What We’re Reading: Trauma-Informed Teaching

illustration by Clare Reid

We are teaching in extraordinary and challenging times. Students are starting to share stories about the immense stress and trauma they are experiencing. During these times, we must be even more devoted than ever to our Ignatian pedagogy values, especially cura personalis. One way to live out this devotion is to practice trauma-informed teaching. 

Education Northwest has put together a free resource for faculty, Trauma-Informed Practices for Postsecondary Education: A Guide. Trauma-Informed Oregon likewise pulled together a one-sheet checklist for faculty who are implementing trauma-informed teaching strategies. I’ll outline a little bit here about what trauma-informed teaching is, and some of the strategies that are recommended in these documents, but I strongly recommend downloading and reading them both. 

Trauma-informed teaching:

  • Realizes the widespread impact of trauma and understands potential paths for recovery
  • Recognizes the signs and symptoms of trauma in students (The resources elaborate on how to do this, along with everything else in these lists)
  • Responds by fully integrating knowledge about trauma into policies, procedures, and practices
  • Seeks to actively resist retraumatization


The principles of trauma-informed care in teaching include:

  • Safety: The learning activities ensure the physical and emotional safety of its students
  • Trustworthiness: The learning activities maximize trustworthiness by making the tasks clear and consistent by maintaining boundaries that are appropriate to the school
  • Choice: The learning activities maximize student experiences of choice and control
  • Collaboration: The learning activities maximize collaboration and sharing of power between students and staff
  • Empowerment: The learning activities prioritize student empowerment and skill building

These principles, of course, can be challenging to put into practice under normal circumstances, but even more so under these less-than-ideal conditions. But these less-than-ideal conditions make the task all the more urgent, and these two resources can help. If you or your students are in distress, please reach out to university resources, including the Office of Campus Ministry and Counseling and Psychiatric Services (CAPS). CAPS can consult by telephone and if appropriate, by video chat.