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All About Concordia University Chicago’s Master’s in Curriculum and Instruction with a Specialization in Trauma and Resilience

Master’s in Curriculum and Instruction: Trauma and Resilience Program Goals

Traumatic events such as community and school violence, natural disasters, loss of a parent or caregiver, refugee and war experiences, neglect, physical or sexual assault, and physical, psychological, or sexual abuse are increasingly common experiences for students in today’s classrooms. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA) (2020), more than 65% of children report experiencing at least one traumatic event by the time they are 16 years old.

When children are exposed to traumatic events, they may experience short- and/or long-term stress that can be exhibited in a variety of ways. Children affected by trauma may experience learning and behavior issues, long-term health issues, and increased tendency toward behavioral health and substance abuse (SAMSHA, 2020). Distressing events cannot always be prevented, but children can recover from trauma when they have a system of trauma-informed caregiving relationships that provides effective support and treatment.

The goal of the master’s in curriculum and instruction with a specialization in trauma and resilience at Concordia University Chicago (CUC) is to reshape the boundaries of what it means to be a teacher in the 21st century related to trauma-informed pedagogy. In this reshaping, teacher leaders develop a trauma-informed lens through which they can view themselves, their students, and the school/classroom environment in a way that accounts for the effects of toxic and traumatic stress. Graduates of this program will be able to:

  • explicate the causes, effects, and implications for the classroom related to students who have been affected by trauma.
  • adapt one’s teaching to address collective trauma for a school community and the community at large.
  • implement trauma-informed practices related to curriculum, instruction, and assessment in the classroom.
  • partner with guidance counselors, school psychologists, administrators, and other educators to create a trauma-sensitive school and classroom culture which includes effectively using prevention systems such as Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS) to support students affected by trauma.
  • facilitate productive discussions about different types of trauma including acute, complex, chronic, and intergenerational.
  • support other teachers as they develop their capacity to effectively use a trauma-informed lens in their practice via collaborative networks such as PLCs or grade-level teams.
  • recognize the connections and interplay between social-emotional learning and trauma-informed pedagogy.
  • access relevant resources and information to continue learning about trauma and its impacts on students.

Program Features of CUC’s Master’s in Curriculum and Instruction: Trauma and Resilience

No other university in Illinois offers a Master’s in Curriculum and Instruction (C&I) with a specialization in Trauma and Resilience. Students who enroll in this program will continue to have the core coursework of a traditional C&I program—courses in the foundations of education, curriculum design, instructional practice, assessment and data analysis, teacher leadership, and teacher research—while also having the opportunity to specialize in developing a trauma-informed lens on their practice and school culture as described above.

Specifically, the specialization courses begin with a course in the foundations of trauma studies, which focuses on the needs of students experiencing trauma. The objective of this course is to learn how trauma can interfere with learning and interpersonal relations. It also explores the impact of the social, emotional, behavioral, and academic dimensions of trauma on children.

The second course then builds on this foundation with the practical application of theories and concepts, as well as developing best practices tied to social-emotional learning and the development of classroom communities that support resilience in students. Here the focus is on instructional strategies and curriculum to address students experiencing high levels of stress that interfere with learning and interpersonal relations.

Finally, the last specialization course addresses how to create trauma-sensitive environments. In particular, the course looks at professional development and other kinds of support teacher leaders can use to promote a school-wide trauma lens, as well as bringing families and the wider community into this work. Finally, this course attends to the needs of teachers and staff who may experience secondary trauma as a result of working with students and communities experiencing trauma.

The program culminates in an opportunity to conduct teacher research within your educational context as it specifically relates to teaching with a trauma lens or to the broader aims of creating systems and environments that support resilient responses to trauma and stress.

Using Trauma-Informed Pedagogy in Your Practice

Upon completion of the Master’s in Curriculum and Instruction: Trauma and Resilience, your practice will shift in notable ways. First, you will become competent in viewing students and the classroom through a trauma-informed lens. By coupling this ability with the skills and knowledge gained in classes on curriculum design, teacher research, data literacy, and research-based and social-emotional instructional strategies, you will be equipped to re-think each aspect of your practice using a trauma lens. Furthermore, you will be positioned to be a teacher leader that supports colleagues in creating trauma-sensitive environments throughout the school.

Traditionally, schools have kept the roles of student mental health staff and teachers separate, and this program will help you to become part of the necessary shift toward working in partnership with colleagues, such as the school psychologist, school social worker, or school counselor. That is, while this program will not grant you the status of a mental health professional, it does provide you with the knowledge and skills needed to both partner effectively with mental health professionals within your school and to tailor your practice to bring your new trauma-informed perspective to the classroom to support your students.