Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.



Degree Program

English Rhetoric and Composition, PhD

Committee Chair

Sheridan, Mary P.

Committee Co-Chair (if applicable)

Kopelson, Karen

Committee Member

Kopelson, Karen

Committee Member

Willey, Beth

Committee Member

Sar, Bibhuti

Author's Keywords

trauma; pedagogy; writing; distress; students; resilience


This dissertation builds a trauma-informed approach to writing pedagogy informed by writing studies scholarship about trauma and inclusive pedagogy, clinical social work literature on trauma-informed care, and interviews with nine current University of Louisville writing faculty about their experiences academically supporting distressed students. I identify three central touchstones—“students are coddled,” “teacher’s aren’t therapists,” and “institutions don’t support trauma-informed teaching”—in scholarly and public debates regarding what to do about student trauma/distress in higher education. After exploring the valid concerns and misconceptions underpinning these touchstones, I illustrate how clinical research offers a way forward to help writing instructors develop more complex understandings of and responses to trauma’s impact on their classrooms. I conclude by describing six criteria that define Trauma-Informed Writing Pedagogy (TIWP), an approach to writing instruction that faculty and administrators can adapt to their own teaching styles and contexts. Appendix 2 describes TIWP in detail, offering suggestions, resources, and other materials. This instructional approach has important implications for fostering inclusive pedagogies and responding to mental health crises across college campuses.