July 27, 2020

Introduction to Trauma-Informed Pedagogy

by Anna Boutin-Cooper, Research & Visual Arts Librarian, Franklin & Marshall College

Photo by Quino Al on Unsplash

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Association (SAMHSA) defines trauma as “an event, series of events, or set of circumstances that is experienced by an individual as physically or emotionally harmful or life threatening and that has lasting adverse effects on the individual’s functioning and mental, physical, social, emotional, or spiritual well-being.” 

With this definition in mind, it’s easy to see how the current national climate — struck between witnessing the glaring inequality of race-based violence and police brutality amidst a global pandemic — can cause trauma in ourselves, our students, our patrons, our colleagues, and our communities at large. As Karina Hagelin describes in their ACRLog post, Moving Towards Healing: A Trauma-Informed Librarianship Primer, “Trauma can happen to anyone. You can’t tell by looking at someone if they’re a trauma survivor or not. Unless someone discloses to you that they are a survivor, there isn’t any way to tell.”

In reaction to this overwhelming and all-consuming global situation, it’s important to recognize that any one of our students, patrons, colleagues, communities, and even ourselves can have experienced trauma — whether it be the death of a friend or family member at the hands of the police, a loved one being ill with COVID-19, the chronic stress and anxiety of our constantly changing information landscape, job precarity, or the stressors of balancing personal and professional life as they now intersect so closely.

The origin of trauma does not have to be violent or abusive, because trauma is centered in an individual experience and can have conscious and unconscious manifestations. Two students may be exposed to the same events but experience those events in vastly different ways, where one student’s reality is traumatic while the other’s is not.

Mays Imad, “Leveraging the Neuroscience of Today,” Inside Higher Ed, June 3, 2020.

Now is the time to embrace trauma-informed pedagogy, in order to make our classrooms and workplaces safe and compassionate spaces, where our students and patrons can heal and recover, or at the very least: not be re-traumatized through our teaching practices.

In this spirit, the ARLIS/NA Teaching SIG has put together a list of resources on trauma-informed pedagogy. The following slides, presentations, readings, podcasts, and webinars are not meant to be a comprehensive list, but instead a place to start your own journey discovering and learning about trauma-informed practice for your own classrooms.

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