Dr Alison Willis | UniSC | University of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia

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Dr Alison Willis

PhD UniSC, M.Ed. by Research UniSC, B.Ed. (Primary) (with Distinction) CQU

  • Associate Dean, Learning and Teaching
  • Senior Lecturer, Curriculum and Pedagogy
  • School of Education and Tertiary Access
+61 7 5456 5530
Office location
Sunshine Coast
Dr Alison Willis

Dr Alison Willis is a Senior Lecturer in Education. Her research investigates the effects of disruption, stress and trauma on learning. Alison’s research interests include the roles of teachers in helping student overcome the effects of stress and trauma, learning in conflict and post-conflict environments, the effects of culture on learning, and the effects of teachers’ beliefs on student learning. She is currently investigating psychological safety as an antecedent for student learning in Australian secondary schools and is the founder of the Teachers of Australia project that champions the great work and immense heart of teachers. Alison provides professional learning and development for teachers, educational leadership, working with teams of teachers in curriculum development, and as a coach in pedagogy.

Alison’s has worked in DFAT programs with teachers from Indonesia, West Papua Indonesia, Uganda, and Vanuatu. She is a part of the Transcultural and Indigenous Pedagogies Research Group at UniSC Australia and is actively working with not-for-profit organisations to support community education initiatives. She conducted her doctoral research in Northern Uganda, and her Master’s research was a comparative study of Australian and Finnish students’ learning dispositions. Her experience in Northern Uganda led to the development of a suite of research interests, including the effects of stress and trauma on students’ learning, the roles that teachers play in helping student overcome the effects of stress and trauma, learning in conflict and post-conflict environments, the effects of culture on learning, and teachers’ conceptions of learning in developing contexts. Her study of human experience has given her a strong foundation in qualitative research methods, and she was recently invited as a qualitative methods expert in a study of graduate outcomes.

Alison’s career has spanned multiple levels of education – primary, middle and secondary schools, and undergraduate and postgraduate courses at university. Alison is an invited speaker and writer for various professional learning events, she serves on multiple advisory boards, and has a strong track record in educational leadership.


  • Australian Association of Research in Education (AARE)

  • Australian Teacher Educators Association (ATEA)

  • Society for the Provision of Education in Rural Australia

  • Registered Teacher in Queensland


  • Senior Fellow Higher Education Academy (SFHEA)

Professional Social Media

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Research areas

  • effects of stress and trauma on learning
  • the tensions between academic performance and student wellbeing
  • education recovery after disruption
  • qualitative methodologies

Teaching areas

  • EDU415 Teacher as Researcher
  • EDU718 Teacher as Researcher
  • EDU348 Teaching Senior Secondary English
  • EDU738 Teaching Senior Secondary English
  • Education Recovery after or in Disruption
  • Learning Theory
  • Willis, A. (In press). "How to create environments that support the psychological safety of teachers in the middle grades” in Health and Wellbeing in the Middle Grades: Research for Effective Middle Level Education edited by Katherine Main and Susan Whatman. A volume in The Handbook of Research in Middle Level Education series, Steven B. Mertens and Micki M. Caskey, Series Editors.
  • Willis, A., Manathunga, C., O’Chin, H., Williams, P., Davidow, S., Raciti, M., Gilbey, K. (2022). Listen with Your Heart: Auto-ethnographic reflection on the Wandiny Creative Gathering. Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education.  
  • Willis, A. (2022). Teachers prioritise relationships over curriculum for student well-being. Pedagogy, Culture & Society, 1-17.
  • Willis, A. S. (2021). The need for dialogic reciprocal anti-discrimination practice and policy in faith-based schools. Compare: A Journal of Comparative and International Education, 1-15.
  • Willis, A. (2021). Teachers’ cultural social and emotional capabilities: How teacher compassion and humility is an antecedent to student confidence. Pedagogy, Culture & Society. https://doi.org/10.1080/14681366.2021.1884122  
  • Willis, A., Thiele, C., Dwyer, R., Grainger, P., & Simon, S. (2021). The pressing need to raise the status of the teaching profession: The launch story of the teachers of Australia social media campaign. Australian Journal of Teacher Education (Online), 46(2), 16-28.
  • Willis, A., Grainger, P., Menzies, S., Dwyer, R., Simon, S., & Thiele, C. (2020). The Role of Teachers in Mitigating Student Stress to Progress Learning. Australian Journal of Education. 1-17. https://doi.org/10.1177/0004944120982756 
  • Willis, A. & Grainger, P. (2020). Teacher Wellbeing in Remote Australian Communities. Australian Journal of Teacher Education, 45(5), 18-37.
  • Willis, A. (2019). A foot in both camps: lessons learned about without-prejudice teaching and learning from cross-cultural experience. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 32(4), 429-445.
  • Willis, A., Hyde, M., & Black, A. (2019). Juggling With Both Hands Tied Behind My Back: Teachers’ Views and Experiences of the Tensions Between Student Well-Being Concerns and Academic Performance Improvement Agendas. American Educational Research Journal. https://doi.org/10.3102/0002831219849877 
  • Willis, A. S., & Nagel, M. C. (2018). The Function of Specialized Vocabulary Development in Psychosocial Rehabilitation in Traumatized Populations. Journal of Human Rights and Social Work, 3(1), 29-34. https://doi.org/10.1007/s41134-017-0046-z   
  • Willis, A.S. (2018). The efficacy of phenomenography as a cross-cultural methodology for educational research. International Journal of Research & Method in Education, 41(5), 483-499. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/1743727X.2017.1283398  
  • Willis, A.S. (2017). An education for peace model that centres on belief systems: the theory behind the model. Journal of Peace Education, 14(3), 310-324. Doi: 10.1080/17400201.2017.1365697 
  • Willis, A.S. (2016). Organic and institutional views of learning in Northern Uganda: Toward a theory of dichotomous education in postwar contexts. International Journal of Educational Development, 49, 324-329.
  • Willis, A.S. & Nagel, M.C. (2015). The role that teachers play in overcoming the effects of stress and trauma on children’s social psychological development: evidence from Northern Uganda. Social Psychology of Education, 18(1), 37-54.
  • Willis, A. (2023). Five things every teacher should know. https://usc.shorthandstories.com/five-things-every-teacher-should-know/index.html





Dr Alison Willis is a senior lecturer and researcher in the School of Education and Tertiary Access at the University of the Sunshine Coast. Having conducted research in developing and post-war contexts, and practiced in Western contexts, Alison has a strong interest in the effects of stress and trauma on learning and education, psychological safety for students and teachers, education recovery after disruption.

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