Professional Learning

Professional learning is where we can uplift each other and support one another to create opportunities for stronger, more resilient students, and for future generations.

Alaskan Educator

What is this section about?

This section offers action steps and resources for intentional, effective, and cohesive professional development to create an adult culture that can transform schools through a community-responsive approach. It was developed to address the following professional learning considerations realities in Alaska.

School staff members often receive one-time training on topics, however real and lasting change requires ongoing professional development and reflective practice. Continuing opportunities for learning and reflection are critical for all who work with students: school administration, teaching staff, paraprofessionals, support staff, afterschool providers, and community members. Everyone in a school community has a role and needs to be prepared to support students.

Many school staff in Alaska say they are not prepared to integrate trauma engaged approaches in culturally responsive ways. Further, frequent migration of teachers in and out of communities can have a stop-and-start effect that makes it difficult for schools to move past implementation barriers. Embedding long-term sustained professional learning in school practices can help overcome these barriers.

Authentic partnership means learning from and with the community. By partnering with communities and families, schools align trauma engaged approaches with community values and strengthen the place-based cultural dimensions of learning and teaching. This kind of shared professional learning experience builds skills in both the school and community and strengthens relationships, trust, and collective efficacy.

Community Adaptations

The content of this chapter is offered to district leaders, school staff, and community members with an understanding of their different roles in the work of transforming schools. The intention is to provide support materials and resources that can be adapted to each role and make practices culturally relevant and aligned with each community’s strengths, norms, and expectations.

Trauma Engaged Schools Knowing to Doing Video Library

The Trauma Engaged Video Library offers over 50 peer-led and statewide experts short videos tied to the topics in the Framework. They are under 10 minutes and easily accessible for personal review or in a group setting to stimulate discussion. Below is the video series for this chapter.

Click on the banner on the top left of the video screen to see the chapter video titles.

What can leadership do?

Click each section below for more info.

A. Assess administrator and staff understanding of trauma and their readiness for trauma engaged approaches. Meet everyone where they are.
  • Trauma Sensitive Schools Fidelity Tool
    A tool intended to paint a picture of your school prior to the implementation of trauma sensitive policies and practices. It may also help shape your school conversation around how to become more trauma sensitive.
  • Professional Quality of Life (ProQOL)
    A tool to assess for secondary traumatic stress and burnout. This is one of the most commonly used tools for measuring the negative and positive effects of helping others who have experienced trauma. It includes sub-scales for compassion satisfaction, burnout, and compassion fatigue.
B. Inventory professional learning structures, resources, time allocation, and supports already in place. Develop an ongoing professional learning plan that utilizes best practices. Ensure job-embedded learning focused on integrating trauma engaged practices throughout the school year.
  • Sample Trauma Professional Development Plan
    This is only an example of what a professional development plan might look like for your school or district. This example is intended to help teams develop a comprehensive plan to ensure all staff develop an awareness of trauma and begin to respond to behavior with a trauma informed lens.
  • Building Trauma Sensitive Schools, Handout 2
    This handout is designed to help school-based administrators and trauma sensitive work groups create the plan needed for a significant and ongoing investment in professional development to support students affected by trauma.

