School Mental Health

, Volume 11, Issue 3, pp 600–614 | Cite as

Shifting Teacher Practice in Trauma-Affected Classrooms: Practice Pedagogy Strategies Within a Trauma-Informed Positive Education Model

  • Tom BrunzellEmail author
  • Helen Stokes
  • Lea Waters


This study explored how primary and secondary school teachers changed their practice pedagogy as they underwent training in trauma-informed positive education (Brunzell et al., Contemp School Psychol 20:63–83, 2016b. TIPE integrates teaching strategies from two practice paradigms: trauma-informed education and positive education in order to educate vulnerable students who struggle in school due to trauma histories from abuse, neglect and/or violence. Over the course of 1 year, teachers (N = 18) co-designed and/or adapted TIPE through an iterative procedure of appreciative inquiry participatory action research. The aim was to strengthen teacher capacities in order to assist their students to overcome classroom-based adversity and to bolster their learning. This study privileged teachers’ phenomenological experience of TIPE by investigating the experiential aspects of planning for and implementing curriculum and classroom management. Two emergent themes were found in the qualitative data: (1) increasing relational capacity and (2) increasing psychological resources. These results were analysed through contemporary frames of teacher practice, which revision the purpose of teacher practice as a set of practice challenges to better assist teachers in educating their vulnerable student cohorts.


Trauma-informed education Wellbeing Pedagogy Classroom strategies Healing Growth 



Funding was received through an Australian Government Research Training Program Scholarship.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interests.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


