Trauma-informed pedagogy: some strategies

I thought it might be useful to outline some strategies for thinking about trauma-informed pedagogy in your classroom. This is based on multiple workshops I’ve run, my own experiences in the classroom, and a twitter thread. In case folks are coming to this website and are not on Twitter, it seemed beneficial to post a recent thread that offered some pathways to thinking about this pedagogy in our classrooms.


The Twitter thread…

Earlier this week I led a workshop about some strategies and ideas for online teaching. One of the ways I framed that was a discussion of what informs my own teaching, such as trauma-informed pedagogy. Given the positive response, thought I’d share some ideas. 1/14

Teaching in the face of trauma is hard (for everyone). When our students are afraid, anxious, sad, distraught, confused, angry—how do we help them when we ourselves feel the same way? 2/14

Stress, anxiety, fear—these inhibit learning. If you are having trouble focusing, then you can’t learn. If you feel unsafe, you can’t learn. Trauma (personal + communal) affects us all differently. So what are some strategies to help us design our courses? Here are some I use. 3/14

Prioritize self-care from the beginning. I like to provide options for this, encouraging students to take photos of things that bring them joy, coloring book pages from museums, practicing gratitude by offering another student a bonus point each week for their help/engagement, etc. 4/14

I also have created relevant course material to help students reflect and process on their current moment. After some traumatic events in 2018, students and I both found a certain solace; again in 2020. For a week on conceptualism, students created a conceptual artwork about their own lives. 5/14

I like to be transparent with students when I myself am having a difficult time (without necessarily offering specifics). Being vulnerable in front of students is OK. Sharing our own challenges or stories is OK. 6/14

Creating permanent teams/micro-communities in the classroom is one of the best peer support strategies. They can collaborate and feel less isolated. They can make connections more easily. Having to meet new people in groups each week can be hard and anxiety-inducing. 7/14

Community building is important, perhaps the most important “thing” I do in my classes. It is my priority. 8/14

I like to give students a voice in choosing materials and activities. I also give them options for activities/assignments (say complete 3/5 options) Sometimes just this simple act has made a world of difference for students who are having a hard time. 9/14

While we should not try to be therapists, I do talk about the effects of trauma and what that might look like—if only to reassure them that what they might be feeling/experiencing is OK. 10/14

I put any and all wellness resources at the top of my syllabi and I remind students at key moments of those resources available to them. 11/14

I try to remember that: Trauma is different for everyone. It looks different, it feels different. There is no one right way to “deal with it.” I try not to take it personally if a student seems indifferent or lashes out. They might just be trying to survive the day. 12/14

I trust my students to do whatever they feel is needed to take care of themselves. I tell them often that they should prioritize their well-being. My class is not the most important thing nor should it be. 13/14

#traumainformedhighered and #pedagogyofcare are worth checking out. 14/14


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