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


This qualitative paper examines trauma-informed teaching of English as a second language (ESL) to adults. Trauma is highly prevalent worldwide, and post-traumatic stress negatively affects language learning. A review of the literature identified five major principles for trauma-informed learning: safety, agency, a foregrounding of student identities, recognition of strengths, belonging, and meaning. However, very few empirical studies exist in this field, with a dearth of student voice and a lack of trauma-screening of students. Additionally, most published research about anxiety in second and foreign language learning does not critically examine the learning environment. The present study, informed by socio-environmental theories of trauma and critical pedagogies, privileges the voices of ESL students from three universities in Australia. Thirty-nine participants completed a validated tool to measure posttraumatic stress responses, and 20 of these students then took part in semi-structured interviews about the learning environment in their university-based English language centres. Interview questions were based on principles identified in the literature review. Data were analysed through a critical thematic analysis and a trauma-informed lens. For the purposes of this paper, findings are summarised into three major themes: Liberty, equality, and fraternity. The theme of liberty encompasses authoritarianism in the classroom, choices, and autonomy. Equality refers to teachers treating students equally, and egalitarianism amongst peers. The third theme, fraternity, examines supportive teachers and peers, as well as collaborative, interactive learning. Given the current climate of mass forced migration and COVID-19, the findings are timely and relevant for all second language learners.

Author Information
Victoria Wilson, University of Queensland, Australia

Paper Information
Conference: PCE2022
Stream: Foreign Languages Education & Applied Linguistics (including ESL/TESL/TEFL)

This paper is part of the PCE2022 Conference Proceedings (View)
Full Paper
View / Download the full paper in a new tab/window

To cite this article:
Wilson V. (2022) Liberty, Equality, Fraternity: Trauma-Informed English Language Teaching to Adults ISSN: 2758-0962 The Paris Conference on Education 2022: Official Conference Proceedings
To link to this article:

Comments & Feedback

Place a comment using your LinkedIn profile


Share on activity feed

Powered by WP LinkPress

Share this Research

Posted by James Alexander Gordon