Trauma-Informed Teaching Practices in the Elementary Music Classroom

October 5, 2018 / By: Matthew Pedregon

Caused by adverse childhood experiences such as abuse, neglect, or exposure to violence, trauma has a profound effect on the growth and development of children. The frequency of trauma as well as its adverse cognitive, affective, and behavioral effects can have an enormous impact on teaching and learning. Though trauma research has been done in the neighboring fields of psychology, neurology, social work, and music therapy, no study has looked at finding trauma-informed practices particular to the elementary music classroom.

The purpose of this study was to find trauma-informed practices that can be implemented in the elementary music classroom. Special attention was given to explore how teaching social-emotional skills can be used to develop positive peer relationships. Research and practice from other fields indicate this may be a way to help heal trauma. Because of this, and the fact that the Orff Schulwerk approach emphasizes cooperative group work, a connection between trauma-informed practices and the Orff Schulwerk approach was also pursued. To do this, an explanatory mixed methods design was used. An online survey identified elementary music teachers that were successful at meeting the needs of students with trauma. These teachers were then interviewed.

Findings indicated the use of several trauma-informed practices. These included: developing teacher-student relationships, addressing social-emotional needs, providing structure, building a safe and supportive community, employing various methods of engagement, and utilizing cooperative learning. The healing power of music was also mentioned as an effective tool that can be used to help students with trauma.