bringing a trauma-informed approach to higher education
Author: Janice Carello
Janice Carello currently works as an Assistant Professor and MSW Program Director for the Social Work department at Edinboro University. She received her Ph.D. from the University at Buffalo where she also earned her MSW degree and a Certificate in Trauma Counseling. Her research and advocacy focus on retraumatization in educational settings and on bringing a trauma-informed approach to higher education.
I encourage you to check out the book’s Front Matter which includes the table of contents, contributor bios, and a thoughtful and thought-provoking foreword by Dr. Laura Quiros.
A collection of examples of evidence-based and field-tested trauma-informed teaching tools and other resources are also included in the books’ Back Matter which is available as a free pdf download.
I am deeply grateful for the opportunity to collaborate with Phyllis, with our many compassionate contributors, and with our publisher, Palgrave Macmillan. Connecting with other educators and learning about the meaningful work they are doing inspires and sustains me. I look forward to continued conversations about trauma-informed teaching in higher education.
My co-editor Phyllis Thompson and I received so many compelling responses to our call for submissions that our book project turned into two books. The first book, Lessons from the Pandemic: Trauma-Informed Approaches to College, Crisis, Change, is now available. The second book, Trauma-Informed Pedagogies: A Guide for Responding to Crisis and Inequality in Higher Education, will be available in 2022. So grateful for the opportunity to collaborate with so many passionate and compassionate educators.
Lessons from the Pandemic abstract:
This collection presents strategies for trauma-informed teaching and learning in higher education during crisis. While studies abound on trauma-informed approaches for mental health service providers, law enforcement, nurses, and K-12 educators, strategies geared to college faculty, staff, and administrators are not readily available and are now in high demand. This book joins a conversation in place about what COVID-19 has taught us and how we are using what we have learned to construct a new discourse around teaching and learning during crisis.
“This book is a gift to higher education. The authors acknowledge the agonizing pain of trauma, especially for those who are on the margins, but center healing and resilience through community, creativity, flexibility, and kindness. Each chapter is rich with practical examples that showcase and celebrate the different ways of knowing. Throughout, we are invited to reflect, to grieve, to celebrate, and above all, to grow.”
—Mays Imad, Ph.D.,Professor, Pathophysiology and Biomedical Ethics, Founding Coordinator, Teaching and Learning Center, Pima Community College, USA
“Global pandemics don’t have silver linings, but they do provide materials for grinding new lenses of perception. In this curated collection of essays, the editors lend us a view of higher education through both a trauma lens sharpened by the COVID-19 pandemic and a pandemic lens sharpened by recognizing diverse trauma histories. There is something here to inform practitioners of every academic discipline.”
—Wallace E. Dixon, Jr., Ph.D., Chair and Professor, Psychology, Founding Director, ETSU/Ballad Health Strong BRAIN Institute, East Tennessee State University, USA
“Lessons from the Pandemic represents an urgent invitation for all stakeholders in higher education to consider vulnerability, disruption, and loss in our communities, and just as importantly testifies to diverse and resilient interventions. Particularly valuable as colleges and universities transition post-pandemic, this deeply thoughtful collection envisions this moment as opportunity: out of crisis, to discern and build upon what we have learned about individuals, communities, and practices, and as Carello and Thompson affirm, “reimagine ourselves as educators.”
—Jeanie Tietjen, PhD, Professor, English, Founding Director, Institute for Trauma, Adversity, and Resilience in Higher Education, Massachusetts Bay Community College, USA
Just a quick blog post to point out the TITL Annotated Syllabus I’ve added to the Resources page. Since the covid pandemic, I’ve been thinking about additional changes I might make. In particular, I’ve been wondering about moving to unlimited late days. So far, limiting the late days has been working very well and tends to help students stay motivated and not fall further behind. I am wondering, though, if it’s the limited number of days or the requirement to email me in advance to let me know that is most motivating for students. I was also thinking I would ask students for their input on the policy so we can negotiate it and finalizing it during the first week of classes.
I would love to hear your thoughts and suggestions. And I’d also love to hear about what other folks are doing. What syllabus changes have you made or are you contemplating?
Thrilled to make an online presentation today with colleagues Matthea Marquart and Johanna Creswell Báez for the Arizona Department of Education! The presentation is titled “Essential Trauma-Informed Online Teaching Tools.” You can use the link below to download to view or download a pdf of our slide deck.