C. Collaborate with staff and community (families, elders, tribes, support services) to enhance the professional learning plan by embedding community-based and culturally responsive approaches. Include opportunities for school staff, families, and community members to engage in learning together.
  • Alaska Standards for Culturally Responsive Schools
    These standards have been developed by Alaska Native educators to provide a way for schools and communities to examine the extent to which they are attending to the educational and cultural well-being of the students in their care.
  • Bridging Differences Playbook
    There is a growing movement of individuals and organizations who are working to foster more constructive dialogue and understanding across group lines, bringing us together at a time when so many forces are pulling us apart. This playbook describes research-based strategies to promote positive dialogue and understanding.
  • Indigenous Ally Toolkit
    Being involved in any kind of anti-oppression work is about recognizing that every person has a basic right to human dignity, respect, and equal access to resources. Being an ally is about a way of being and doing. This means self-reflection, “checking in” with one’s motivations, and debriefing with community members is a continual process and a way of life.
D. Deliver trauma engaged professional learning content for all staff. Communicate that school-wide trauma engaged practices provide a path to success for all students. Model and practice the strategies staff are being asked to use with students.
  • Modeling Trauma Informed Practice in the Training Environment
    It is not enough to just “inform” professionals about trauma in our efforts to establish a trauma informed workforce. It is essential that in the process of providing professional development and workforce training we imbed and model principles of trauma informed practice in the training environment.
  • Creating a Trauma Informed Training Environment
    Trauma informed principles center on safety, choice, agency, connection, and collaboration. These principles should also be reflected when we provide training to our colleagues and collaborative partners. This publication offers some tips on incorporating principles of a trauma informed approach in our training environments themselves.
  • Alaska Department of Education and Early Development eLearning Modules
    This three-course series defines adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and explains how they affect children’s brains and behavior. The series provides insight into the paradigm shift schools undergo as they become better equipped to support students’ responses to traumatic experiences and the impact it may have on learning and behavior. The sessions cover the steps necessary to become trauma engaged on a school-wide or even district-wide basis.
  • Alaska Staff Development Network Recorded SEL Webinars
    In this series of webinars, participants can deepen their understanding of the impact of ACEs and trauma; gain tools to respectfully address cumulative and historical trauma; and be introduced to culturally responsive, trauma informed interventions that foster connection, resilience, and success for students as well as educators.
  • Alaska Education Network – Project ECHO
    An initiative to build support networks of educational peers throughout the state with capacity to increase student achievement. Click on “view recorded sessions” to access webinars facilitated by Alaskan educators.
  • Trauma Informed SEL Toolkit
    This is a 120-minute professional development session designed for educators seeking research-based strategies to create a healthy classroom environment for students who have experienced adversities and trauma.
  • Secondary Traumatic Stress and Self-Care Packet
    In handout 3, learn about secondary traumatic stress and related conditions; in the second section, use the tools and strategies provided to help you create individual and schoolwide plans to promote staff self-care and resilience.
E. Evaluate the efficacy of professional learning in transforming school-wide practice.  Seek feedback from staff and community to adjust the professional learning goals and plan as needed to deepen trauma engaged practice.
  • Trauma Evaluation Plan
    This is an example of what an evaluation plan might look like for your school or district. Use this example plan to give you guidance and considerations for selecting data points to monitor, a schedule for collecting those data points and a process for when and how data will be collected and monitored.
  • A Guide for Evaluating the Impact of Professional Learning
    This guide helps schools and districts overcome the challenges which can lead to “three major mistakes” in professional learning evaluation. It contains adaptable documents and tools for evaluating and planning professional learning.
  • Hexagon Discussion and Analysis Tool
    This tool helps organizations evaluate new and existing programs and practices. It is designed to be used by a team to ensure diverse perspectives are represented in a discussion of the six contextual fit and feasibility factors.

What can staff do?

Click each section below for more info.

A. Examine your own beliefs and be aware of your experiences with trauma. Consider how being engaged in this work may highlight opportunities for healing and personal growth.
  • Self-Care: Alaska Department of Education and Early Development eLearning Modules
    This new eLearning course for educators provides health-enhancing information on how to manage compassion fatigue and secondary trauma by practicing self-care strategies. Topics covered are: What is self-care, how to avoid compassion fatigue and burnout, what are the four important factors of self-care, and what are core self-care strategies. Active self-care reduces teacher turnover and depression, anxiety, anger and fatigue among teachers. In taking care of ourselves and each other, we provide positive role modeling for students.
  • Teacher Wellbeing Strategies
    Teacher wellbeing is a crucial element of overall school health. Educators often experience significant amounts of pressure and stress, and don’t have the proper tools or mindset to overcome these challenges. These resources help educators find healthy work-life balance and live happy and productive lives inside and outside of the classroom.
  • Support for Teachers Affected by Trauma (STAT)
    Geared toward preK-12 teachers, STAT (Support for Teachers Affected by Trauma) comprises five free online modules that explore the concepts of secondary trauma, risk factors associated with susceptibility to STS, the impact of STS across multiple life domains, and tangible self-care skills. Access to free modules simply requires registering to use the site.
  • Building a Self-Care Action Plan
    Vicarious (secondary) trauma, compassion fatigue, and burnout can be prevented. Doing so, however, requires a conscious effort to practice individual self-care strategies on a regular basis, both personally and professionally, to assist in managing vicarious stress.
B. Contribute to a safe professional learning environment by addressing your own unconscious biases. Collaborate authentically with colleagues.

