What is trauma and how does it impact learning?

Trauma is defined as "an event, series of events, or set of circumstances that is experienced by an individual as physically or emotionally harmful or life threatening and that has lasting adverse effects on the individual’s functioning and mental, physical, social, emotional, or spiritual well-being" (https://www.samhsa.gov/trauma-violence). Trauma can "rewire" the brain to function in survival mode, making it difficult to be creative, focus on complex projects, and visualize or plan for the future beyond just a few days. Because trauma redirects the brain, it affects student's executive functioning and ability to control their behavior. This too inhibits the learning process and students' ability to retain information. Some students may even struggle to trust those who they perceive as authority figures (including instructors) and may resort to a fight or flight response when met with a stressful situation.

What is trauma-informed teaching?

Trauma-informed teaching is a pedagogical approach to teaching that takes into account the affect that trauma has on learning. The following resources provide more information on what trauma-informed teaching is and what it looks like in course design and delivery.

Trauma-Informed and Equitable Teaching

Center for Teaching
University of Iowa Office of Teaching, Learning, and Technology

Staff in the University of Iowa Center for Teaching have developed a short video for instructors that further discusses trauma and how this impacts teaching and learning. To access the video, click on the image below. You may be asked to sign in with your HawkID and password.