Trauma Informed Teaching Toolkit

Please read and reflect on Toolkit materials, incorporate them into your teaching practices, and refer students to the appropriate support resources, which are covered in the Toolkit.

Trauma Informed Teaching: Departmental Policies and Practices

Engaging in trauma-informed teaching prioritizes seeking to understand and create a “new normal” with our students. Permission for flexibility with accountability needs to be built into the culture and policies of our institution, departments, and individual courses. It is abundantly clear that the pandemic has impacted folks in unique ways due to wide variations in exposure, identities held, socioeconomic status, and available support and resources. For these reasons the University’s approach will need to be tailored to best address the diversity of student experiences.

To work toward greater systemic equity, the University and departments can review their collective practices and written policies, including statements in syllabi, to determine whether the policies promote equal treatment with minimal regard for differing circumstances or, conversely, allow or encourage equitable treatment based on a more holistic approach to a student’s situation and conditions that they need to be successful.

This work has broader benefits that extend beyond the pandemic’s immediate impact. It can strengthen UWM’s community of care, leading to greater student retention and success.

Some suggested ways to integrate this into the classroom are:

  • Seek to understand. As noted above, students are coming back after a very long year exacerbated by the pandemic and other social stressors. Make sure to check-in with students, and other faculty without assumptions; this can go a long way to creating a supportive environment. Practice offering grace and compassion and give yourself the same.
  • Use introductions, which enable students to connect with one another throughout the class, but especially at the beginning of the semester. Social support is paramount in persevering through traumatic events, and building a community, even a small one in the classroom, is incredibly important.
  • Give flexibility with assignments, tests, etc. to the extent possible. Establish shared accountability when doing so (e.g., clear expectations associated with extensions or alterations to routine processes).
  • Including student resources in your syllabus information, let students know that you can help connect them to resources, and empower them to reach out for help:
    • Dean of Students Office: dos@uwm.edu; 414-229-4632; Union 345)
    • Counseling Services: nhc-help@uwm.edu, 414-229-7429; NWQ D Building 8th Floor
    • You@UWM; https://uwm.edu/wellness/youatuwm/; YOU@UWM provides student success and well-being information while highlighting available campus resources through a web-based platform that is available to you 24/7.
  • Encourage self-care (physical, emotional and mental)
  • Include mindfulness and breathing practices in class sessions as appropriate

Additional Principles and Practices to Enhance Classroom Emotional Safety, adapted from the University of Buffalo.