Trauma-Informed Care: Parallel Skill Development
Outlines trauma informed care skills for staff self-awareness and for staff partnering with others.

Strategies for Collaboration
In Handout 9 learn strategies for collaborating that align with core principles of a trauma sensitive approach.

Teacher Collaboration: Spreading Best Practices School-Wide
At Wildwood IB World Magnet School, teacher collaboration fosters a supportive professional culture, lessens teacher conflict, and provides students with school-wide best practices.

5 Keys to Challenging Implicit Bias
Challenge implicit biases by identifying your own, teaching colleagues about them, observing gap-closing teachers, stopping “tone policing,” and tuning into such biases at your school.

Four Tools for Interrupting Implicit Bias
As culturally responsive educators we educate ourselves about implicit bias – how it operates and what we can do to interrupt it. From Zaretta Hammond’s Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain

C. Engage in ongoing reflective practice to assess the effect your trauma engaged approach has had on student learning.  Revise and modify practices as needed.
  • The Value of Self Reflection
    We rarely take the time to pause, think, reflect and evaluate what we have learned.  In our fast-paced careers and lives we jump from one activity to another and plough through one change after another, without doing an analysis of what each experience provided us.
  • Getting Started with Reflective Practice
    This unit from Cambridge Assessment International Education looks at the basics of reflective practice and examines the research behind reflective practice, The unit discusses the benefits, explores some practical examples, and encourages you to think about how you can include reflective practice in your own classroom practice.
  • Assessing Trauma Informed Practices
    This resource mapping activity is intended to help assess how the practices you are currently implementing might be trauma informed to help determine gaps for considering practices to add.
  • Classroom Practices Resource Map
    This is a tool to assess: What do you already do? How will you practice current strategies with more intentionality? What will you add to your classroom management practices?
D. Seek out additional professional learning. Participate in community events, celebrations, and dialogues to deepen your understanding of community strength and resilience.
  • Alaska Department of Education e-Learning Modules
    • Classroom Practices
      Trauma can have a profound effect on how students perform in school. Teachers who take a trauma engaged approach are sensitive to the fact that some students have experienced significant trauma and can provide the supportive environment students need for success. This course walks you through strategies you can use in your classroom.
    • Emotional Intelligence
      Students who have experienced trauma can react to stress in unpredictable ways because trauma can impede their ability to develop emotional intelligence. This course gives foundational information about emotional intelligence and walks you through strategies you can use with students.
    • Mind-Body Connections
      To ensure the academic success of students who have experienced trauma, it is necessary for schools to address their health and emotional well-being. This course provides a foundational understanding of how non-academic mindfulness tools and techniques can help students focus in the classroom. You may also find these activities helpful and healing for yourself.
    • Self-Regulation
      Self-regulation is the ability to manage emotions and behavior. Students who have experienced trauma may have trouble developing self-regulation skills. This course provides a foundation for understanding self-regulation and walks you through how to help students develop these skills.
  • Teaching/Learning Across Cultures: Strategies for Success 
    As an educator, how can you enter into and learn about a new community in a way that will maximize your chances of making a positive contribution to the educational experiences of the students with whom you will work? Article by Ray Barnhardt, Center for Cross-Cultural Studies, University of Alaska Fairbanks
E. Adapt trauma engaged practices to reflect community and cultural values. Share practices with colleagues, especially with those new to the community.
  • Culture in the Classroom
    Standards, Indicators and Evidences for Evaluating Culturally Proficient Teaching was created for Alaskan teachers with the purpose of self-reflection and continuous improvement.
  • Self-Assessment Checklist – Cultural Competence
    This checklist from Georgetown University’s National Center for Cultural Competence provides examples of the kinds of values and practices that foster an environment that is aware and respectful of cultural diversity

