Trauma, Policy and Teaching English Language Learners


  • Bria Scarff Mount Royal University
  • Nathan Millar Mount Royal University
  • Patricia Kostouros Mount Royal University
  • Katherine (Katie) Crossman Bow Valley College
  • Rida Abboud Independent Research Consultant


policy, vicarious trauma, English language learners, post-secondary


The authors present findings that emphasize a need for trauma-informed policy to mitigate vicarious trauma transmission for teachers who work in English language learning (ELL) classrooms. Qualitative data was collected from 10 stakeholders in Canada using an interpretive-phenomenological methodology. Findings assisted to better understand the impact of institutional policy, or lack thereof, on trauma-informed practices within English language teacher work. Themes that emerged were settlement factors, roles, and responsibilities (personal and professional), and organizational policies. A scan of publicly available information on trauma-informed policy suggested a gap for English language teachers. Current literature on vicarious trauma stresses that trauma-informed practice necessitates an individual and systemic approach to mitigating its effects. A basic scan of potential trauma-informed frameworks was discussed as potential institutional approaches to reduce the impact of vicarious trauma on teachers. 

Author Biographies

Bria Scarff, Mount Royal University

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Nathan Millar, Mount Royal University

Patricia Kostouros , Mount Royal University

Dr. Patricia Kostouros is a Full Professor in the Department of Child Studies and Social Work at
Mount Royal University. Patricia’s research includes intimate partner violence, post-secondary
student wellness, vicarious trauma/compassion fatigue, and trauma-sensitive teaching. Patricia
co-chaired the post-secondary student mental health initiative across Canada. Prior to academia
Patricia managed a youth shelter, a women’s shelter, and was the Executive Director of a
residence for women with a trauma history and a dual diagnosis. Her publications include a
variety of articles and edited books.

Katherine (Katie) Crossman, Bow Valley College

Dr. Katherine (Katie) Crossman is an instructor with an academic research focus in the School of Global Access at Bow Valley College in Calgary.

Rida Abboud, Independent Research Consultant


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