Trauma-Informed Education

Childhood trauma is ubiquitous in our world today. Therefore, our pedagogy and instruction must acknowledge this, because when students are in the fight-flight-freeze-fawn mode, they are not able to learn – or even pay attention to the teacher. We often measure the traumatization with the ACEs score (Adverse Childhood Experiences) and too many children have experienced two or more ACEs, which has a serious influence on development. With developmental problems learning may become harder, especially the “traditional learning” which often means listening to a lecture and then completing the given tasks and assessments. (You can see or take the ACE score test here.)

The prevalence of trauma means that as teachers on any level of the education system, we need to be aware of the situation and to modify our instructional practices to accommodate the needs of our students. The easiest way for me has been to detach the behavior from the person, so that I can support my students by responding appropriately – instead of reacting to the behavior or the situation. I needed to learn how different stress responses appear in our behavior to be able to help my students. Because behavior IS communication.

Obviously, I cannot know whether a student is feeling helpless, unless I ask them. But offering help is always a good idea that aligns perfectly with Learner-Centered practices. Ensuring that we use practices that communicate respect, transparency, support, collaboration, empowerment, safety and resilience will strengthen the positive messages in our teaching.

Student-centered and emotionally safe pedagogy is an attitude.  It is not a handbook of tips and tricks, to help us survive our days.  It is being physically and emotionally present when the student needs us. It is also thinking more about the process than the product. And in these classrooms the focus is in creating, not copying, no matter what the task is – this applies to art as well as note taking!

Truly learner-centered experiences are designed with students, acknowledging their previous knowledge, and providing different learning modalities and assessments to choose from. Here is more about learner-centered design, which obviously makes learning engagement much more meaningful for participants.

Here is the TIP sheet I created to have a one-page document reminder of both SEL and TIP (Social-Emotional Learning and Trauma-Informed Practices), so that I can have it open on my desktop while working with my students:

Here are some additional resources:

Here is the link to the PDF TIP for Teaching

Trauma-Sensitive Schools and SEL integration

Policy and Practice for Trauma-Informed Schools


Báez, J.C., Marquart, M., Garay, K., & Chung, R.Y. (2020). Trauma-Informed Teaching and Learning Online: Principles & Practices During a Global Health Crisis;

Carello, J. (2019). Examples of Trauma-Informed Teaching and Learning in College Classrooms;

Carello, J. (2022). A3 Self-Assessment Tools for Creating Trauma-Informed Learning and Work Environments.

Images: and

Author: Nina

Deep learning pedagogue mentoring teachers pursuing their M.Ed. degrees. Originally from Finland, now living, learning, working and writing in the U S. Passionate about well-told stories, learner agency and providing good quality education to every student.

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