Trauma-Informed Pedagogy

Trauma-Informed Pedagogy

2020 witnessed some of the most passionate protests for racial justice seen in the US and globally since the Civil Rights movements, awakening a new consciousness of the depths of structural anti-Black and racist violence. In the past year we also collectively bore witness to an unfathomable number of incidents of violence against communities of color, from the brutal murder of George Floyd by a policeman to a series of shootings of unarmed Asian women in Atlanta. And all of this has taken place amidst the backdrop of a global pandemic that has heightened inequalities in educational access and severed students from the contact with campus that anchored learning and social contact, as well as a level of political polarization in the US greater than we’ve seen since perhaps the Civil War. 

To say that this constellation of events has been traumatic is only to state something that we all know: students, faculty, and campuses as a whole are collectively overwhelmed. The result has been that students are challenged in their learning process, and that together we face a crisis in higher education’s approach to learning itself, which tends to conceive of education as a disembodied, highly rational process. 

It is within this context that we share what Trauma Informed Pedagogy means, an opportunity to engage in a learning community around it, and resources you can explore.

What "trauma-informed pedagogy" means

Trauma-informed pedagogy is an approach to education that recognizes that collective overwhelm lives in the body and the nervous system, and that when unaddressed impacts our ability to learn and to engage in transformative conversations about the most pressing issues of our times. Undischarged trauma reduces our window of tolerance for discomfort, healthy conflict, and trust amidst diversity. When we do not acknowledge the presence of trauma, both present-day and historical, we are bound to repeat and recapitulate it in our classrooms. Bodily awareness and social connection are the portals through which trauma can be discharged and resolved in the context of learning environments in higher education. We don’t need therapeutic practices in our classrooms, but rather a recognition of the power of an educational approach in which overwhelm is named and acknowledged in the context of learning itself. 


The Trauma Informed Pedagogy CAIT

The Trauma-Informed Pedagogy CAIT (Communities Accelerating the Impact of Teaching) is facilitated by Anita Chari, Associate Professor of Political Science, 2020-21 Provost’s Teaching Fellow, and co-creator of Embodying Your Curriculum, a program that teaches trauma-informed pedagogy to faculty. The CAIT will consist of a group of 10 faculty drawn from various disciplines and schools on-campus who will engage in a 4 Module training in the fundamentals of trauma-informed pedagogy. CAIT participants will: 

  • Learn fundamental tools for regulating your nervous system and bringing it to a settled state. Explore how these practices put us in a state that is responsive for learning and connection, whether we are working in person or online. 

  • Learn how to recognize nervous system activation and overwhelm in yourself and in others, and to understand its relevance to creating an inclusive and anti-oppressive classroom space. 

  • Practice the tools of regulation within a relational and societal context. 

  • Cultivate resources based on the Social Nervous System and Mirror Neuron System for working with these dynamics. 

  • Learn to work with intersectional oppression at an embodied level, including skills for making repair in the classroom when ruptures occur. 

Learn more about this opportunity:

TEP and the Office of the Provost invite brief letters of interest from faculty who wish to participate in the Trauma-Informed Pedagogy CAIT that will work to strengthen a culture of and capacity for inclusive, anti-oppressive teaching at UO. (Unlike typical CAITs that meet across a year, this will meet 6 times during winter and spring 2022 and earn $500 stipends plus OPE.) 

CAIT fellows will engage in focused training in trauma-informed pedagogy and be part of building broader awareness of trauma-informed practices at UO by bringing the work that they cultivate in the CAIT back to their units. Faculty from all disciplines, units, and schools are welcome to apply.

Specifically, fellows would: 

  • Engage in a 4-module training in trauma-informed pedagogy (during meeting times); 
  • Revise a syllabus and/or teaching practices of one of their courses to reflect this work;   
  • Contribute to a presentation or documentation of their trauma-informed teaching plans or experiences to share with home unit or others on campus. 

We welcome letters from all faculty committed to teaching excellence, as well as faculty who value connecting colleagues with additional resources and relationships. We also welcome letters from faculty from all schools and colleges, as we know that inclusive, anti-oppressive teaching can and should occur in all disciplinary contexts. 

Submit a letter of interest:

Interested faculty should write brief (about a page single spaced) letters of interest due Friday, December 17. Please address the following questions in your letter:

  1. Why are you interested in learning about trauma-informed, embodied pedagogy? What experience with this kind of work do you have, if any? 
  2. How will training in trauma-informed pedagogy support you to make broader disciplinary or institutional change in the UO as it pertains to equity and inclusion work in teaching? Name specific sites of transformation within your discipline, unit, or school that you are interested in effecting change in. 
  3. Trauma Informed Pedagogy involves learning embodied practices that invite vulnerability and self-awareness in ourselves as a precursor to bringing these practices into our classrooms. Speak to your preparedness to engage in a process that may at times be uncomfortable, or challenge of the ways that you have understood your role as an educator.

Letters and any questions may be sent to  


Where Can I Learn More About Trauma-Informed Pedagogy?

We encourage you to visit (or revisit) recordings from two recent workshops Dr. Chari gave, linked below, and will add additional resources as the CAIT develops.