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Home Ask A REL Is there research on trauma factors for students and the correlation to student learning, trauma factors for teachers and its correlation to student learning?

Is there research on trauma factors for students and the correlation to student learning, trauma factors for teachers and its correlation to student learning?

Mid-Atlantic | December 01, 2021

Thank you for the question you submitted to our REL Reference Desk regarding connections between student and teacher trauma and student learning. We have prepared the following memo with research references to help answer your question. For each reference, we provide an abstract, excerpt, or summary written by the study's author or publisher. The references are selected from the most commonly used research resources and may not be comprehensive. References are listed in alphabetical order, not necessarily in order of relevance. Other relevant studies may exist. We have not evaluated the quality of these references, but provide them for your information only.

Research References

  1. Borofsky, L. A., Kellerman, I., Baucom, B., Oliver, P. H., & Margolin, G. (2013). Community violence exposure and adolescents' school engagement and academic achievement over time. Psychology of Violence, 3(4), 381-385.
    Retrieved from
    From the abstract: “Objective: This study examined the relationships between community violence exposure and two related, but meaningfully distinct, academic outcomes: school engagement and academic achievement (GPA). Psychological symptoms were investigated as mediators of these relationships. Method: One hundred eighteen youth reported on community violence exposure and school engagement twice during adolescence, and both parents and adolescents reported on psychological symptoms. Cumulative GPA was also acquired from participants. A path model and hierarchical multiple regression analyses were used to assess these relationships longitudinally. Results: Earlier community violence exposure inversely predicted later school engagement, but earlier school engagement did not predict later community violence exposure. School engagement mediated the association between community violence exposure and school GPA. Internalizing and externalizing symptoms, but not posttraumatic stress symptoms, mediated the association between community violence and school engagement. Conclusions: When adolescents are exposed to community violence, they may become vulnerable to a cascade of events including psychological symptoms and decreased connectedness to school, which ultimately can lead to overall poor academic achievement. The more proximal, changeable experiences of school connectedness and psychological symptoms offer targets for interventions offsetting long-term adverse academic consequences in violence-exposed youth.”
  2. Cunningham, A. (2017). "When my mom was incarcerated, I missed her." Trauma's impact on learning in Pre-K-12 classrooms. LEARNing Landscapes, 10(2), 131-143. Retrieved from:
    From the abstract: “Trauma affects our classrooms frequently. Children who observe or experience trauma directly often demonstrate an altered learning process and shifting emotional needs. What guidance might inform K-12 instruction productively? This article frames the patterns discovered when a teacher researcher studied the teaching practices, strategies, and language of six educators who survived their own experiences of childhood sexual assault. With a keen awareness on strength and fragility, I detail the engaging, authentic, and community-centered methods from educators who turned their own experiences of trauma into effective ways to engage learners and build welcoming learning communities.”
  3. Cutuli, J. J., Desjardins, C. D., Herbers, J. E., Long, J. D., Heistad, D., Chan, C. K., ... & Masten, A. S. (2013). Academic achievement trajectories of homeless and highly mobile students: Resilience in the context of chronic and acute risk. Child Development, 84(3), 841- 857.
    Retrieved from:
    Full text available at
    From the abstract: “Analyses examined academic achievement data across third through eighth grades ("N" = 26,474), comparing students identified as homeless or highly mobile (HHM) with other students in the federal free meal program (FM), reduced price meals (RM), or neither (General). Achievement was lower as a function of rising risk status (General greater than RM greater than FM greater than HHM). Achievement gaps appeared stable or widened between HHM students and lower risk groups. Math and reading achievement were lower, and growth in math was slower in years of HHM identification, suggesting acute consequences of residential instability. Nonetheless, 45% of HHM students scored within or above the average range, suggesting academic resilience. Results underscore the need for research on risk and resilience processes among HHM students to address achievement disparities.”
  4. De Deckker, K. (2018). Understanding trauma in the refugee context. Journal of Psychologists and Counsellors in schools, 28(2), 248-259. Retrieved from:
    Full text available at
    article/understanding-trauma-in-the-refugeecontext/ FB0468C36BC3DF5A8BE54529D066C8D9

