Trauma-Informed Teaching & Learning

Mays Imad is an assistant professor of biology and equity pedagogy at Connecticut College whose work on trauma-informed teaching and learning promotes inclusive, equitable, and contextual education–all rooted in the latest research on the neurobiology of learning. During a recent visit to Dartmouth, Dr. Imad spent the morning with 25 faculty, staff, and students exploring the theory and practice of trauma-informed teaching and supporting the community through a salient moment of collective grief. She shared the resources below.

Trauma-Informed Teaching Strategies

Human beings need safety, meaningful connections, agency, support, and resources in order to thrive. Consider the following approaches to bringing these into the learning experience and supporting your students in developing them.


  • Reduce uncertainty
  • Leverage communication
  • Reduce and focus the information being delivered
  • Create predictable structure
  • Connect and invite regularly
  • Model empathy and reassurance
  • Remind students that grades don't define them
  • Convey to students: "You are more than a number."
  • Ask yourself: What does safety look like when you are feeling vulnerable?
  • Ask your students:
    • How can I help empower you to learn this term?
    • Describe your most supporting learning environment.


  • Cultivate community
  • Identify meaning
  • Leverage cultural capital
  • Reflect, wonder, and read together
  • Check up on each other
  • Reaffirm goals and purpose
  • Identify the "why" in addition to the "what"
  • Celebrate the journey of learning
  • Ask yourself: When do you feel a sense of meaningful connection?
  • Ask your students:
    • Is there anything I am doing that is making you or a classmate feel excluded?
    • How can we help each other learn and succeed this term?

Resources & Support

  • Center wellbeing
  • Pause to reflect
  • Provide and normalize mental breaks
  • Intentionally engage in positive emotions
  • Ask yourself: What resources do you need to find a work-life balance?
  • Ask your students:
    • What do you need this term & beyond to thrive intellectually & emotionally?
    • What are you doing to take care of your wellbeing?


Dr. Imad's Presentation

Dr. Imad's recent publications


On the Verge of Burnout

The Mind in Psychotherapy: An Interpersonal Neurobiology Framework for Understanding and Cultivating Mental Health – British Psychological Society

Teaching as Brain Changing: Exploring Connections between Neuroscience and Innovative Teaching – CBE Life Sciences Education

How to Help Students Develop Mental Immunity – Inside Higher Ed

"No Humans Involved": An Open Letter to My Colleagues – Sylvia Wynter

Pedagogy of the Distressed – National Council of Teachers of English

How to Make Mental Health a Top Priority This Fall and Beyond – Chronicle of Higher Education

Teaching to Empower: Leveraging the Neuroscience of Now to Help Students Become Self-Regulated Learners – Journal of Undergraduate Neuroscience Education


The Burnout Epidemic

The Myth of Normal

Anchored: How to Befriend Your Nervous System


Understanding Trauma: Learning Brain vs. Survival Brain

The Story of the Hummingbird