  1. Bath, H. (2008). The three pillars of trauma-informed care. Reclaiming Children and Youth, 17, 3.Google Scholar
  2. Blackwell, L. S., Trzesniewski, K. H., & Dweck, C. S. (2007). Implicit theories of intelligence predict achievement across an adolescent transition: A longitudinal study and an intervention. Child Development, 78(1), 246–263.Google Scholar
  3. Bloom, S. (1995). Creating sanctuary in the school. Journal for a Just and Caring Education, 4, 403–433.Google Scholar
  4. Bowlby, J. (1971). Attachment. London: Pelican.Google Scholar
  5. Bowlby, J. (1982). Attachment (2nd ed., Vol. 1). London: Harper Collins.Google Scholar
  6. Brunzell, T., Stokes, H., & Waters, L. (2016a). Trauma-informed flexible learning: Classrooms that strengthen regulatory abilities. International Journal of Child, Youth and Family Studies, 7(2), 218–239. Scholar
  7. Brunzell, T., Stokes, H., & Waters, L. (2016b). Trauma-informed positive education: Using positive psychology to strengthen vulnerable students. Contemporary School Psychology, 20, 63–83. Scholar
  8. Brzycki, H. G. (2009). Teacher beliefs and practices that impart self-system and positive psychology attributes. Unpublished Ph.D. thesis, Pennsylvania State University, United States.Google Scholar
  9. Bunce, S. C., Larsen, R. J., & Peterson, C. (1995). Life after trauma: Personality and daily life experiences of traumatised people. Journal of Personality, 63, 165–188.Google Scholar
  10. Cerezo, M. A., & Frias, D. (1994). Emotional and cognitive adjustment in abused children. Child Abuse and Neglect, 18, 923–932.Google Scholar
  11. Cornelius-White, J. (2007). Learner-centered teacher-student relationships are effective: A meta-analysis. Review of Educational Research, 77(1), 114–143.Google Scholar
  12. Crittenden, P. M. (2008). Raising parents: Attachment, parenting, and child safety. Abingdon: Routledge/Willan.Google Scholar
  13. Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1990). Flow: The psychology of optimal experience. New York: Harper & Row.Google Scholar
  14. Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1997). Finding flow: The psychology of engagement with everyday life. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  15. Darling-Hammond, L., & Richardson, N. (2009). Teacher learning: What matters? Educational Leadership, 66(5), 46–53.Google Scholar
  16. Dix, K. L., Slee, P. T., Lawson, M. J., & Keeves, J. P. (2012). Implementation quality of whole-school mental health promotion and students’ academic performance. Child and Adolescent Mental Health, 17(1), 45–51. Scholar
  17. Downey, L. (2007). Calmer classrooms: A guide to working with traumatized children. Melbourne: State of Victoria, Child Safety Commissioner.Google Scholar
  18. Durlak, J. A., Weissberg, R. P., Dymnicki, A. B., Taylor, R. D., & Schellinger, K. B. (2011). The impact of enhancing students’ social and emotional learning: A meta-analysis of school-based universal interventions. Child Development, 82(1), 405–432.Google Scholar
  19. Dweck, C. S. (2006). Mindset: The new psychology of success. New York: Ballatine Books.Google Scholar
  20. Dweck, C. S., & Leggett, E. (1988). A social-cognitive approach to motivation and personality. Psychological Review, 95, 256–273.Google Scholar
  21. Eells, R. J. (2011). Meta-analysis of the relationship between collective teacher efficacy and student achievement. Dissertations. Paper 133. Retrieved March 1, 2018 from
  22. Fontana, A., & Frey, J. H. (2000). The interview: From structured questions to negotiated text. In N. K. Denzin & Y. S. Lincoln (Eds.), Handbook of qualitative research (2nd ed., pp. 645–649). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc.Google Scholar
  23. Fredrickson, B. L. (1998). What good are positive emotions? Review of General Psychology, 2, 300–319.Google Scholar
  24. Fredrickson, B. L. (2001). The role of positive emotions in positive psychology: The broaden-and-build theory of positive emotions. American Psychologist, 56, 218–226.Google Scholar
  25. Gillham, J. E., Reivich, K. J., Jaycox, L. H., Seligman, M. E. P., & Silver, T. (1990). The Penn Resiliency Program. Unpublished manual, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia.Google Scholar
  26. Goddard, R. D., Hoy, W. K., & Hoy, A. W. (2000). Collective teacher efficacy: Its meaning, measure, and impact on student achievement. American Educational Research Journal, 37(2), 479–507.Google Scholar
  27. Guba, E. G., & Lincoln, Y. S. (1989). Fourth generation evaluation. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  28. Hattie, J. (2008). Visible learning: A synthesis of over 800 meta-analyses relating to achievement. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  29. Hazan, C., & Shaver, P. R. (1987). Romantic love conceptualized as an attachment process. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 52, 511–524.Google Scholar
  30. Herndon, J. S., & Bembenutty, H. (2017). Self-regulation of learning and performance among students enrolled in a disciplinary alternative school. Personality and Individual Differences, 104, 266–271.Google Scholar
  31. Howell, K. E. (2013). An introduction to the philosophy of methodology. London: Sage Publications, Ltd.Google Scholar
  32. Hughes, D. A. (2004). An attachment-based treatment of maltreated children and young people. Attachment & Human Development, 6, 263–278.Google Scholar
