Liberty, Equality, Fraternity: Trauma-informed English Language Teaching to Adults

Conference: The Paris Conference on Education (PCE2022)
Title: Liberty, Equality, Fraternity: Trauma-informed English Language Teaching to Adults
Stream: Foreign Languages Education & Applied Linguistics (including ESL/TESL/TEFL)
Presentation Type: Live-Stream Presentation
Victoria Wilson, University of Queensland, Australia


In an era of mass displacement, COVID, and war in Europe, trauma and resilience are more relevant than ever. Post-traumatic stress can impact verbal learning, memory, and engagement, yet teachers of English as a second or additional language (ESL) are rarely trained in trauma-informed pedagogy. In addition, scant empirical literature exists on trauma-informed second language teaching. What little research there is usually lacks student voice, and is more likely to cater for teaching youth cohorts. Additionally, research about trauma-informed second language teaching is often subsumed into research about teaching refugees, where trauma may be just one of many factors – such as severely interrupted schooling - complicating educational success.
This presentation, based on the author’s PhD study, examines the perspectives of diverse adult ESL students experiencing post-traumatic stress responses. It will briefly introduce the theoretical framework and methods of the study, before detailing the study’s findings and how these can be used in the second language classroom for the benefit of all learners. Three major themes of the study can be summarised as ‘liberty, equality, fraternity’, as these neatly encapsulate the findings. 'Liberty' includes students having agency and choices; 'equality' refers to the non-hierarchical teacher-student and student-student relationships that lead to learning, and 'fraternity' denotes the care, support, and sense of belonging that are essential for an effective learning environment.

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