Reimagining Teachers’ Work: The Everyday Creativity of Primary School Teachers in Malawi
Alyssa Morley

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Dissertation Fellowship

Award Year



Michigan State University

Primary Discipline

Given the competing imperatives assigned to education systems and teachers across the world, it is crucial to develop ways of thinking about policy that acknowledge the complexity of what it means to be a teacher. This is particularly true in Malawi, where primary school teachers are viewed as integral actors in catalyzing student learning, promoting girls’ empowerment, and implementing health reforms. Further, teachers’ work in Malawi is characterized by salient tensions: As a profession, teaching has steadily depreciated in status, pay, and desirability. Yet, as individuals, teachers are central to international development projects that assume they are role models for youth. This dissertation examines how teachers navigate the crowded and conflicting policy space of their work. Through employing the concept of “everyday creativity,” I investigate how teachers imaginatively operate with(in) constraints—often policy-generated—that shape their work and livelihoods. Drawing on ethnographic data, this study reveals the creativity of individual teachers, the shifting terrains of teacher-related policy, and how teacher lives and policy are interwoven.
About Alyssa Morley
Alyssa Morley is a Ph.D. Candidate in Education Policy at Michigan State University with interdisciplinary concentrations in Gender Studies and International Development. Through her research, Alyssa explores how the lives of teachers intersect with education policies. Her current work is driven by an interest in what it means to be a “teacher,” how these meanings are culturally produced, and how they interact with policy frames of teachers and teaching. These questions grow from Alyssa’s experience as a U.S. Peace Corps teacher in Malawi. Alyssa’s dissertation examines the intricacies of primary school teaching in Malawi and was funded by an award from Fulbright-Hays Doctoral Dissertation Research Abroad. Her Chichewa language training has been supported by a Foreign Language Area Studies fellowship. Alyssa holds B.A. Degrees in Anthropology & Sociology from Elon University.

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