  33. Huppert, F., & Johnson, D. (2010). A controlled trial of mindfulness training in schools: The importance of practice for an impact on well-being. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 5, 264–274.Google Scholar
  34. Kennedy, M. (2015). Parsing the practice of teaching. Journal of Teacher Education, 67(1), 6–17.Google Scholar
  35. Keyes, C. (2002). The mental health continuum: From languishing to flourishing in life. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 43(2), 207–222.Google Scholar
  36. Klem, A. M., & Connell, J. P. (2004). Relationships matter: Linking teacher support to student engagement and achievement. Journal of School Health, 74(7), 262–273.Google Scholar
  37. Larkin, M., Watts, S., & Clifton, E. (2006). Giving voice and making sense in interpretative phenomenological analysis. Qualitative Research in Psychology, 3, 102–120.Google Scholar
  38. Linley, P. A. (2009). Realise2: Technical report. Coventry: CAPP Press.Google Scholar
  39. Linley, P. A., Woolston, L., & Biswas-Diener, R. (2009). Strengths coaching with leaders. International Coaching Psychology Review, 4(1), 37.Google Scholar
  40. Ludema, J. D., & Fry, R. E. (2008). The practice of appreciative inquiry. In P. Reason & H. Bradbury (Eds.), Handbook of action research (2nd ed., pp. 280–296). London: Sage Publications, Ltd.Google Scholar
  41. Ludy-Dobson, C. R., & Perry, B. P. (2010). The role of healthy relational interactions in buffering the impact of childhood trauma. In E. Gil (Ed.), Working with children to heal interpersonal trauma: The power of play. New York: The Gilford Press.Google Scholar
  42. Lyubomirsky, S., King, L., & Diener, E. (2005). The benefits of frequent positive affect: Does happiness lead to success? Psychological Bulletin, 131, 803–835.Google Scholar
  43. Marques, S., Lopez, S., & Pais-Ribeiro, K. (2011). Building hope for the future: A program to foster strengths in middle-school students. Journal of Happiness Studies, 12, 139–152.Google Scholar
  44. Mayer, J. D., Roberts, R. D., & Barsade, S. G. (2008). Human abilities: Emotional Intelligence. Annual Review of Psychology, 59, 507–536. Scholar
  45. Miles, M. B., & Huberman, A. M. (1984). Qualitative data analysis: A sourcebook of new methods. Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications, Inc.Google Scholar
  46. National Child Traumatic Stress Network. (2014). Facts and figures, rates of exposure to traumatic events. Retrieved February 1, 2014 from NCTSN:
  47. Norrish, J. M., Williams, P., O’Connor, M., & Robinson, J. (2013). An applied framework for positive education. International Journal of Wellbeing, 3(2), 147–161. Scholar
  48. Park, N., Peterson, C., & Seligman, M. E. P. (2004). Strengths of character and well-being. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 23(5), 603–619.Google Scholar
  49. Peterson, C., & Seligman, M. E. P. (2004). Character strengths and virtues: A handbook and classification. New York, Washington, DC: Oxford University Press, American Psychological Association.Google Scholar
  50. Peterson, C., & Steen, T. A. (2009). Optimistic explanatory style. In S. J. Lopez & C. R. Snyder (Eds.), Oxford handbook of positive psychology (pp. 313–322). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  51. Pines, A. M. (2002). Teacher burnout: a psychodynamic existential perspective. Teachers and Teaching: Theory and practice, 8(2), 121–140.Google Scholar
  52. Proctor, C., & Fox Eades, J. (2011). Strengths gym. Guernsey: Positive Psychology Research Centre Ltd.Google Scholar
  53. Proyer, R. T., Sidler, N., Weber, M., & Ruch, W. (2012). A multi-method approach to studying the relationship between character strengths and vocational interests in adolescents. International Journal for Educational and Vocational Guidance, 12(2), 141–157.Google Scholar
  54. Rath, T. (2007). StrengthsFinder 2.0. New York: Gallup Press.Google Scholar
  55. Reivich, K., & Shatté, A. (2002). The resilience factor: 7 essential skills for overcoming life’s inevitable obstacles. New York: Broadway Books.Google Scholar
  56. Riley, P. (2009). An adult attachment perspective on the student–teacher relationship and classroom management difficulties. Teaching and Teacher Education, 25, 626–635. Scholar
  57. Roffey, S. (2013). Inclusive and exclusive belonging: The impact on individual and community wellbeing. Educational & Child Psychology, 30(1), 38–49.Google Scholar
  58. Rogers, C. (1961). On becoming a person. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.Google Scholar
  59. Ryan, G. W., & Bernard, H. R. (2000). Data management and analysis methods. In N. K. Denzin & Y. S. Lincoln (Eds.), Handbook of qualitative research (2nd ed., pp. 769–802). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc.Google Scholar
  60. Ryff, C. D. (1989). Happiness is everything, or is it? Explorations on the meaning of psychological well-being. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 57, 1069–1081. Scholar
  61. Schore, A. N. (2012). The science of the art of psychotherapy. New York: W.W. Norton & Company.Google Scholar
  62. Seligman, M. E. P. (2011). Flourish. London: Nicholas Brealey Publishing.Google Scholar
  63. Seligman, M. E. P., Ernst, R. M., Gillham, J., Reivich, K., & Linkins, M. (2009). Positive education: Positive psychology and classroom interventions. Oxford Review of Education, 35, 293–311.Google Scholar