    From the abstract: “"For a school counsellor or classroom teacher, working with newly arrived students from refugee backgrounds can be daunting, particularly with the awareness that these students have likely experienced significant and potentially horrific trauma. There is now a wealth of evidence showing that traumatic experiences can significantly impact our neurological development, resulting in difficulties in areas such as learning, behaviour, relationship building and emotion regulation, meaning newly arrived refugee students will often arrive at school with some significant challenges. While there is an extensive amount of literature on trauma, there is very little that focuses specifically on the refugee population, and even less on young people from refugee backgrounds. Predominantly, the research looks at chronic or developmental trauma such as child abuse and neglect, or acute trauma such as natural disasters. The following article looks at the refugee context specifically, breaking down the difference between acute, chronic and developmental trauma; and describing the neurological effects of trauma and suggesting some practical classroom-based strategies that can be employed to support and facilitate the recovery of students from refugee backgrounds.”
  5. Frieze, S. (2015). How trauma affects student learning and behaviour. BU Journal of Graduate Studies in Education, 7(2), 27-34. Retrieved from:
    From the abstract: “Each year, more and more students are entering the school system having experienced different forms of trauma, such as violence, death, abuse, and illness. Children who are exposed to trauma run the risk of facing negative long-term effects that include mental illness, depression, and anxiety. This literature review provides an overview of how exposure to trauma affects children's mental health, as well as student learning and behaviour. Academic performance, school attendance, and overall intelligence are affected by exposure to trauma. Suggestions for supporting students with trauma exposure range from everyday interactions to intensive intervention programs, which include traditional and non-traditional practices as well as group and individual programs.”
  6. Khalid, H. A. (2019). Building resilience in chronic trauma through self-regulation. European Journal of Educational Sciences((Special), 102-115. Retrieved from:
    From the abstract: “Self-regulation is a life skill that benefits human development in general and can support building of resilience with which to survive and thrive through experiences of trauma, especially when impact of trauma has a chronic nature. Academic study provides an experience that requires exercise of self-regulation to attain success much as the need to survive and thrive through trauma. Research has indicated role of student-driven factors such as self-regulation in academic performance. A study conducted with educators in training provided indication that educators are enriched to help students grow in self-regulation as the educators themselves practice facets of self-regulation. The study examined self-regulation from selected scales of the MSLQ of Organization, Resource Management, Effort regulation, and Help-Seeking. Discussion of results provides implications for building resilience for support in trauma. Study results will assist educators in promotion of student self-regulation behaviors that can facilitate successful academic endeavor and habit formation of resilience practices. Answers will also provide guidance to educators and institutions on priority of effort in students support for self-regulation.”
  7. Larson, S., Chapman, S., Spetz, J., & Brindis, C. D. (2017). Chronic childhood trauma, mental health, academic achievement, and school-based health center mental health services. Journal of School Health, 87(9), 675-686. Retrieved from:
    Full text available at
    From the abstract: “Background: Children and adolescents exposed to chronic trauma have a greater risk for mental health disorders and school failure. Children and adolescents of minority racial/ethnic groups and those living in poverty are at greater risk of exposure to trauma and less likely to have access to mental health services. School-based health centers (SBHCs) may be one strategy to decrease health disparities. Methods: Empirical studies between 2003 and 2013 of US pediatric populations and of US SBHCs were included if research was related to childhood trauma's effects, mental health care disparities, SBHC mental health services, or SBHC impact on academic achievement. Results: Eight studies show a significant risk of mental health disorders and poor academic achievement when exposed to childhood trauma. Seven studies found significant disparities in pediatric mental health care in the US. Nine studies reviewed SBHC mental health service access, utilization, quality, funding, and impact on school achievement. Conclusion: Exposure to chronic childhood trauma negatively impacts school achievement when mediated by mental health disorders. Disparities are common in pediatric mental health care in the United States. SBHC mental health services have some showed evidence of their ability to reduce, though not eradicate, mental health care disparities.”
  8. Miller, K., & Flint-Stipp, K. (2019). Preservice teacher burnout: Secondary trauma and selfcare issues in teacher education. Issues in Teacher Education, 28(2), 28-45. Retrieved from:
    From the abstract: “This study examines preservice teacher coursework and interview data related to encountering student trauma, secondary trauma, and the role of self-care during clinical placement experiences. A thematic analysis of the data led to the identification of four main themes: the power of student stories, recognition of the many forms of trauma, preservice teacher burnout, and barriers to integrating self-care. Additionally, our analysis revealed the ways in which preservice teachers experienced secondary trauma as a consequence of forming relationships with students and listening to their stories. Some of the effects of this secondary trauma were mitigated by engaging in self-care, but those preservice teachers who felt they failed at supporting their personal wellness experienced burnout. More troubling, only one preservice teacher recognized self-care's connection to trauma-informed teaching. Our findings reveal the importance of infusing content on trauma, secondary trauma, and self-care in teacher education coursework and the need to provide professional development on trauma-informed teaching for clinical placement school sites.”
  9. Paiva, A. (2019). The importance of trauma-informed schools for maltreated children. BU Journal of Graduate Studies in Education, 11(1), 22-28. Retrieved from:
    From the abstract: “Exposure to childhood maltreatment is detrimental to the academic success and educational outcomes of students. It leads to a myriad of deficits related to neurodevelopment and neuroprocessing, which causes disruptions in academic performance, emotional and behavioural regulation, and school attendance. By becoming trauma-informed, schools can mitigate these adverse experiences and promote positive experiences within the learning environment. Through professional development and the implementation of social-emotional learning and trauma-sensitive policies, educators can combat the negative role of maltreatment on the academic success of maltreated students.”
  10. Stokes, H., & Brunzell, T. (2019). Professional learning in trauma informed positive education: Moving school communities from trauma affected to trauma aware. School Leadership Review, 14(2), 6. Retrieved from:
    From the abstract: “In order to assess and then to identify promising approaches for school leadership within rural communities, it can be helpful to reframe struggling schools as trauma-affected schools. Acknowledging the impacts of childhood trauma on students and their learning allows school leaders to undertake professional learning both with and for their schools to become trauma-aware. Embedded within a rural community located in a region contending with intergenerational disadvantage, the findings reported in this study suggest that when school leaders deliberately implemented trauma-aware practice as a whole-school approach for all staff members, there was growth in student academic outcomes. In addition to this, implications for leaders include the importance of engaging with effective professional learning to assist in the implementation of a whole school approach to trauma informed positive education. This in turn leads to reported growth in student wellbeing outcomes and increased collective teacher efficacy.”

