Abstract: The Impact of a Trauma Informed Teaching Intervention on Teachers and Other School Support Staff in Alternative Education Settings: A Teacher Retention Strategy (Society for Social Work and Research 24th Annual Conference - Reducing Racial and Economic Inequality)

The Impact of a Trauma Informed Teaching Intervention on Teachers and Other School Support Staff in Alternative Education Settings: A Teacher Retention Strategy

Thursday, January 16, 2020
Marquis BR Salon 7, ML 2 (Marriott Marquis Washington DC)
* noted as presenting author
Angelique Day, PhD, Associate Professor, University of Washington, Seattle, WA
Lori Vanderwill, MSW, Research Scientist, University of Washington, Seattle, WA
Beverly Baroni, PhD, Principal, Clara B. Ford Academy, Dearborn Heights, MI
Shantel Crosby, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of Louisville, Louisville, KY
Background and Purpose: The National Center for Education Statistics reports 17.3% of teachers left the profession during the 2012-2013 school year (Gray & Taie, 2015). About 30 percent of new teachers flee the profession after just 3 years, and more than 45% leave after five (Graziano, 2005). Inexperienced teachers (those with less than 3 years of experience) frequently land in classrooms located in high poverty areas with the neediest and often the most challenging students; many of which who have been exposed to trauma due to exposure to child abuse and neglect. Teachers leave lower socio-economic schools at a higher rate than those that start off in an affluent school (Boyd, 2005; De’Angelis & Presley, 2011). Studies link burnout and teacher stress as a reason for leaving the teaching profession (Chang, 2009; Howard & Johnson, 2004; Wang, Hall, & Rahimi, 2015; Hutell, Melin, & Gustavsson, 2013). High turnover rates of teachers lead to deficits in qualified teachers and create staff shortages (Djonko-Moore, 2016). The aim of this study is to explore trauma training and the potential impact of trauma training on teacher self-efficacy, teacher attrition, secondary trauma, compassion fatigue and burnout.

Methods: A mixed method design, including focus groups and survey administration was utilized with teachers and staff (N=38) employed at two Midwest public charter high schools.  The teachers and staff at the intervention school (N=27) received a modified version of the curriculum entitled, The Heart of Teaching and Learning: Compassion, Resiliency, and Academic Success in two half day trainings sessions with monthly boosters between August and MaySix total focus groups were conducted over the 14-15 academic year, three before the start of the school year (2 at the intervention school and 1 at the control school), and three at the conclusion of the school year.  The surveys, administered during the same time periods, were designed to measure professional quality of life (including risk for burnout and exposure to secondary trauma and teacher ability to respond to trauma behaviors. The vast majorities of students enrolled at both schools have a history of trauma exposure and have failed in traditional public school settings. Teachers and school personnel are majority white females 50% have 1-4 years of experience teaching and 44% with 5 or more years’ experience.

Results: Analysis of focus groups identified five themes; burnout, compassion fatigue, secondary trauma, need for self-care, and experience using self-care. Two themes were endorsed by the majority of participants; ‘burnout’ and ‘experience using self-care’ both with an (N=24). Teachers who received the intervention reported statistically significantly higher rates in their ability to respond to student externalizing and shutting down behaviors.  The intervention school also experienced lower levels of teacher attrition than the control school.

Conclusion and Implications: The results support the use of trauma-informed trainings to address teacher attrition, teacher response to student behavior, recognizing the impact of secondary trauma, and the importance of self-care both inside and outside of the school environment.