Faculty Embrace Trauma-Informed Teaching

Monday, November 16, 2020

Faculty and students meeting together

While not new, trauma-informed teaching has seen a resurgence among faculty as they grapple with supporting students and setting healthy boundaries for themselves during these ever-changing times.

Ruth Poproksi, associate director with the Center for Teaching and Learning says, "Interest in conversations around trauma-informed teaching really picked up last Spring, as the nation went into lockdown and quarantine mode. That, combined with a number of other events around the US over the last several months, provided the opportunity for us to offer important advice and direction regarding teaching when it comes to the mental health of the students in our care."

The Center for Teaching and Learning has compiled campus-wide resources and 10 ways to apply trauma-informed teaching approaches. If you are one of the hundreds of faculty members that moved to hybrid or online learning this semester, you likely have already implemented some of these practices. Creating consistency with flexibility and being transparent about your classroom expectations are par for online learning and trauma-informed teaching.

However, even trauma-focused professionals can get overwhelmed while teaching this semester. Jennifer Elkins, associate professor at UGA’s School of Social Work, teaches a course on trauma and her research focuses on trauma-informed and transdisciplinary research and practice.

"I’m spending more time than ever preparing and teaching my courses and staying tuned in and responsive to what students are sharing," says Elkins.

Yet, with 66% of incoming first-year students reporting having experienced a traumatic life event, more than half of the young adults in any given class could benefit from a trauma-informed teaching approach.

 Elkins says, "No one has this all figured out, but we can still implement changes that can have a real impact. For example, I spent extra time before the semester updating my syllabus to include alternative reading and assignment options for students to allow for a more comfortable yet still informative learning experience."

"The change doesn’t always have to be big, but it may require you to get out of your comfort zone,” says Elkins, "You may need to include more diverse language in your assignments or emphasize that a topic may be difficult for some students."

Often neglected, but critical to providing the best learning experience for your students is to take care of yourself. Set aside time to engage with your students and time to step away from teaching. Reach out to your professional and personal peer networks for support. Talk to colleagues and friends about your frustrations. Enjoy stress-relieving activities like rest, physical activity, taking time for fun and creative activities, or spending time with friends or family. Join a workshop offered by Faculty Affairs such as Creating a Sustainable Writing PracticeSeek support from mental health professionals. On-campus, faculty members can access counseling services through the Center for Counseling and Personal Evaluation.

To talk with a teaching consultant about this or other teaching areas, please contact us via https://ctl.uga.edu/contact/.