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LCC International University > News and Events > Trauma Informed Education is Now

Trauma Informed Education is Now


Today’s headlines:

“Gaza's Hamas-run health ministry says 10,022 people, including 4,104 children, have been killed in the territory since Israel's campaign began” (BBC News, November 7, 2023).

“While millions of Ukrainians have fled the war abroad, the Ukrainian government estimates there are nearly five million internally displaced people in the country” (BBC News, November 7, 2023).

“Trauma results from an event, series of events, or set of circumstances that is experienced by an individual as physically or emotionally harmful or threatening and that has lasting adverse effects on the individual’s functioning and physical, social, emotional, or spiritual well-being. *

We know that trauma impacts brain functioning disrupting neural networks. We know that emotional responses to trauma are normal. My colleague, Gretchen Ketner, recently gave a presentation at the Lithuanian national English Language Teachers Association (LAKMA) annual conference, in Kaunas, Lithuania. Gretchen’s presentation entitled “Trauma-informed Pedagogy: Practicing the Principles in the Language Classroom” reminded me of several key factors that teachers can consider when teaching students who have recently experienced trauma in their lives.

Gretchen offers three principles for teachers who are teaching trauma- affected learners.

Number 1: Establish trust in an atmosphere of safety. Classroom routines, relaxation exercises, and simple acts of kindness provide much needed security. Teachers can consciously use elicitation techniques that don’t expose students unnecessarily and use corrective strategies that don’t embarrass students publicly. Learning to rebuild trust in others is an important skill for victims of trauma.

Number 2: Offer students choice to foster a sense of autonomy and empowerment. Victims of trauma likely were in situations where they had no choice. By offering small choices like different readings or options for projects, students gain a sense of ownership. Co-creating classroom routines could foster a sense of empowerment, which is important in gaining self-confidence.

Number 3: Utilize opportunities for collaboration and cooperation to build connections. Victims of trauma often feel isolated; when students learn to work supportively as pairs or groups, they can regain faith in peers. Designing thoughtful peer work activities that not only teach content but also teach cooperative skills bridges the gap between academics and personal or professional development.

Trauma informed education is just good pedagogy. “Teaching approaches that are sensitive to the needs to the trauma-affected comprise good instructional practices for all learners” (Dr. Mike Medley, Eastern Mennonite University)

*Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. SAMHSA’s Concept  of Trauma and Guidance for a Trauma-Informed Approach. HHS Publication No. (SMA) 14-4884. Rockville, MD: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2014.

Author: Robin Gingerich, Ph.D., MA TESOL Program Director at LCC International University.

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