Trauma-informed teaching and practice is modeled after the trauma-informed care framework from health and human services. Trauma-informed approaches to education understand and acknowledge that almost all learners and teachers experience trauma in their lives and that trauma impacts the lives of learners inside and outside the classroom. A trauma-informed instructor makes efforts to accommodate learners’ needs, prevent further or retraumatization, and promotes resilience and growth. 

Components of trauma-informed teaching include: 

  • Providing content warnings prior to discussing sensitive material
  • Articulating clear policies and implementing them consistently
  • Building in choices where possible 
  • Implementing realistic attendance policies 
  • Providing choices to self-identify identities (for example, choice to identify or not identify pronouns)
  • Pointing out what a student does well
  • Conveying optimism

These examples and more are included on the Trauma-Informed Teaching and Learning Examples sheet from the Columbia School of Social Work. 

If you are interested in learning more about trauma-informed practices in education, check out these free and open resources below: 

Openly licensed

  • Trauma Informed Behaviour Support: A Practical Guide to Developing Resilient Learners
    • “[This book] guides educators working with primary school aged children to understand trauma as well as its impact on young children’s brains, behaviour, learning, and development. The book provides a novel framework of practice – drawing on contemporary theories of developmental trauma and evidence-based practices of positive behaviour support. Practical strategies and tools are offered for educators to use to create strength-based environments that support children’s recovery, resiliency and learning. Educators are introduced to the systemic impacts of traumatic stress and are provided with trauma-informed practices that they can use to support workforce development that enhance the quality of pedagogical practices, while promoting the safety and care of the school community.” While this text is aimed at P-12 educators, many ideas are helpful for educators in all settings.
  • Trauma-Informed School Practices: Building Expertise To Transform Schools
    • [T]he primary focus [of this text] is on identifying and applying trauma-informed educator competencies needed to transform districts, schools, educators, classrooms, and the field of education itself, while also including community members such as parents and board members in these processes – a total system makeover. At the conclusion of this text, the student, educator, or mental health professional will have a deeper understanding of what trauma-informed practice requires of them. This includes practical strategies on how to transform our learning communities in response to the devastating effect of unmitigated stress and trauma on our student’s ability to learn and thrive throughout the lifespan.”

Freely available

  • Ed-Tech and Trauma
    • Excerpt: “To fail to address the trauma will leave us — individually, institutionally — vulnerable to a further erosion of trust and care. It is imperative that, long before we talk about the gadgetry that might comprise the future of education, we address the loss and the violence that is happening in education right now.”
  • Trauma-Informed Teaching & Learning: Bringing a Trauma-informed Approach to Higher Education
    • “Trauma-Informed Teaching and Learning (TITL) is an umbrella term I coined to refer to a trauma-informed approach to college curriculum delivery. [B]y becoming trauma-informed, individual educators can develop knowledge and skills to transform not only their own physical and virtual classroom environments but also the systems in which they teach. […] The purpose of this blog is to create a space to share thoughts, questions, suggestions, links, research, and resources related to trauma-informed teaching and learning.”
  • Trauma-informed Pedagogy
    • “The global COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in serious disruptions in everyone’s lives. Traumatic experiences reduce our ability to focus, to learn, and to be productive. While this has always been true, it is an issue that has often been ignored by higher ed faculty. In this episode, Karen Costa joins us to discuss how trauma-informed pedagogy can be used to help our students on their educational journey in stressful times.”
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