Trauma-Informed Teaching

In the past year, an ongoing pandemic and sociopolitical discord has created chronic uncertainty, upheaval, and stress in all of our lives. Now more than ever, educators application of a trauma-informed teaching approach is foundational to supporting students. In this workshop, the presenter will define and contextualize trauma according to updated research. Giselle Hernandez Navarro, NIU Counselor Education and Supervision, will define and model Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration's (SAMHSA) six guiding principles to develop a trauma-informed teaching approach within a relevant, pop culture framework.

Key Insights

  • Trauma is caused by experiences that are unbearable and intolerable; most higher education students have experienced one or more traumatic events
  • Traumatic experiences have negative impacts on teaching and learning through
    • Re-experiencing the event (flashbacks, intrusive/distressing memories, nightmares, psychological/physiological distress)
    • Avoidance (avoiding internal or external reminders of the traumatic event)
    • Reactivity (easily startled, tense or on edge, sleep disturbance, difficulty concentrating, self-destructive behavior, and anger outbursts)
    • Cognition and mood symptoms (negative thoughts and feelings about self, others, or the world; disconnection from others; loss of interest; distorted feelings of guilt, shame, or blame)

Trauma-informed Teaching Strategies

The following practices are based on the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration's (SAMHSA) six guiding principles for trauma-informed practice.

  • Safety
    • Use low-stakes assignments to reduce risk of failure
    • Provide meaningful feedback and opportunities to learn from mistakes
    • Model appropriate boundaries with students
    • Provide content warnings
  • Trust
    • Have clear, specific policies
    • Consistently implement those policies
    • Respond to emails in a timely fashion (provide and adhere to guidelines for when and how quickly you will respond)
    • Establish class routines and have a clear class agenda
  • Support
    • Help students connect with university resources
    • Highlight tutoring services (if available)
    • Invite guest speakers from university resources
    • Establish opportunity for peer mentorship
    • Announce community events
  • Collaboration
    • Create space for student voice
    • Practice "doing with" students instead of "doing for" them
    • Involve students in evaluation
    • Provide multiple options for assignments that allow students to choose how they meet learning objectives
  • Empowerment
    • Provide choice for students whenever possible; empower them to have agency in their learning
    • Establish realistic attendance policies
    • Build flexibility into the syllabus to decrease late penalties
    • Frame feedback so that it is strengths-based and constructive
  • Cultural Humility
    • Use student pronouns and preferred names
    • Address microaggressions
    • Acknowledge culturally significant current events
    • Acknowledge cultural mistakes

Contact Us

Center for Innovative
Teaching and Learning

Phone: 815-753-0595

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