Dr ZhiMin Xiao

Senior Lecturer
School of Health and Social Care
Dr ZhiMin Xiao
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  • Location

    Colchester Campus

  • Academic support hours

    Please email to make an appointment.



With teaching and research interests in evidence generation, synthesis, and communication, I joined the School of Health and Social Care as a Senior Lecturer. Prior to joining Essex, I was a Lecturer in Educational Data Science in the Graduate School of Education, University of Exeter. As an educational data scientist, I look back on the past in order to look better into the future. This means I examine both qualitative and quantitative data generated in the past, identify patterns, derive insights, make (particularly counterfactual) predictions–transcending the here and now, which all scientific research endeavours to achieve–so as to produce richer understandings of the past and/or inform better decision-making for the future. While my primary methodological interests are in causal inference for explanation using both conventional statistical analyses and more recent machine learning techniques, I never underestimate the value of interpretivist approaches to deep understanding and thick description of lived experiences that are often shaped by the ethnographically invisible, the social machinery that tends to shield certain groups of people in our society from, while pushing others towards, the sharp edges of illness and disease, poverty and human tragedy–injustice and structural violence that seem to be the fault of nobody. In order to help solve (oftentimes re-solve) those problems, we need robust evidence that not just informs but also drives decisions and policies that have repercussions for us all. However, what constitutes robust evidence is often subject to interpretation and a result of construction and negotiation. For that reason, I believe more than ever before, research methods education is fundamental to all scientific research and closely related to the daily lives of us all in all walks of life. In addition to methodological research and education, I am interested in child welfare, particularly in the context of trauma-informed and rights-based research into family injustice; children and youth wellbeing, particularly in the context of their interactions with digital technologies. With much of my prior research conducted in and about schools using “small” or “big”, primary or secondary data, I always have an interest in issues concerning equity in access to quality education, which, I have long believed, can be better achieved by unbarring the gate without lowering the bar, some form of distance/digital education that we are all configuring in our unique contexts to achieve our specific goals. I have been a long-time (likely lifelong) distance learner with Harvard University Extension School, where my interests in Data Science and Medical Anthropology grew and are still being nurtured.


University of Essex

  • Senior Lecturer, University of Essex (2021 - present)

Other academic

  • Lecturer in Educational Data Science, University of Exeter (2018 - 2021)

  • Research Data Scientist, Durham University (2015 - 2018)

Research and professional activities

Research interests


Family Injustice

Causal Inference

Evidence-Informed Policy and Practice

Data Science for Social Good

Child Health

Digital Education

Social Medicine

Science of Science

Randomised Controlled Trials (RCT)

Teaching and supervision

Current teaching responsibilities

  • Global Health Epidemiology (HS885)

  • Data Collection, Analysis and Interpretation (HS908)

  • Research Design and Critical Appraisal (HS900)


Journal articles (9)

Parker, K., Nunns, M., Xiao, Z., Ford, T. and Ukoumunne, OC., (2021). Characteristics and practices of school-based cluster randomised controlled trials for improving health outcomes in pupils in the United Kingdom: a methodological systematic review. BMC Medical Research Methodology. 21 (1), 152-

Parker, K., Nunns, MP., Xiao, Z., Ford, T. and Ukoumunne, OC., (2021). Characteristics and practices of school-based cluster randomised controlled trials for improving health outcomes in pupils in the UK: a systematic review protocol. BMJ Open. 11 (2), e044143-e044143

Xiao, Z. and Higgins, S., (2021). Of Young People and Internet Cafés. Frontiers in Psychology. 12, 603992-

Xiao, Z., (2020). Mobile phones as life and thought companions. Research Papers in Education. 35 (5), 511-528

Xiao, Z., (2020). ‘You Are Too Out!’: A mixed methods study of the ways in which digital divides articulate status and power in China. Information Development. 36 (2), 257-270

Uwimpuhwe, G., Singh, A., Higgins, S., Coux, M., Xiao, Z., Shkedy, Z. and Kasim, A., (2020). Latent Class Evaluation in Educational Trials: What Percentage of Children Benefits from an Intervention?. Journal of Experimental Education. 90 (2), 404-418

Xiao, Z., Higgins, S. and Kasim, A., (2019). An Empirical Unraveling of Lord's Paradox. Journal of Experimental Education. 87 (1), 17-32

Xiao, Z. and Higgins, S., (2018). The power of noise and the art of prediction. International Journal of Educational Research. 87, 36-46

Xiao, Z., Kasim, A. and Higgins, S., (2016). Same difference? Understanding variation in the estimation of effect sizes from educational trials. International Journal of Educational Research. 77, 1-14

Book chapters (1)

Xiao, Z. and Higgins, S., (2014). When English Meets Chinese in Tibetan Schools: Towards an Understanding of Multilingual Education in Tibet. In: Trilingualism in Education in China: Models and Challenges. Editors: Feng, A. and Adamson, B., . Springer Netherlands. 117- 140. 978-9401793513

Reports and Papers (5)

Xiao, Z., Hauser, OP., Kirkwood, C., Li, DZ., Jones, B. and Higgins, S., Uncovering Individualised Treatment Effect: Evidence from Educational Trials

Xiao, Z., Henley, W., Boyle, C., Gao, Y. and Dillon, J., The Face Mask and the Embodiment of Stigma

Xiao, Z., Higgins, S. and Kasim, A., Impact Visualisation in Educational Interventions

Hutton, C., Lukes, S., Xiao, Z., Abdulkader, MS., Choudhury, R., Gulaid, A., Sadia, S. and Zere, A., (2015). Trusting the Dice: Immigration Advice in Tower Hamlets

Higgins, S., Xiao, Z. and Katsipataki, M., (2012). The Impact of Digital Technology on Learning: A Summary for the Education Endowment Foundation

Other (1)

Uwimpuhwe, G., Singh, A., Higgins, S., Xiao, Z., De Troyer, E. and Kasim, A., (2021).eefAnalytics: Robust Analytical Methods for Evaluating Educational Interventions using Randomised Controlled Trials Designs,CRAN



Colchester Campus

Academic support hours:

Please email to make an appointment.

More about me