Higher-degree research being undertaken by Chris Henderson


Master of Education (Research)


Dr Alexandra McCormick

Thesis title:

On unstable ground: The impact of policy reform on teachers' work in post-disaster contexts



Project description

This project will examine how teachers are constructing understandings of their work and professional identity in a post-disaster setting, and how neoliberal agendas and associated policy reform impacts corresponding understandings of teacher performance at such times.

I am most interested in how teachers are cast in institutional literature relating to neoliberal policy reform and education in emergencies. Using critical discourse analysis as my methodology, I will be investigating the inclusion or marginalisation of teacher voice and the associated language used to describe teachers and their work in emergency contexts. In doing this, I want to be able to determine the relationship between the presence of teacher voice and the ways in which teachers are defined as professionals in an increasingly neoliberal environment, and what this means for teachers working in vulnerable settings.

Thus, the next component of my research will take place in Yogyakarta, Indonesia; the site of a devastating earthquake in 2006. There I will be interviewing primary school teachers about their experiences working in a post-disaster context, and how they understand and respond to recurring policy reform as individuals and professionals. Through this fieldwork I hope to construct an understanding of teachers’ lived realities, positioned in between competing definitions, evolving and at times contradictory expectations, and the vulnerability experienced in one of the most disaster prone regions of the world.

I don’t yet know if I’ll find examples of leadership, innovation, resilience and agency, or cases of ambivalence, subservience, and withdrawal. Nevertheless, I hope that my inclusion of teachers’ voices supports and/or reframes our understanding of the impact neoliberal education reforms have on teachers’ work in the world’s most unstable contexts.

Chris Henderson is a part-time research student and works as a consultant for a range of clients, specialising in youth development, education in emergencies, and educational design. He is based between Southeast Asia, Australia, and New Zealand, and has recently worked on projects with UNESCO, Google, Department of Education (Northern Territory), UNICEF, and the Ministry of Health (New Zealand).

Chris credits his supervisor as being an excellent source of expertise and inspiration, encouraging balance between academic and professional commitments, and challenging him to extend his own theoretical and methodological practices.


  • CORE Education Scholarship. 2011
  • University of Auckland, Summer Research Scholarship. 2006

Professional and community roles

  • Consultant / Project Leader. Cognition Education
  • Leadership Network Member. Asia New Zealand Foundation
  • Country Lead, 15+15 Indonesia New Zealand Dialogue

Conference presentations

  • On unstable ground: The impact of policy reform on Indonesian teachers' work in post disaster contexts. UNESCO-APEID Conference 2014. Bangkok, Thailand
  • Social media as an educational tool for the development of youth citizenship in post disaster contexts. UNESCO-APEID Conference 2012. Bangkok, Thailand
  • Youth engagement in post-disaster reconstruction: tools for enhancing citizenship in a time of change. On sustainability conference 2012. University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada.
  • The limitations of locating education for sustainable development within an environmental education framework. DevNet Conference 2010. Massey University, New Zealand.