Teachers in Limbo: History Teachers Pedagogical Decision Making Following Violent Conflict in South Sudan
Orelia Jonathan

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Dissertation Fellowship

Award Year



Harvard University

Primary Discipline

History of Education
How teachers enact history curriculum is central to helping students develop a sense of national identity and civic responsibility, and yet teachers within conflict settings often occupy a difficult position. On the one hand, they are representatives of the state and the institution they serve. On the other hand, they are members of various religious, ethnic, linguistic, and cultural communities in which they may have personal loyalties contradicting the content in which they must teach (Lopes Cardozo & Shah, 2016, p. 331). Within societies seized by political, cultural, and social turmoil, teaching the complex or violent past can be a critical step towards peacebuilding and teaching young minds about human rights and civic skills (Bellino, 2016). Although research highlights the importance of teaching history, there is a lack of research on the role of teachers and how they enact the curriculum through classroom practices in conflict settings. Orelia Jonathan?s dissertation examines how history teachers enact and implement the curriculum within their classrooms and explores the variation between the intended and enacted curriculum. Jonathan also examines how teachers? lives and situational factors influence their teaching practice through the following research questions: How do teachers make decisions about how they will teach history within secondary school classrooms? What values do they prioritize in their history classrooms? How do situational factors and teachers? school environment influence their teaching decisions? To answer these questions, Jonathan draws on qualitative data from two schools in South Sudan, 67 classroom observations, and 101 qualitative interviews.
About Orelia Jonathan
Orelia Jonathan is a doctoral candidate concentrating in Culture, Institutions, and Society at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Her dissertation project explores how teachers navigate teaching history in South Sudan with a specific focus on teacher?s lived experiences and how they draw on their personal experiences of the conflict to enact the history curriculum in their classrooms. In this work, she examines the new South Sudanese history curriculum and whether the teaching of this curriculum contributes to peacebuilding in South Sudan. She is currently conducting a comparative case study across schools in South Sudan. She has taught a wide range of courses at Harvard, from Education in Armed Conflict to Introduction to Qualitative Methods and the History of Higher Education. In addition, she served on the Editorial Board for the Harvard Educational Review for two years as the Content and Manuscripts Editor. She has also worked with the Harvard Legacy of Slavery initiative for the subcommittee on curriculum writing normative case studies for the project and is a Graduate Student Associate and an affiliate of the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs. Prior to her doctoral work, Orelia taught history at The Lawrenceville School in Lawrenceville, New Jersey. She holds a MS in Education from the University of Pennsylvania and a BA in History and African-American Studies from Wesleyan University. Beyond school, Orelia is an identical twin who enjoys running, teaching yoga, and creating community around fitness.

Pin It on Pinterest