Trauma and the Virtual Classroom: Trauma-Informed and Healing-Centered Pedagogical Principles in Online Education

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Brief Abstract

Trauma (and recovery!) is pervasive in the lives of individuals across the globe. In recognizing that each student’s lived experience is unique and that many have faced heightened stress in recent years, this workshop will explore how we can implement trauma-informed and healing-centered pedagogical principles to support student success.


Erika Smith-Marek, PhD is a Professor in the Department of Marriage and Family Sciences at National University. She is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (Florida) and Certified Trauma Treatment Specialist with approximately twenty years of experience specializing in the treatment of trauma and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. She teaches graduate trauma courses and her clinical and research interests have converged around the treatment of trauma. She especially enjoys spending time at the beach with her family and long-distance trail running.

Extended Abstract

In this workshop, we will examine ways that psychological trauma may be defined. We will explore trauma-informed teaching practices and healing-centered engagement and how we may implement these pedagogical principles in our work with adult learners in the online learning environment. We will reflect on the heightened stress that many of our students have experienced in recent years related to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has exacerbated long-standing inequities, and our role as faculty in recognizing trauma responses and promoting student well-being. We will also consider our role in bearing witness to the trauma and resilience of our students and ways to foster hope and healing. 

Individuals in attendance will be invited to engage in reflection at the beginning and conclusion of the workshop on questions related to their implementation of trauma-informed and healing-centered practices in their virtual classrooms and specific strategies they might like to consider weaving into their courses. Attendees will be provided with the opportunity to share their reflections in small and whole group discussions (LO's 1 & 2). Those attending will also be invited to participate in an exercise to identify their top five signature strengths (Peterson et al., 2005) as part of small and whole group discussions examining strengths-based approaches to our work with students (LO 3).  

Participant Learning Outcomes

Following the workshop, individuals in attendance will be able to:

1. Discuss trauma-informed and healing-centered pedagogical principles

2. Describe several examples of how trauma-informed and healing-centered pedagogical principles could be translated to their work with adult learners in their specific online learning environment

3. Identify their top five signature strengths for further reflection

Faculty members are the intended audience for this workshop. They will be invited to explore how they may implement trauma-informed and healing-centered pedagogical principles in their work with students and specifically, what these practices may look like when translated to their own discipline. 

This workshop will include 40 minutes of presentation with whole group discussion, 40 minutes of interactive exercises and discussion in small groups, and 10 minutes for question and answer. 

No materials are required for those in attendance other than their own device.  


Peterson, C., Park, N., & Seligman, M. E. P. (2005). Assessment of character strengths. In G. P. Koocher, J. C.  Norcross & S. S. Hill III (Eds.), Psychologists’ desk reference (2nd ed., pp. 93-98). New York, NY: Oxford University Press.