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Background info:

What is trauma?

“Trauma results from exposure to an incident or series of events that are emotionally disturbing or life-threatening with lasting adverse effects on the individual’s functioning and mental, physical, social, emotional, and/or spiritual well-being.

Experiences that may be traumatic include:

  • Physical, sexual, and emotional abuse
  • Childhood neglect
  • Living with a family member with mental health or substance use disorders
  • Sudden, unexplained separation from a loved one
  • Poverty
  • Racism, discrimination, and oppression
  • Violence in the community, war, or terrorism”

Excerpted from and read more: “What is Trauma?,” Center for Health Care Strategies

In the largest study of a univerity population conducted at the University of michigan in 2018, found that 57% of students felt “overwhelming anxiety” over the past year; 39% reported feeling too depressed to function. 10% reported suicidal ideation over the past year.

Read more: 2018 National Colege Health Assessment

Keywords: trauma, adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), post-traumatic growth (PTG)



How do we adopt a trauma-aware lens?

“Teaching about trauma is essential to comprehending and confronting the human experience, but to honor the humanity and dignity of both trauma’s victims and those who are learning about them, education must proceed with compassion and responsibility toward both…

A trauma-informed approach to pedagogy—one that recognizes these risks and prioritizes student emotional safety in learning—is essential, particularly in classes in which trauma theories or traumatic experiences are taught or disclosed.”

Read more: Carello, J., & Butler, L. D. (2014). Potentially perilous pedagogies: Teaching trauma is not the same as trauma-informed teaching. Journal of Trauma & Dissociation, 15(2), 153-168.

Keywords: retraumatization, secondary traumatization, witness


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How do we engage mindfully with trauma?

We offer the following three pillars of trauma-informed practice. Please note that these approaches are not mutually exclusive.

  • Healing-Centered Engagement (HCE) is an approach to trauma that uses a resource orientation to center repair and resilience rather than pathologizing damage.
  • Culturally Sustaining Pedagogy (CSP) underscores ethnic, cultural, and linguistic diversity as assets rather than as liabilities. This approach disrupts reproductions of hegemonic oppression and trauma which can appear in the classroom in the form of ethnic, cultural, and/or linguistic devaluation.
  • Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is a framework that positions students as experts and co-crafters of the classroom experience. This approach empowers students to be agents of their own learning rather than receptacles of knowledge. UDL asks instructors to use multiple modalities in teaching and learning in order to reach and engage all students, regardless of ability or neurodiversity.


Healing-Centered Engagement

“A healing centered approach is holistic involving culture, spirituality, civic action and collective healing. A healing-centered approach views trauma not simply as an individual isolated experience, but rather highlights the ways in which trauma and healing are experienced collectively…

While trauma-informed care offers an important lens to support young people who have been harmed and emotionally injured, it also has its limitations… The term “trauma informed care” didn’t encompass the totality of [one’s] experience and focused only on [one’s] harm, injury and trauma.”

Read more: Ginwright, S. (2018). The future of healing: Shifting from trauma informed care to healing centered engagement. Occasional Paper, 25, 25-32.

Keywords: Ubuntu, salutogenic approach


Culturally Sustaining Pedagogy

“It was now 17 years ago that Gloria Ladson-Billings (1995) published the landmark article Toward a Theory of Culturally Relevant Pedagogy (CRP)… The term culturally sustaining requires that [instructors] support young people in sustaining the cultural and linguistic competence of their communities while simultaneously offering access to dominant cultural competence…”(citation?)

Read more: Paris, D. (2012). Culturally sustaining pedagogy: A needed change in stance, terminology, and practice. Educational Researcher, 41(3), pp. 93–97.

Keywords: Resource pedagogies, repertoires of practice 


Universal Design for Learning

“Course seats are likely to be filled by students who face any one of many possible learning challenges, including learning disabilities, English language barriers, emotional challenges, low motivation/engagement, physical disabilities, and sensory disabilities… Of students identified as “at risk,” 75% continued from secondary to postsecondary education (Hayward, 2000; Horn & Berktold, 1999).”

Read more: Gradel, K., & Edson, A. J. (2009). Putting Universal Design for Learning on the Higher Ed Agenda. Journal of Educational Technology Systems, 38(2), 111–121. 

Keywords: multiple means of representation, multiple means of engagement, multiple means of action



Additional Reading:



Racialized trauma:Brown, A. M. (2017). Emergent Strategy: Shaping Change, Changing Worlds. Print.

Fitzgerald, A. (2020). Antiracism and Universal Design for Learning: Building 

Expressways to Success. Print.

Ginwright, S. (2016). Hope and Healing in Urban Education: How Activists and

Teachers Are Reclaiming Matters of the Heart. Print.

Hooks, b. (2001). All About Love: New Visions. Healing: Redemptive Love. Print.
Kelley, R. D. (2002). Freedom Dreams: The Black Radical Imagination. “When History

Sleeps”. Print.

Menakem, R. (2017). My Grandmother’s Hands: Racialized Trauma and the Pathway to

Mending Our Hearts and Bodies. Print.

Tobin, T. J. and Behling, K. T. (2018) Reach Everyone, Teach Everyone: Universal Design for Learning in Higher Education. Print. 

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