Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Program Name/Specialization

Community Psychology


Faculty of Science

First Advisor

Geoffrey Nelson

Advisor Role



Knowledge-to-action theories (such as knowledge mobilization, translation, and dissemination) have been developed to address a persistent disconnect between research and practice. Critiques of these theories highlight areas for improvement, including better incorporating knowledge generated through experience and examining the learning process in greater detail. The research in this dissertation examines peer learning as strategy for mobilizing knowledge to advance the uptake of evidence-based practices, particularly interventions that are complex in nature. Complex interventions require engagement of many different stakeholder groups and often require adaptation to ensure sufficient fit with the implementation context. Research on peer learning as a knowledge mobilization strategy for professionals adopting evidence-based practices is limited.

The articles that comprise this dissertation provide a starting point for understanding how peer learning has been used to advance the uptake of evidence-based practices in academic-led and community-led knowledge mobilization initiatives. Peer learning is a reciprocal process in which learners share knowledge and experiences for mutual benefit (Boud, 2001). The reciprocal nature of this process is what distinguishes peer learning from related concepts such as peer teaching, coaching, and mentorship. In the first article, I present a scoping review of the literature conducted to examine how peer learning has been used as a strategy to facilitate the uptake of evidence-based practices. In reporting the findings of this review, I highlight a number of peer learning strategies and describe how these strategies are linked to building individual and collective capacity for knowledge use and/or implementation. In the next two articles, I examine the process of peer learning within the context of two multi-community networks advancing Housing First as a strategy to end homelessness. In article two, I present a multiple case study of two provincial/regional networks comprised of leaders in the homelessness sector. The purpose of this multiple case study is to examine the role of peer learning on individual and collective capacity for advancing Housing First. The findings highlight the importance of trust and communication among leaders in facilitating peer learning for the purposes of navigating ambiguity and advancing continuous improvement. In article three, I examine the multiple case study further to determine how peer learning amongst leaders in both networks influences systems change related to Housing First. The findings indicate that peer learning within the network builds the collective capacity of members to create conditions for change and to advance and sustain changes in homelessness services systems.

The research conducted in this dissertation can inform the work of researchers and community stakeholders developing knowledge mobilization initiatives to advance the uptake and implementation of innovative and evidence-based practices. This research provides insight into how peer learning can be used to link different forms of knowledge, to build capacity for complex interventions, and to advance systems change.

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