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Zhao, Pengfei

Assistant Professor
School of Human Development and Organizational Studies in Education

College of Education
University of Florida
265H Norman Hall
PO Box 117049
Gainesville, FL 32611
Phone: 352-273-4295

Research Biography

I have an interdisciplinary background in inquiry methodology, sociology, and cultural studies. In my theoretical and methodological work, I draw from a wide spectrum of theories—from critical theories to contemporary pragmatism, feminism, and post-colonial studies—to formulate a praxis- and social justice-oriented qualitative research methodology. In my empirical work, I primarily use ethnographic, narrative, and action research approaches to address issues of universal significance, such as disadvantaged youth’s coming of age experience, student-centered teaching and learning, and sexuality education.


Ph.D. in Inquiry Methodology, 2017
Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana

M.A. in Literary Theory, 2009
Beijing Normal University, Beijing, China

B.A. in Chinese Language and Literature, 2006
Beijing Normal University, Beijing, China

Key Professional Appointments

Assistant Professor, Research and Evaluation Methodology Program, University of Florida, 2019 – present

Instructor & Research Consultant, Inquiry Methodology Program, Indiana University Bloomington, 2017 – 2019

Associate Instructor, Inquiry Methodology Program, Indiana University Bloomington, 2011 – 2017

Activities and Honors

Illinois Qualitative Distinguished Dissertation Award (Traditional Category), International Congress of Qualitative Inquiry, the U.S.A., 2019

International Institute for Qualitative Methodology PhD Dissertation Award, International Institute for Qualitative Methodology $2,000 CAD, Canada, 2017

Trentham Travel Award (twice), Indiana University ($300 each), 2013 and 2014


National Academy of Education/Spencer Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship (2021) – Changing Fate: The Cultural Revolution’s Rural Youth in Transition to Post-Mao China. (Principal Investigator; $70,000)

University of Florida, College of Education Research Incentive Fund – How Do I Talk With My Kids About the “Chinese Virus”? Racialized Trauma, Youth Activism, and Transnational Chinese Families in the U.S. (Principal Investigator; $25,000)

Gates Foundation – COVID-19: Baseline Data Collection and Planning. (Co-Principal Investigator; $145,798)  

Gates Foundation – COVID-19 Florida Research to Capture District Responses. (Co-Principal Investigator; $106,760)

University of Florida, International Center Global Fellow Program – Regulating Research Ethics in Mainland China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. (Principal Investigator; $5,000)

Selected Publications

(*indicates equal co-authorship)


Zhao, P., K. Ross, P. Li, & B. K. Dennis.* (2021). Making Sense of Social Research Methodology: A Student- and Practitioner-Centered Approach. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Zhao, P. (in progress). Changing Fate: The Cultural Revolution’s Rural Youth in Transition to Post-Mao China.

Journal Articles

Zhao, P. (2020). “Working the Hyphens in an Authoritarian State: Adding the State Back to the Conversation.” International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education.

Dennis, B. K., L. Carspecken, P. Zhao, S. Silberstein, P. Saxena, S. Bose., D. Palmer, W. Sylvia, & E. Alycia. (2020). “Digital Migrating and Storyworlding with Women We Love: A Feminist Ethnography.” Journal of Contemporary Ethnography. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/0891241620937758

Zhao, P., L. Yang, Z. Sa, & X. Wang. (2020). “Propriety, Empowerment and Compromises: Challenges in Addressing Gender among Sex Educators in China.” Sex Education: Sexuality, Society and Learning, 20(5), 552-567. doi: 10.1080/14681811.2019.1705779

Ross, K., B. K. Dennis, P. Zhao, & P. Li. (2017). “Exploring Graduate Students’ Conceptions of Research: Links Between Identity, Validity, and Research Conceptions.” International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, 29(1), 73-86.

Zhao, P., P. Li, K. Ross, & B. K. Dennis. (2016). “Methodological Tool or Methodology? Beyond Instrumentality and Efficiency with Qualitative Data Analysis Software.” Forum: Qualitative Social Research. Access from: http://nbn-resolving.de/urn:nbn:de:0114-fqs1602160

Peer-Reviewed Book Chapters and Essays

Zhao, P. (2020). “Using Mendeley and Scrivener to Facilitate Writing in Qualitative Research.” In Paulus, T. & Lester, J. (Eds.), Doing Qualitative Research with Digital Tools. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Dennis, B. K., P. Li, K. Ross, & P. Zhao.* (2020). “Pedagogy as a Form of Praxis and Commitment: A Student-Centered Approach to Teaching Research Methodology.” In T. S. Jenkins (Ed.), Reshaping Graduate Education Through Innovation and Experiential Learning. IGI Global.

Li, P., K. Ross, P. Zhao, & B. K. Dennis. (2017). “Critical Action Research: How do Graduate Students in an Introductory Research Class Conceptualize ‘Research’?” In SAGE Research Methods Cases. Access from: http://dx.doi.org/10.4135/9781473989115

Selected Links