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 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.

Available for download on Sunday, November 10, 2019