Lessons from the Pandemic: Trauma-Informed Approaches to College, Crisis, Change
Phyllis Thompson, East Tennessee State University
Janice Carello, Edinboro University
We are seeking contributions from researchers, teaching faculty, administrators, activists, counselors, and theorists for a collection of essays on trauma-informed teaching and learning in higher education after COVID/during crisis. While studies abound on trauma-informed approaches for mental health service providers, law enforcement, nurses, and K-12 educators, strategies geared to college faculty, staff, and administrators are not readily available. Since March, with the rapid spread of the coronavirus across the United States and the abrupt shift to online delivery of instruction and remote work, many educators and institutions have become overwhelmed. Tips, tools, and techniques for colleges and college learners are in high demand. This interdisciplinary collection will provide evidence-based approaches to curriculum development, teaching practices, organizational strategies, program administration, and policy revision in higher education that redress the impact of trauma during crisis. The aim of Lessons from the Pandemic is a research-based, practical guide for faculty, staff, and administrators in higher education that cuts across disciplinary boundaries, provides field-tested tools, and offers insights from population groups, especially those already at risk: LGBTQ+ people, non-binary people, people of color, women, people with disabilities, young people and seniors, poor and working-class people, first-gen learners, and others who are marginalized. The intention is to connect trauma-informed principles to practices in higher education. Lessons from the Pandemic joins a conversation in place on campuses across the globe about how we are using what we have learned during COVID to construct a new discourse around teaching and learning during crisis.
We are inviting several types of submissions. Collaborative authorship and multiple submissions are welcomed.
Narrative Inter Views: Narratives of experience that take up the struggle and success of trauma-informed teaching and learning during the covid crisis (1000-2000 words). Questions to help elicit a narrative are provided on the website.
Infusing Trauma-Informed Principles: Essays that illustrate one or more trauma-informed principles in practice (2000-5000 words).
Approaches to Working with Specific Populations: Essays that illustrate trauma-informed approaches to teaching specific populations (3000-5000 words).
Trauma-Informed Teaching Across the Curriculum: Essays that illustrate trauma-informed approaches to teaching in specific disciplines (3000-5000 words).
Trauma-Informed Teaching Toolbox: A collection of concrete strategies, tips, policies, practices, assignment prompts, and activities for teaching during times of crisis (400-800 words). These may be tools that are mentioned in the other submission types or separate submissions. Guidelines for tool submission are provided on the Lessons from the Pandemic
Please fill out the submission form on the website and upload the following materials by August 17.
Brief Description of your Proposed Submission (500-750 words)
Bio of Author(s), as it would appear in the book (75- 150 words per author)
Due to the covid-19 crisis, I have been getting more inquiries about trauma-informed teaching in higher education. So I created a video presentation to provide both a general overview of trauma-informed teaching as well as some specific tips and strategies that can be adapted by college educators now and in the future.
In the video, I address the questions listed below. Next to each question is the time stamp for when I cover it in the video in order to help make it easy to locate or return to specific sections.
What does it mean to be trauma-informed (TI)? 0:01:00
Why does being TI matter to college educators, especially during times of crisis? 0:09:07
What does TI college teaching look like? 0:20:42
What can you do right now to be more TI? 0:29:34
What can you do moving forward to be more TI? 0:46:33
Where can one find additional resources for becoming a more TI college educator? 0:57:35
What are you already doing that’s TI? 1:01:30
You will find links to the resources I mention in the presentation slides. You may need to download the slides in order to use the links. You will find sample policy and assignment wording in the annotated syllabus.
I invite you to share examples of your own TI teaching tips and strategies in the comments. I admire all of the work we are collectively doing to provide spaces for ourselves and our students to learn and grow during this challenging time.
The reminders and tips below are meant to help reduce both instructors’ and students’ stress. These strategies should also help instructors save time and reduce conflict with students. I encourage you to share your tips and reminders in the comments. Be well.
Keep communications brief. Students are also being inundated with information.
If you are not already posting weekly announcements and/or module overviews or summaries, now may be a good time to start. This can help cut down on the number of emails sent, create a routine, provide clarification, and foster a sense of connection.
Reassure students you are there and you care by responding within 48 hours or less to all emails and to all questions they post in “Ask the professor” types of discussion forums.
Make sure all due dates for the rest of the semester are clear.
Try to limit the number of course changes.
Post all changes in writing.
Strive to keep your courses well-organized. Students who can easily locate course materials and assignments will panic less and contact you less frequently about missing or hard-to-find items.
Avoid surprises. Now is not a good time to add a new requirement to a module that has already been opened or a new assignment that was not previously listed in the syllabus.