Milestone Guide

The Transforming Schools Guide offers some steps and a starting point to deepen personal growth, establish a common vision with colleagues and community, and remind each of us that this is a process of preparing, starting, applying, and refining our trauma engaged work. Individuals and teams move through the steps and cycle many times to continue to improve upon and deepen our trauma engaged approach. Seeing the path forward and celebrating successes are key components of effective implementation. These Milestone guides offer four levels of section to complete, broken out by role. Each of the 11 components within the framework and toolkit.

Additional Resources for Leadership

  • Social Emotional Learning Reflection Deck
    These reflection cards were developed by the Center for Safe Alaskans to support staff and leaders in exploring and strengthening their emotional intelligence. The cards align with the Collaborative for Academic Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL) five-competency framework. Access to the free resource simply requires registering.
  • School Leader and Educator Self-Reflection Tools
    These tools were created to support both individual and collaborative reflection for educators and school leaders, and are intended to be used in conjunction with Transforming Education’s “SEL Integration Approach”. The reflection areas support individuals in considering SEL integration from various angles.
  • Assessing Trauma Informed Practices 
    This resource mapping activity is to help assess how the practices you are currently implementing might be trauma informed to help determine gaps for considering practices to add.  The four components to assess trauma informed practices are adapted from the ARC model, which includes attachment, regulation and competency as core domains.
  • Active Learning Strategies
    The Berkeley Center for Teaching and Learning’s Active Learning Strategies initiate learners and instructors into effective ways to help everyone engage in activities based on ideas about how people learn. Use these strategies to provide interactive professional learning for staff and students.
  • Best Practices for School Staff Professional Development
    This paper reviews 35 methodologically rigorous studies that have demonstrated a positive link between teacher professional development, teaching practices, and student outcomes. It identifies the features of these approaches and offers rich descriptions of these models to inform those seeking to understand the nature of the initiatives.
  • From ACEs to Action
    PowerPoint presentation from Christopher Blodgett, Ph.D, WSU CLEAR Trauma Center/Child and Family Research Center about how communities can improve wellbeing and resilience. 
  • Adverse Childhood Experiences 
    A comprehensive PowerPoint on ACEs from the National Council of Behavioral Health focused on implications for behavioral health, wellness, and prevention.
  • Trauma-Sensitive Schools Training Package
    A framework and roadmap for school and district administrators and staff for adopting a trauma sensitive approach school or districtwide. The Training Package includes a variety of resources for educating school staff about trauma and trauma sensitive practices and for providing school leaders with a step-by-step process for implementing a universal, trauma informed approach using package materials.
  • Leading Trauma Sensitive Schools Action Guide
    This action guide is intended to be used with and after viewing the Leading Trauma Sensitive Schools online module, to provide school leadership with a roadmap and tools for implementing a trauma sensitive approach schoolwide, including recommendations for using various components of the Trauma Sensitive Schools Training Package.

Additional Resources for Staff

  • Social Emotional Learning Reflection Deck
    These reflection cards were developed by the Center for Safe Alaskans to support staff and leaders in exploring and strengthening their emotional intelligence. The cards align with the Collaborative for Academic Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL) five-competency framework. Access to the free resource simply requires registering.
  • Self-Care for Teachers
    It can be difficult for educators, who are so often over-tasked and under-resourced, to prioritize self-care. But doing so is incredibly important and beneficial, both for educators and their students, especially when it comes to supporting students affected by trauma.
  • Secondary Traumatic Stress and Self-Care Packet
    In Handout 3, learn about secondary traumatic stress and related conditions; in the second section, use the tools and strategies provided to help you create individual and schoolwide plans to promote staff self-care and resilience.
  • Trauma Sensitive Schools Videos
    Trauma and Learning Policy Initiative’s (TLPI) mission is to ensure that children traumatized by exposure to family violence and other adverse childhood experiences succeed in school.