  64. Shoshani, A., & Slone, M. (2012). Middle school transition from the strengths perspective: Young adolescents’ character strengths, subjective well-being, and school adjustment. Journal of Happiness Studies, 14(4), 1–19.Google Scholar
  65. Smith, J. A. (1996). Beyond the divide between cognition and disclosure: Using interpretative phenomenological analysis in health psychology. Psychology and Health, 11, 261–271.Google Scholar
  66. Snyder, C. R. (2002). Hope theory: Rainbows in the mind. Psychological Inquiry, 13, 249–275.Google Scholar
  67. Snyder, C. R., Harris, C., Anderson, J. R., Holleran, S. A., Irving, L. M., Sigmon, S. T., et al. (1991). The will and the ways: Development and validation of an individual-differences measure of hope. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 60, 570–585.Google Scholar
  68. Snyder, C. R., Hoza, B., Pelham, W. E., Rapoff, M., Ware, L., Danovsky, M., et al. (1997). The development and validation of the Children’s Hope Scale. Journal of Pediatric Psychology, 22, 399–421.Google Scholar
  69. Strahan, D. (2003). Promoting a collaborative professional culture in three elementary schools that have beaten the odds. Elementary School Journal, 104(2), 127–133.Google Scholar
  70. Suldo, S., Thalji, A., & Ferron, J. (2011). Longitudinal academic outcomes predicted by early adolescents’ subjective wellbeing, psychopathology, and mental health status yielded from a dual factor model. Journal of Positive Psychology, 6(1), 17–30. Scholar
  71. Sullivan, A. M., Johnson, B., Owens, L., & Conway, R. (2014). Punish them or engage them? Teachers’ views of unproductive student behaviours in the classroom. Australian Journal of Teacher Education, 39(6), 43–56. Scholar
  72. Taylor-Powell, E., & Renner, M. (2003). Analyzing qualitative data (G3658-12). Program development and evaluation. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin-Extension. Retrieved September 1, 2017 from
  73. van der Kolk, B. A. (2003). The neurobiology of childhood trauma and abuse. Child Adolescent Psychiatric Clinics of North America, 12, 293–317. Scholar
  74. van Dernoot Lipsky, L. (2009). Trauma stewardship: An everyday guide to caring for self while caring for others. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc.Google Scholar
  75. Waters, L. (2011). A review of school-based positive psychology interventions. The Australian Educational and Developmental Psychologist, 28(2), 75–90.Google Scholar
  76. Waters, L. (2014). Balancing the curriculum: Teaching gratitude, hope and resilience. In H. Sykes (Ed.), A love of ideas (pp. 117–124). Sydney, Australia: Future Leaders Press.Google Scholar
  77. Waters, L., Barsky, A., Ridd, A., & Allen, K. (2014). Contemplative education: A systematic evidence-based review of the effect of meditation interventions in schools. Educational Psychology Review, 27, 103–134. Scholar
  78. Waters, L., & Stokes, H. (2013). A system wide approach to positive education. Teaching Learning Network, 20(3), 8–9.Google Scholar
  79. Waters, L., Sun, J., Rusk, R., Cotton, A., & Arch, A. (2017). Positive education: Visible wellbeing and positive functioning in students. In M. Slade, L. Oades, & A. Jarden (Eds.), Wellbeing, recovery and mental health (pp. 245–264). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  80. Waters, L., & White, M. (2015). Case study of a school wellbeing initiative: Using appreciative inquiry to support positive change. International Journal of Wellbeing, 5(1), 19–32.Google Scholar
  81. Webb, I., Robertson, M., & Fluck, A. (2005). ICT, professional learning: Towards communities of practice. Paper presented at the AARE 2004 conference, 28 November, Melbourne.Google Scholar
  82. Weber, M., & Ruch, W. (2012). The role of a good character in 12-year-old school children: Do character strengths matter in the classroom? Child Indicators Research, 5(2), 317–334.Google Scholar
  83. Wells, M. (2014). Elements of effective and sustainable professional learning. Professional Development in Education, 40(3), 488–504.Google Scholar
  84. Wenger, E. (1998). Communities of practice: Learning, meaning and identity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  85. White, M. A., & Murray, A. S. (2015). Evidence-based approaches in positive education: Implementing a strategic framework for well-being in schools. Dordrecht: Springer Netherlands.Google Scholar
  86. Witter, M. (2013). Reading without limits. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar
  87. Wolpow, R., Johnson, M., Hertel, R., & Kincaid, S. (2009). The heart of learning and teaching: Compassion, resiliency, and academic success. Olympia: Washington State Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction Compassionate Schools.Google Scholar
  88. Zandee, D. P., & Cooperrider, D. L. (2008). Appreciable worlds, inspired inquiry. In P. Reason & H. Bradbury (Eds.), Handbook of action research (2nd ed., pp. 190–198). London: Sage Publications, Ltd.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Melbourne Graduate School of EducationParkvilleAustralia
  2. 2.Youth Research CentreMelbourne Graduate School of EducationParkvilleAustralia
  3. 3.Centre of Positive PsychologyMelbourne Graduate School of EducationParkvilleAustralia

Personalised recommendations