Trauma-informed pedagogy is an emerging field in education that seeks to recognize that we and our students have past and present experiences that may negatively affect our teaching and learning, and the effects of those experiences on students’ well-being and approaches to learning and engagement in our courses. According to Dr. Mays Imad, this is not a call for us to become mental health experts or therapists. Instead, if we want our students to learn, we must recognize trauma in ourselves and our students and, at the very least, ensure that we help our students feel safe, empowered, and connected.
‘‘Trauma-informed educators recognize students’ actions are a direct result of their life experiences. When their students act out or disengage, they don’t ask them, ‘What is wrong with you?’ but rather, ‘What happened to you?’”
(Huang et. al., 2014)
Briefly, a trauma-informed approach asks us to:
- Empower students – build in choice, control, and opportunities for sharing their concerns and experiences.
- Offer safety and a supportive environment – check-in with students frequently and authentically: how are they doing? how can you or your course offer flexibility or opportunities for asking for and receiving support?
- Facilitate peer support and communication – build community and connections in your classroom that encourage peer contact, support networks, and campus community involvement.
- Maintain consistent and high expectations – consistent, high expectations for your course help your students build competency and confidence.
- Check your assumptions – don’t assume you understand or can know the experiences of your students or how trauma manifests. Ask questions and listen.
- Know where, how, and when to access campus resources – make reference to campus support resources in your discussions with students.
Sources: Davidson, S. (2020); Imad, M. (June 3, 2020).
- Trauma-informed practices for instructors; OFE workshop video version (Montclair Google access required), August 2021
- OFE Workshop. Engagement and accountability: Drawing students in and building accountability (OFE folder)
- Managing the teaching load (faculty need to take care of themselves to take care of others)
- TAO (Therapy Assistance Online): a CAPS resource for online support and activities that support self-care. Montclair license for all employees and students.
- Chari, A. and Singh, A. (4 Nov. 2020) “This Election Is Traumatizing for Many Students (and Educators). Here’s How to Help,” Education Week.
- Costa, K. (Apr 2020) “OLC Trauma-Aware Online Teaching.” Online Learning Consortium Ideate. Retrieved from:
- Davidson, S. (2020) Trauma-Informed Practices for Postsecondary Education: A Guide. Education Northwest.
- Huang, L. N., Flatow, R., Biggs, T., Afayee, S., Smith, K., Clark, T., & Blake, M. (2014). SAMHSA’s concept of trauma and guidance for a trauma-informed approach (SMA No. 14-4884). U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
- Imad, M. (Mar 2020). “Hope Matters: Ten Teaching Strategies to Support Students and Help Them Continue to Learn in this Time of Uncertainty.” Inside Higher Ed. Retrieved from:
- Imad, M. (June 2020). Leveraging the Neuroscience of Now: Seven ways professors can help students thrive in class in times of trauma. Inside Higher Ed.
- Thomas, N. and C. Kennedy. (Oct 2020) “HOW FACULTY CAN PREPARE TO HANDLE THE POST-ELECTION CLASSROOM” Scholars.org.
Updated 07.21.22 SR