Friday, January 23, 2015

Peirce Professor Kate Watson Wins Award for her Research and Strategies that Helps Traumatized Students in the Classroom.

Earlier this month Kate Watson, Assistant Professor of Healthcare Administration at Peirce, won an award at the University Teaching and Learning Conference held at Temple University for a poster she created that focuses on student trauma and strategies that educators can use to deal with trauma in the classroom. In total, there were 24 posters that were submitted and voted on.

Because of her background in both healthcare and criminal justice she was able to bring a unique perspective to the topic as they’ve both given her insight into both violence and trauma. Her idea for the poster centered around the fact that many students (more than half) have experienced some kind of trauma in their past.  Though she outlined a wide range of trauma that students could suffer from, she offered strategies that educators could implement inside the classroom that would benefit all students who have suffered from various traumas, as well as students who have never faced a traumatic experience.

The strategies came from both her own experience in working with survivors of trauma along with additional research.

When asked more specifically about the implementation of the strategies, Professor Watson advised us that the strategies are more about prevention of classroom problems rather than intervention. The strategies can be applied so that educators can set up their classroom in a way that they may never even need to know that the student was suffering trauma. Such a classroom would be designed to create an environment where students are more likely to be successful in the first place. It doesn’t necessarily take a different approach for each student, but rather focused more generally about how educators design their curriculum and for students to have a little bit more power in the decision making.

When analyzing the poster, one of the more surprising facts is just how many students have faced, and are suffering from, some type of traumatic experience.

For example, many of the educators at the conference stated "I wanted to come look at your poster because I have a lot of vets in my classroom." But while the poster is particularly relevant for educators who have veterans who are experiencing trauma, it was also really important to convey the point that this wasn't just a problem for veterans. Consider 18 or 19 year old students coming right out of high school. About 50% of them had exposure to a traumatic event. Professor Watson stated that in response to educators interested in strategies for trauma for vets, she also reminded them that "It’s great you came over here because you're caring about the vet, but this is much bigger and broader than just a handful of vets you might help in your class because there are so many more students who suffer from trauma than just vets." As the poster points out, trauma could range from a variety of other things including chronic poverty and hunger to physical abuse and accidents.

For example, if you were in hurricane Sandy and lost your home on the Jersey Shore that can cause trauma. And the older students are, the more likely they are to have faced a trauma. The poster highlights the fact that while 64% of the population has experienced some type of trauma, that number jumps to 90% for adults over 55.

 So how do these strategies affect students who may not have faced a trauma? Professor Watson explained, “These strategies can't hurt anyone. So even if you're in the 40% or less who's not feeling particularly traumatized, these strategies won't hurt your education. Having a trusted environment and choice and power, those are good things across the board but they're particularly useful for those who need it. You know maybe we don't all need it, but we can all benefit from it.”

When asked for the number one takeaway her poster offers, “I think the number one thing to take away from me is this isn't a unique thing or a rare thing or an odd, stand out example. This was just something we should just assume is in every classroom and therefore the strategies should be implemented in every classroom we teach.

Congratulations Professor Watson and thanks for your important work to help educators provide an environment where trauma survivors are much more likely to succeed!

Here's the award winning poster:

(Click to enlarge)