transformative learning perspectiveIn Bauder, H. (ed.), Immigration and settlement: Challenges, experiences and opportunities in global and local contexts (pp. 95-108). Toronto: the Canadian Scholars’ Press.

Macqueen, F., Muhajarine, N., Shan, H. and Nickel, D. (2011). Early childhood intervention in the community… makes sense, but does it really work? Findings from our three-year collaborative study. In Population Health Intervention Research Casebook, (pp 41-44), Canadian Institute of Health Research – Institute of Population and Public Health, Canadian   Institute for Health Information –Canadian Population Health Initiative. Available at  or

Mirchandani, K., Ng, R., Coloma-Moya, N., Maitra, S., Rawlings, T., Shan, H., Siddiqui, K., and Slade, B. (2011).  The Entrenchment of Racial Categories in Precarious Employment. In N. Pupo, D.  Glenday & A. Duffy (Eds.) The Shifting Landscape of Work (pp.119-138). Toronto: Nelson Educational Ltd.

Mirchandani, K., Ng, R., Coloma-Moya, N., Maitra, S., Rawlings, T., Shan, H., et al. (2010). Transitioning into precarious work: Immigrants’ learning and resistance. In A. Taylor, and P. Sawchuk (Eds.), Challenging transitions in learning and work: Reflections on policy and practice (pp. 231-242). Rotterdam: Sense Publishers.

Mirchandani, K., Ng, R., Colomo- Moya, N., Maitra, S., Rawlings, T., Shan, H., et al.             (2008). The paradox of training and learning in a culture of contingency. In D. W. Livingstone, K. Mirchandani and P. Sawchuk (Eds.), The future of lifelong learning and work (pp. 171-184).  Rotterdam: Sense Publishers.

Other refereed contributions

Shan, H. (in press). Immigrant parenting. In Alex C. Michalos (Ed.), Encyclopedia of Quality of Life Research. Springer.

Shan, H. (2007). Immigration. International encyclopedia of the social sciences, (2nd Ed.) (pp. 581-583). Macmillan Reference USA.


Non-Refereed Contributions 

Guo, S. and Shan, H., (2013). Canada, in A. Schuster, M.V. Desiderio, G., Urso (eds.), Recognition of Qualifications and Competencies of Migrants (pp.229-254), International Organization for Migration.

Muhajarine, N., Nickle, D., Shan, H., and the KidsFirst research team (2010). KidsFirst program evaluation: Integrated report. Research report sub, mitted to the Early Childhood Development Unit, Saskatchewan Government.

Muhajarine, N., Loptson, K., Shan, H., Turnbull, H., Premji, S., Leggett, T. McMullin, K. and the Evaluation Research Team (2010). KidsFirst program evaluation: Report of the qualitative study. Research report submitted to the Early Childhood Development Unit, Saskatchewan Government.

Shan, H. (2008). Skill formation and globalization. Book Review. Convergence, 40(1/2), 207-214.

Shan, H. (2006). Teachers’ roles in the learner-centred approach: Empirical evidence from two computer literacy courses. Working Paper. Centre for the Study of Education and Work. Available from

Mirchandani, K., Sangha, J., Maitra, S., Slade, B., & Shan, H. (2006). Skilled in vulnerability: An ethnodrama on learning in the racailized culture of contingency. Video produced based on the research project of “Democratizing Workplace Literacy”

Forthcoming publications (selected)

Shan, H. (invited submission) International immigrant education in Y. Teng (ed.), Educational Anthropology, Beijing: Minzu University. 国际移民教育,滕星编辑,《教育人类学通论》: 北京:民族大学.

Courses Taught

EDST 565D (081): Rethinking Skill and Competency: Theories, Policies, and Practices

EDST 565 D (085): Work and Learning in the Context of Globalization and Immigration

EDST 581 (971): Theories and Research on Adult Learning


Secretary on the Executive Committee of Canadian Association for the Study of Adult Education (CASAE) 2012-2014


Regimes of skill and competency in the age of migration

For Studies of Continuous Education (2015)

This special issue is interested in the complexity, contradiction and contestation of the regimes of skills and competency in the context of migration. It calls for articles that deal with the following questions:

1)      How discourses of skill and competency intersect with migration policies;

2) How skills and competency are socially constructed to produce differential opportunities for migrants;

  3) How migrants navigate and/contest the regimes of skills and competence;

        4) How skills and competency are worked up to regulate the everyday work of practitioners working with migrants, particularly in the areas of prior learning assessment, occupational certification, licensing, settlement, etc.

         5) Any other critical questions related to the intersection of skills and migration.

 Original research papers using different methodologies are particularly welcome from all countries around the world, although theoretical papers may be considered as well. Interested researchers should send an abstract of 800 words to both Dr. Andreas Fejes and Dr. Hongxia Shan at by December 31st 2013 – see below for abstract structure. Notices of abstract acceptance will be sent out by March 1st 2014 – acceptance of abstracts does not imply paper acceptance. Fully developed papers should be submitted by June 30th, 2014. All submitted papers will be subjected to the regular blind review and referee process of the journal. A decision on the papers along with reviewers’ feedback will be provided to all authors by December, 30th, 2014. Authors whose papers are accepted or conditionally accepted need to submit the final versions by May, 30th, 2015. Please email Dr. Shan at for the complete call for paper and instruction for the abstract.