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Trauma-Informed Practices Study Circle Facilitator Guide

Study Circle Description

To do our work well, educators need to be aware of our own implicit biases, students’ possible experiences stemming from trauma in a myriad of forms, as well as implications for teaching and learning. In this study circle, a lens of trauma-informed instruction is used to deepen our best practices in working with adult learners in ways that are inclusive and culturally responsive. In this professional learning activity, emphasis is on reading, reflection, and discussion.

Working assumptions that underpin this work:

  • Trauma is not limited to an “event” and does not always involve violence. Traumatic experiences can be chronic (i.e. poverty), systemic (i.e. mass incarceration), and historic (i.e. racial inequity). They can be based on bias/misunderstanding/aggression around gender, sexuality, physical and mental health, immigration status, etc., as well as any combination.
  • Trauma does not discriminate. Traumatic experiences happen to adults from all backgrounds, socio-economic levels, races, genders, etc.
  • People should not be defined by their potential traumatic experiences. It is part of their life, woven into their current roles and responsibilities.
  • People respond to potential trauma differently, and they heal and move forward differently. What is debilitating to one person may be less so for another.
  • Individuals’ actions are a direct result of their experiences, and when a learner acts out or is disengaged, the question we should be asking is not “what is wrong with you?” but rather “what happened to you?”


Study circle participants will be able to:

  • Articulate a working definition of trauma that includes personal, systemic, historical, and other experiences.
  • Identify ways that such trauma can impact learning for adult basic education students.
  • Implement trauma-informed practices in order to better serve adult learners.
  • Connect with fellow ABE practitioners and create a supportive environment that fosters well-being for ourselves, our students, and our workplaces.

Timeframe and format

The study circle comprises 4 meetings of 3 hours each, and can be delivered in person, online, or in a hybrid format.

Study Circle Facilitation & Participation

The Trauma-Informed Practices Facilitator Guide provides step-by-step suggestions for conducting a study circle no matter where your program is based.