Trauma-Informed Practice Professional Development Pilot

Trauma Informed Practice for Improved Learning and Wellbeing’ is a professional development course currently being piloted with over 1000 teachers, school leaders, student learning support officers and administration staff across NSW.

The course provides foundational professional learning for staff to implement trauma-informed practice by developing their understanding of complex trauma and its impacts on student learning and wellbeing.

The pilot is a key part of the Department of Education’s Disability Strategy, which commits to building a suite of evidence-based professional development to assist staff in supporting all students.

The Disability Strategy aims to improve outcomes for children, young people and their families by:

  • Strengthening Support – investing in teachers and other support staff
  • Increasing Resources and Flexibility – enabling schools to operate with more flexibility
  • Improving the Family Experience – making experiences better and easier
  • Tracking Outcomes – building an evidence base to measure progress

One of its overall goals is to create a calmer, more positive learning environment for all students and teachers, which improves outcomes for young people and their families. You can access the strategy in a number of different formats at the Disability Strategy webpage.

Pilot content

Trauma Informed Practice for Improved Learning and Wellbeing’ provides staff with foundational knowledge skills to understand the impact of trauma on student behaviour, and strategies to assist them to help students self-regulate and become learning-ready.

The aim of the professional learning is to enable staff to better meet students’ needs so that students can reach their full potential.

Delivery of four ninety-minute modules to pilot participants commenced in term 4, 2019. The pilot’s four course modules are:

  • Understanding childhood trauma
  • Impact of childhood trauma on the brain: some implications for learning
  • Embedding trauma informed practice in schools
  • Support for schools to implement trauma-informed practice

The course was co-designed by School Services, Psychological and Wellbeing Services and the Disability Strategy Implementation team together with school-based staff.

Pilot details

To inform the development of the pilot program our team contacted schools who had previously completed trauma-informed professional development. We received 442 survey responses and held 52 in-depth interviews and documented our findings in the report ‘Trauma-informed practice in an educational context’ (PDF 330KB).

Respondents expressed an overwhelming desire to know more about the ways trauma impacts learning and how they can better support students with complex social and emotional needs.

An evaluation of the trauma-informed practice professional development pilot will be completed in 2020 to determine how it can be delivered to other staff across the Department.

Centre for Education Statistics and Evaluation (CESE) explainer

CESE’s ‘Trauma-informed practice in schools: An explainer’ offers a great introduction to trauma-informed practice for teachers, principals and other school staff. A discussion guide is also available.

The document covers the definition and prevalence of trauma, strategies for working with trauma-impacted students, self-care strategies for staff and more.

The explainer has been designed to complement the trauma informed practice professional development currently being piloted.

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