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Trauma Informed Educational Practice

Working Definition of Psychological Safety

"Psychological safety affects our sense of comfort and ease of mind in our educational journey ... [It can] create and nurture an environment where all can flourish, grow, and maximize their potential, improve self-esteem, as well as continue to develop their confi- dence and knowledge. It serves as a kind of safety net for people to act, think, and behave."

"Psychological safety has been predominantly associated with the social, where individuals believe that they can act without fear of negative consequences (Edmondson, 1999) and take interpersonal risks. These may include ‘raising concerns, asking questions, requesting help, proposing ideas.'"

(Charteris et al., 2021, p. 5)

Cultural Safety

Cultural safety was originally defined by Irihapeti Ramsden, a Maori Nursing Scholar working to ensure indigenous/aboriginal health equity. Ramsden defined five major tenets of cultural safety as partnerships, protocols, process, positive purpose, and personal knowledge. Overt, deliberate, and systemic change must be targeted and healthcare access and delivery must be improved for marginalized populations in order to create a space that is culturally safe for historically oppressed populations.

The idea of cultural sensitivity focuses on the basic awareness and willingness to learn about cultural differences. The term cultural competence is perhaps what most clinicians are familiar with, and it is often used to describe provider awareness about the beliefs, values, and norms for various diverse groups of people and how we provide patient-centered care that respects differences in values, preferences, and needs. These approaches, however, continually place the provider, not the patient, at the center.

See the PDF on this page for a transcription.

Adapted from Mukerjee, Wesp, & Singer, 2021.


Why It's important to Student Learning and Academic Success

  • Errors may be valuable opportunities to learn and grow.
  • Students must feel comfortable taking risks and being creative.
  • Inclusive learning values all voices in the classroom.

(Tucker, 2021)

(Hirsch, 2017)

Classroom Tools

  • "First, promoting opportunities for, and encouraging, the sharing of mistakes will enable students to feel that their competence is not being judged every time they speak (e.g., as in the uncomfortable, "pin-drop" silence we have likely all experienced as students or instructors in heavily discussion-based courses). To help with this effort, instructors can share lessons learned from their own mistakes and encourage students to do the same through assigned reflection pieces or class discussions."
  • "Second, we recommend collecting feedback periodically throughout the semester, asking students to share their struggles with course content via surveys or short focus group sessions. These interactions, in addition to being learning experiences in themselves, can help students establish positive relationships that are conducive to a PSC [psychological safety climate]."
  • "An overabundance of psychological safety may create space for off-topic commentaries, redundant questions, and student monologues that detract from other students' learning experiences. To combat this "dark side" of psychological safety, instructors will want to set clear expectations that they deem to be consistent with the goals, values, and mission of the class (e.g., task-relevant comments that demonstrate a respect for other students' time and ideas) and hold students accountable. They may turn to the employee recognition literature to redirect or reinforce students to desirable behaviors (e.g., challenging the "status quo" integrating others' ideas with their own) through expressions of gratitude, praise, and affirmation (e.g., a personal note from the instructor, drawing attention to positive interactions as exemplars)."

(Vega et al., 2020, p. 525)

Education Support (n.d.) Psychological safety: How to guide

Classroom Audit Materials

Case Western Reserve University. (n.d.). College and university classroom environment inventory
Education Support. (n.d.). 5-minute psychological safety audit

Theoretical and Evidence-Based Practices

  • Are there spaces for students to be educated where they are not visible to many other students?
  • Are students able to safely engage in self-regulatory behaviors without being visible to many other students?
Breakout and reset rooms
  • Are there secluded spaces that students can elect to go to when they need them?
  • Is there provision for a range of quiet indoor space that serve different purposes?
  • Are there areas that can be fitted with materials that support sensory requirements?
Access to and movement within the learning spaces
  • Is there a way to enter/exit each the learning spaces without having to walk through other classes or in front of groups of students?
  • Is the accessible toilet private enough for students to have their needs met with a carer without being visible to all?
  • Do leaders have an office/meeting space that is private for when they are addressing personal issues with students, teachers, and parents?
Distractibility and sensory stimulation
  • How are objects and materials used that minimize distraction, discomfort, and distress?
  • How can consideration be given to acoustics, color choice, lighting, reflective surfaces, wall surfaces, and flooring?

Required Institutional Supports for Success

  • Build in time to support all phases of implementation
  • Provide necessary resources for training
  • Access expert consultation
  • Recognize the possibility of resistance to TIC principles

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