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Sarah Dryden-Peterson

Associate Professor of Education
(On Leave Spring 2017)
Sarah Dryden-Peterson

Degree:  Ed.D., Harvard University, (2009); M.A., Tufts University, (2000); M.Phil., University of Cape Town, (2000)
Email:  [javascript protected email address]
Phone:  617.495.8142
Personal Site:   Link to Site
Vitae/CV:   Sarah Dryden-Peterson.pdf
Office:  Gutman 457
Office Hours Contact:  Email the Faculty Assistant to set up the appointment
Faculty Assistant:  Wendy Angus


Sarah Dryden-Peterson leads a research program that focuses on the connections between education and community development, specifically the role that education plays in building peaceful and participatory societies. Her work is situated in conflict and post-conflict settings in sub-Saharan Africa and with African Diaspora communities in the United States and Canada. She is concerned with the interplay between local experiences of children, families, and teachers and the development and implementation of national and international policy. Her research reflects connections between practice, policy, and scholarship and is strengthened through long-term collaborations with UN agencies, NGOs, and communities.

Click here to see a full list of Sarah Dryden-Peterson's courses.

Areas of Expertise

Learning for All: Improving Access to a Meaningful Education Globally
This study aims to identify and test promising local and global levers to improve literacy and civic engagement for all students. The project is comparative, with sites in Peru, Colombia, and Botswana and includes partnerships with Ministries of Education, local universities, and research institutes in the three sites. Funded by the Harvard Graduate School of Education Dean’s Venture Fund. Investigators: Felipe Barrera-Osorio, Sarah Dryden-Peterson, and Paola Uccelli.

Transnationalism in Refugee Education: Academic E-Mentoring in the Somali Diaspora
This study examines the ways in which Somali refugee students in refugee camps and Somali Diaspora outside of refugee camps build and sustain relationships, and the benefits they draw from these relationships, particularly related to education. Data include in-depth interviews with young people in the Dadaab refugee camps in Kenya and an online survey of Somali Diaspora. Funded by the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs Grant for Faculty Research. Principal Investigator: Sarah Dryden-Peterson.

Adapting global policy to national contexts: Case studies of the development and implementation of refugee education strategies
This study investigates the processes of implementing the UNHCR Education Strategy 2012-2016 in 14 priority countries (Bangladesh, Chad, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran, Kenya, Lebanon, Malaysia, Pakistan, Rwanda, South Sudan, Sudan, Uganda, and Yemen). Data include documents, interviews, and field-based case studies. Funded by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Principal Investigator: Sarah Dryden-Peterson.

Diaspora Involvement in Educational Development in Conflict-Affected Settings: Transnational innovations in provision of high quality education for marginalized children
The study aims examines promising transnational educational practices and partnerships between Diasporas, Ministries of Education, donors, NGOs, and local communities in addressing the global challenge of providing quality education for children in conflict settings. Data include in-depth interviews. Funded by the Harvard University William F. Milton Fund and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. Principal Investigator: Sarah Dryden-Peterson.

Breaking the Link Between Exclusion and Conflict: Lessons from the Education of Citizens in Botswana
This study examines the role of education in socio-political stability in Botswana, particularly how students learn through formal education about national belonging, ways of contributing to society, and dissent. Data include interviews, school-based observation, and participatory action research with Junior Secondary School students. Funded by the Harvard Academy Junior Faculty Development Grant and the Harvard Research Enabling Grant. Principal Investigator: Sarah Dryden-Peterson.


National Academy of Education/Spencer Foundation, Postdoctoral Fellowship,(2015)

Joyce Cain Award for distinguished research on African descendants, Comparative & International Education Society,(2011)

Postdoctoral Fellowship, Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (2009-2012),(2009)

Spencer Foundation Research Training Grant (2006-2007),(2006)

Harvard University Presidential Fellow (2003-2007),(2003)

Fulbright Scholar, Uganda (2002-2003),(2002)

Sponsored Projects

Borderless Education: Transnationalism for Learning in Settings of Armed Conflict (2015-2017)
National Academy of Education

Half of out-of-school children globally live in settings of armed conflict, and learning outcomes in these contexts are among the worst in the world. To address at scale the learning challenges in conflict settings, we need a new theory and a new set of educational practices. Departing from the traditional aid paradigm, this project explores how transnational relationships between Diaspora and their conflict-affected countries of origin, connecting local and global, create opportunities for increased learning in conflict settings. Combining into one dataset my original empirical data from qualitative field studies in multiple conflict and Diaspora settings (Afghanistan, DR Congo, Haiti, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Uganda, Zimbabwe), I propose to conduct an innovative set of analyses. In the resulting book, I will develop the theoretical concept of “borderless education”; present a series of narrative portraits that examine how transnational actors engage with the structures, content, pedagogy, and purposes of education in conflict settings; explore how this transnationalism is distinct from traditional aid and may address
challenges of access to learning in conflict settings; and investigate the implications not only for conflict
settings but also other situations of uncertainty, be that economic, political, technological, or related to
globalization processes.

Adapting Global Policy to National Contexts: The Development and Implementation of Refugee Education Strategies (2013-2014)
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees

Dr. Dryden-Peterson has partnered with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to investigate the processes of implementing the new UNHCR Education Strategy in 14 priority countries (Bangladesh, Chad, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran, Kenya, Lebanon, Malaysia, Pakistan, Rwanda, South Sudan, Sudan, Uganda, and Yemen). As part of this project, Dr. Dryden-Peterson is mentoring students enrolled in her course on Education in Armed Conflict, and her doctoral Teaching Fellows in document and data analysis and distance interviews with UNHCR and its partners in each of the countries (including UNICEF, Ministries of Education, international NGOs, local NGOs, and research institutes). She is writing about the role of this partnership in academic teaching here. Field-based case studies in Egypt, Kenya, and Rwanda deepen the global work, allowing us to examine how UNHCR partners work at the instructional level (e.g., with teachers, head teachers, children, PTAs) toward the principles of the Education Strategy and how teachers of refugee children understand these principles and make use of them in their classrooms.

