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.
- UI Office of Teaching, Learning & Technology Resources
- Trauma-informed teaching: What you need to know (Understood.org)
- What is trauma-informed teaching? (University of Buffalo School of Social Work)
- What does trauma-informed teaching look like? (The Chronicle of Higher Education, June 2020)
- Trauma-aware online teaching (Karen Costa, OLC Ideate, PowerPoint slides)
- Principles for trauma-informed teaching and learning (University of Northern Illinois)
- Trauma-informed pedagogy (UC Irvine Division of Teaching Excellent and Innovation)
- Trauma-informed practices for post-secondary education: A guide (Shannon Davidson, Ph.D., Education Northwest)
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.