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Faculty & Research

Sarah Dryden-Peterson

Associate Professor of Education

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. In her field-based research globally, in her teaching, and in her role as founder and director of REACH, she examines what it would take for all children to access quality education, be part of welcoming communities, and contribute to building peaceful futures. Her research connects practice, policy, and scholarship and is strengthened through sustained collaborations with communities, NGOs, governments, and UN agencies, with a focus on low- and middle-income countries particularly those that are conflict-affected. Dryden-Peterson’s research has played critical roles in shaping global policy and local programs that have the potential to create quality, conflict-informed, and future-creating education for millions of children globally in settings of migration and displacement. Raised in Toronto, Canada, Dryden-Peterson taught primary and middle school in Madagascar, South Africa, and the United States.­

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

Areas of Expertise

Breaking the Link Between Exclusion and Conflict: Education 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.

Education’s Role in Migration Decision-Making: Syrian refugee youth in Lebanon
This study examines the complex interplay between conflict, education, and migration. Through longitudinal qualitative data collected with Syrian refugees in Lebanon, we seek to understand how young people in conflict settings experience and explain migration decisions and the connection between those decisions and their views of and experiences with education. Funded by the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs Grant for Faculty Research. Principal Investigator: Sarah Dryden-Peterson.

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, Botswana, and Brazil and includes partnerships with Ministries of Education and universities. Funded by the Harvard Graduate School of Education Dean’s Venture Fund, the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, the Harvard Center for African Studies, and the Lemann Brazil Research Fund at Harvard University. Co-Investigators: Felipe Barrera-Osorio, Sarah Dryden-Peterson, and Paola Uccelli.

Transnationalism in Refugee Education: Harnessing Resources through 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.

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.


Palmer O. Johnson Award for outstanding article, American Educational Research Association,(2018)

National Academy of Education/Spencer Foundation, Postdoctoral Fellowship, 2015-2017,(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


Refugee Education: Building Durable futures (REBuilD) (2018-2020)
Peace Research Institute Oslo

REBuilD examines the structures, content, and pedagogy of education across different types of education. Three sites have been selected for study – Lebanon, Kenya and Uganda –that allow to study three models: • Integration of refugees in national schools where refugee schools are spatially separate in camps (Kenya) • Integration into national schools where children of refugees and citizens go to school in different shifts (Lebanon) • Full integration in national schools (Uganda) Dr. Dryden-Peterson is responsible for site research in Lebanon. The study explores how refugees’ daily experiences in classrooms affect their current membership in society civically, politically, socially, and culturally. With a research design that purposively compares different types of education, study will be able to draw conclusions that can inform policy and programming about school structures, content, and pedagogy.


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.

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