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Trauma Informed Educational Practice

Working Definition

“There is recognition that [learning and growth] happens in relationships and in the meaningful sharing of power and decision making. Everyone has a role to play.” (Trauma Informed Oregon, modified from SAMHSA)

Two trees have grown close together and appear to be hugging.

Clear, simple definitions may inadvertently suggest that the concept itself is simple. Collaboration is anything but simplistic (Overseas Schools Advisory Council, 2004). Collaboration has been defined as an interactive process that enables people with diverse expertise to generate creative solutions to mutually defined problems (Idol, Paolucci-Whitcomb & Nevin, 1995).
The operant definition was later expanded to refer to the participants as co-equal partners (Friend & Cook, 1992) and as having a shared vision (Wiig, Freedman & Secord, 1992).

“Collaboration takes place when members of an inclusive learning community work together as equals to assist [each other] to succeed in the classroom" (Overseas Schools Advisory Council, 2004).

"Collaborative learning" (Smith & MacGregor, 1992) is an umbrella term for a variety of educational approaches involving joint intellectual effort by students, or students and teachers together. Usually, students are working in groups of two or more, mutually searching for understanding, solutions, or meanings, or creating a product. Collaborative learning activities vary widely, but most center on students’ exploration or application of the course material, not simply the teacher’s presentation or explication of it.

Classroom Tools

Teachers cannot depend on one teaching strategy for all students to master learning objectives (Ernest et al., 2011, Morgan, 2014)

Classroom Audit Materials

Assessment Tools: Questions and options to consider when starting a student-faculty partnership (Elon University Center for Engaged Learning, n.d.)

Modify The Wilder Collaboration Factors Inventory (Amherst H. Wilder Foundation, 2018)

Continuous improvement: PDSA (Plan-Do-Study-Act) cycle (Which strategies worked or did not work -revisit together) (Gillam & Siriwardena, 2014)

End of course survey of defining characteristics of successful collaboration (Example)

Three listed theories: Constructivist, Human Development, Zone of Proximal Development

Theoretical and Evidence-Based Practices

Overall, there is little to no existing literature on this type of faculty-student collaboration (Abelson & Nelson, 2015).

Theorized mechanisms by which faculty-student collaboration fosters enhanced levels of student engagement:

  1. Investment
  2. Ownership
  3. Empowerment

Required Institutional Supports for Success

The two most commonly cited challenges to collaborative planning, teaching and reflection are

  • the lack of sufficient time
  • scheduling difficulties (Mofield, 2020).

These challenges could lead to scripted programs. which do not allow for students to explore and learn in the ways they desire and they are unable to become engaged in their learning experience (Pitcher et al., 2010).


  • The willingness to collaborate needs to start at the administration level (Reyes et al., 2012).
  • Professional Development: Students, teachers, administrators, and staff of schools need collaborative skills for success in the education setting (Hoaglund et al., 2014).
  • A collaborative department culture (Murray, 2016)

Classroom "Ground Rules" Slide

Slide titled Ground Rules: Setting the Tone, with an empty list numbered 1 through 5.

Co-Creating Class Ground Rules

With a partner or in small groups, develop guidelines for making the classroom a safe place to learn and to take risks. Take 10 minutes to discuss. Designate one person in your group to add your ground rules to the chalkboard.

Rationale: Agreeing to abide by ground rules can help members to develop group norms and design an ideal environment where everyone feels comfortable.

The group agrees to... (These are just examples. Your collaborative group can make up its own.)

  • Share information and learn from others.
  • Be respectful of the way that others want us to treat them. We will not demean, devalue, or in any way put people down (no making jokes at the expense of others).
  • Give new voices a chance, and not dominate the discussion.
  • Combat actively and correct misinformation about the myths and stereotypes about our own groups and other groups.
  • Keep our discussions here confidential, and respect people's privacy.
  • Treat our own and other people's ideas and emotions with respect.
  • Listen and not interrupt while one person speaks at a time.
  • Not blame, accuse, or make generalizations.
  • Disagree as long as nobody's feelings are hurt.
  • Treat people as individuals, not as representatives of an entire group.
  • Respect everyone's uniqueness and our differences.
  • Arrive to class and clinical on time and prepared.

Adapted from Kaye, G., & Wolff, T. (1997). From the ground up! A workbook on coalition building and community development. AHEC/Community Partners. | 503.943.7111 or 800.841.8261 | 5000 N. Willamette Blvd., Portland, OR 97203-5798
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