Additional Organizations to Consult

  • ASCD:
    From the website: “ASCD is a passionate community of life-changing educators. Our community is empowered to be equity and instructional warriors who transform vision into practice. For 75 years we have worked side by side with educators from every level in all 50 states and more than 200 countries to help them find their people and amplify their voice to reach many. Our professional learning services let educators chart their own learning journey, as educators, as leaders, so they and their students can flourish.”
  • National Association of School Psychologists (NASP):
    From the website: “The National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) is a professional association representing more than 25,000 school psychologists, graduate students, and related professionals throughout the United States and an additional 25 countries worldwide. As the world's largest organization of school psychologists, NASP works to advance effective practices to improve students' learning, behavior, and mental health. Our vision is that all children and youth thrive in school, at home, and throughout life.”
  • The National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN):
    From the website: “The National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN) was created by Congress in 2000 as part of the Children's Health Act to raise the standard of care and increase access to services for children and families who experience or witness traumatic events. This unique network of frontline providers, family members, researchers, and national partners is committed to changing the course of children's lives by improving their care and moving scientific gains quickly into practice across the U.S. The NCTSN is administered by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and coordinated by the UCLA-Duke University National Center for Child Traumatic Stress (NCCTS).”


Search Strings. Student trauma learning impacts OR trauma factors student learning OR trauma experiences student outcomes impact OR student trauma correlation learning factors OR teacher trauma student learning impact OR teacher traumatic experiences student outcomes OR teacher trauma factors student impacts OR teacher secondary trauma

Searched Databases and Resources.

  • ERIC
  • Academic Databases (e.g., EBSCO databases, JSTOR database, ProQuest, Google Scholar)
  • Commercial search engines (e.g., Google)
  • Institute of Education Sciences Resources

Reference Search and Selection Criteria. The following factors are considered when selecting references:

  • Date of Publication: Priority is given to references published in the past 10 years.
  • Search Priorities of Reference Sources: ERIC, other academic databases, Institute of Education Sciences Resources, and other resources including general internet searches.
  • Methodology: Priority is given to the most rigorous study types, such as randomized controlled trials and quasi-experimental designs, as well as to correlational designs, descriptive analyses, mixed methods and literature reviews. Other considerations include the target population and sample, including their relevance to the question, generalizability, and general quality.

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