Building Capacity in Qualitative Research Methods in Education in Emergencies (2013-2014)
International Rescue Committee

Dr. Dryden-Peterson co-led an experiential research apprenticeship for faculty members at the University of Nairobi (Kenya). Together, they engaged in a research project (research design, instrument creation and piloting, data collection, data organization, data analysis, and writing) on how teachers meet the needs of their refugee students in Kakuma refugee camp and in Nairobi. The goals of the research apprenticeship were to strengthen methodological skills, enhance experience as researchers within the field of education in emergencies, and contribute to the evidence base of this growing field.


Dryden-Peterson, S. (Forthcoming, 2016). Policies for education in conflict and post-conflict reconstruction. In K. Mundy, A. Green, R. Lingard, & A. Verger (Eds.), Handbook of Global Policy-Making in Education (pp. 189-205). Chichester, UK: Wiley-Blackwell.,(2016)

Dryden-Peterson, S. (2015). Education of Refugees in Countries of First Asylum: What US teachers need to know about the pre-resettlement experiences of refugee children. Washington, DC: Migration Policy Institute.,(2015)

Dryden-Peterson, S. (2015). Refugee education in countries of first asylum: Breaking open the black box of pre-resettlement experiences. Theory and Research in Education, 1-18.,(2015)

Mendenhall, M., Dryden-Peterson, S., Bartlett, L., Ndirangu, C.*, Imonje, R.*, Gakunga, D.*, Gichuhi, L.*, Nyagah, G.*, Okoth, U.* and Tangelder, M. (2015). Quality Education for Refugees in Kenya: Instruction in Urban Nairobi and Kakuma Refugee Camp Settings. Journal of Education in Emergencies, 1(1), 92-130.,(2015)

Menashy, F. & Dryden-Peterson, S. (2015). The Global Partnership for Education’s Evolving Support to Fragile and Conflict-Affected States.International Journal of Educational Development, 44, 82-94.,(2015)

Dryden-Peterson, S., Bellino, M.*, & Chopra, V.* (2015). Conflict: Education and Youth. In J. D. Wright (Ed.), International Encyclopedia of Social and Behavioral Sciences (pp. 632-638). Oxford: Elsevier.,(2015)

Mundy, K. & Dryden-Peterson, S. (Eds). (2011). Educating Children in Conflict Zones: Research, Policy, and Practice for Systemic Change, A Tribute to Jackie Kirk. New York: Teachers College Press.,(2011)

Dryden-Peterson, S. (2011). Education as Livelihood for Refugee Children: Emergency, Protracted, and Urban Experiences. In K. Mundy & S. Dryden-Peterson (Eds.), Educating Children in Conflict Zones: Research, Policy, and Practice for Systemic Change, A Tribute to Jackie Kirk (pp. 85-99). New York: Teachers College Press.,(2011)

Dryden-Peterson, S. (2011). Refugee Education: A Global Review. Geneva: UNHCR.,(2011)

Dryden-Peterson, S. (2011). "Reconciliation through relationships among teachers and sub-Saharan African families in the U.S.A." In J. Paulson (Ed.), Education and Reconciliation. London: Continuum, pp. 32-54.,(2011)

Dryden-Peterson, S. (2011). The Politics of Higher Education for Refugees in a Global Movement for Basic Education.Refuge, 27(2), 10-18.,(2011)

Dryden-Peterson, S. (2010). Bridging Home: Building Relationships Between Immigrant and Long-Time Resident YouthTeachers College Record, 112(9), 2320-235. See also this video about the research.,(2010)

Piper, B, Dryden-Peterson, S. & Kim, Y-S-. (2006). International Education for the Millennium. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education Press.,(2006)

Dryden-Peterson, S. (2006). 'I find myself as someone who is in the forest’: Urban Refugees as Agents of Social Change in Kampala, UgandaJournal of Refugee Studies, 19, 381-395,(2006)

Dryden-Peterson, S. (2008). The Present is Local, The Future is Global? Reconciling Current and Future Livelihood Strategies in the Education of Congolese Refugees in UgandaRefugee Survey Quarterly,(2006)

Dryden-Peterson, S. & Sieborger, R. (2006). Teachers as Memory Makers: Testimony in the Making of a New History in South AfricaInternational Journal of Education Development,(2006)

Dryden-Peterson, S. & Hovil, L. (2004). A Remaining Hope for Durable Solutions: Local Integration of Refugees and their Hosts in the Case of UgandaRefuge,(2004)


Co-Chair, Inter-Agency Network for Education in Emergencies Working Group on Education and Fragility,(2011-2014)

Research Associate, Centre for Refugee Studies, York University,(2009-present)

Committee Member, Committee on African Studies, Harvard University,(2012-present)

Co-Chair, Harvard Educational Review,(2006-2008)

Founder and Co-Director, Mbeleni Foundation, Kampala, Uganda,(2004-2010)

Founder and Director, The Idea Truck/Inqwelo yolwazi, Cape Town, South Africa,(1998-2000)

Comparative International Education Society,(2002-present)

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