Consider making all remaining course modules available so students can work ahead if needed. This may also help reduce the need for incompletes.
Limit feedback on assignments by speaking only to the most important parts of an assignment. This will help you grade assignments in a timely manner and help students focus their learning. If everything is important, nothing is important.
Consider reducing or eliminating late penalties so you can encourage students to meet deadlines but avoid unfairly punishing those who are unable to do so because of circumstances beyond their control.
Consider reducing the workload for students and for yourself, if you are able to do so without compromising the course objectives. The quality of learning may increase if the quantity of assignments decreases.
Consider offering live office hours using a video conferencing platform such as Zoom or Hangouts, if you are not already doing so.
Provide students with a phone number at which they can leave you a message and call-back number in the event they lose access to the internet.
Reach out to students who start to fall behind. Call to check on students who go missing.
Continue to hold high expectations and convey confidence that students will meet their learning goals.
Remind yourself and students to not let the perfect be the enemy of the good.
So what do you do with trauma-informed teaching and learning principles? What do they look like in practice? How do we operationalize them? These are common questions I hear from educators who are interested in becoming more trauma-informed. The principles sound great in theory, but they don’t tell us what to do.
The good news, and the bad news, is that there is no one right way to be trauma-informed. The extent to which teaching policies and practices are trauma-informed is something that educators must evaluate both individually and collectively. Context matters. Experience matters. Resources matter.
It’s certainly possible to provide concrete examples, such as the Examples of TITL in College Classrooms handout on the Resources page (I’ve also just added a color version!). It can also be very helpful to collaborate with others to help learn how to apply the principles to our own practice. When I give trainings, I use norming activities to help educators understand and apply TITL principles.
One norming activity I developed (see TITL Teaching Practices Norming Activity) asks educators to evaluate examples of common teaching practices for their congruency with a trauma-informed approach to teaching and learning. Certainly one could add or substitute teaching policies and practices they found to be more timely or relevant.
Another norming activity I developed (see TITL Student Feedback Norming Activity) uses example of student feedback to help educators understand the extent to which students perceive their teaching and their courses as trauma-informed. This activity uses educator-generated examples, but one could also add examples they encounter frequently.
Both activities are structured similarly. And both activities also invite educators to evaluate congruency with educator authority styles. I will be writing more about complex trauma, authority styles, and their relationship to trauma-informed teaching in the near future. But for now, I will simply reiterate that trauma-informed approaches are largely about how we share power with rather than (unintentionally or unknowingly) wield it in ways that are perceived as harmful to others. Most of us are familiar with the authority styles in the handouts, which is why I chose them. Hopefully those of you who are already integrating information about attachment or authority styles in your trainings will find these resources helpful.
On the Resources page you will find pdf versions of both activities in both color and black and white.
As always, comments, questions, and suggestions are always most welcome.
8.26.20: The norming tools are currently undergoing revisions. I will post again when they are updated.
The title of this post is the first line from the introduction of Trauma and Human Rights: Integrating Approaches to Address Human Suffering, a book I co-edited with Lisa Butler and Filomena Critelli. I’m thrilled to announce that the book is out! And I’m so grateful to Lisa and Filomena, to the many amazing authors who contributed to the book, and to Palgrave for publishing it.
In a couple of weeks I will be presenting a poster on some of my dissertation study findings at the 9th International Conference on Social Work in Health and Mental Health, York, UK.
I’m very excited about presenting some of my research and about learning from colleagues from around the world! I’ve also been learning some new things about technology as I prepare my poster for presentation. I decided to include a QR code (AKA “blob code”) on my poster that would allow folks to easily access a pdf version of it and also provide them an opportunity to check out the other posts and resources on this blog.
Using the QR code generator so far has been super easy. Figuring out how to create a code for a link that doesn’t yet exist has been a bit tricky, however. First I tried adding a pdf copy of the poster to the Resources page and then updating the file, but that didn’t work. Then I tried to link the QR code to the url for this blog post. The problem with this solution was that I also tried to schedule release of the post for the day of the conference. Doing it that way, however, did not provide me with a usable link. So in the end, I decided to make a copy of the poster without the QR code and just put the QR code on the actual poster that I will present.
Whew! There is likely an easier way. But this solution will suffice for now.
So, without further adieu, here is a copy of the Training Triggers poster without the QR code. I’ll update this post with a copy of the QR code after I publish the post and get a working url.
Edit* And below is a copy of the QR code for those interested. I see more experimenting with QR codes in my future…