Occasional Paper Series

Issue 43: Possibilities and Problems in Trauma-Based and Social Emotional Learning Programs


Tracey Pyscher and Anne Crampton

Teacher and child do art projectSocial, emotional, and affective experiences are impossible to separate from thinking, doing, and being in the world. Increasingly, schools and community-based organizations are recognizing this truth through the adoption of programs that focus on the emotional lives of children and youth, especially when emotions are fraught, and lives have been difficult. Programs such as social emotional learning (SEL) frameworks and trauma-informed practices (TIP) are not only popular, they are deemed “essential” in almost every corner of the social services sector.

Advocates for these programs claim that SEL and TIP create a necessary foundation for greater self- awareness, better relationships, and improved learning capacities for children and youth. We, along with other authors in this issue, suggest that these programs often focus on those who are marginalized through race, class, and/or experiences of violence, including family violence, while ignoring the social conditions that create marginalization and its effects, and neglecting the many strengths and strategies deployed by these children and youth. This focus can lead to labeling and/or silencing legitimate expressions of resistance and difference in a quest to elicit specific types of behavioral and cultural conformity for students to be deemed “learning ready” (e.g., Crampton, Pyscher & Robinson, 2018; Pyscher, 2019).

Read the Full Essay Full PDF of OPS #43

Guest Editors

Tracey PyscherTracey Pyscher, PhD, is an Assistant Professor of Secondary Education at Western Washington University. Her research interests include understanding and naming the social and cultural experiences of children and youth with histories of domestic violence and their navigation of school experiences, critical literacy and learning, and what praxis means to/for teacher education. She is published in several books including: Gender Identities, Sexualities, and Literacies: Issues Across the Childhood & Adolescence (2019), Dismantling The Prison To School Pipeline (2016), Technology for Transformation: Perspectives of Hope in the Digital Age (2016), Reclaiming English Language Arts Methods Courses: Critical Issues and Challenges for Teacher Educators in Top-Down Times (2014), as well as in several journals including the International Journal of Qualitative Studies (In Press), Cultural Studies ↔ Critical Methodologies (2017), Journal of Educational Controversy (2017 & 2015), and Equity & Excellence in Education (2014).

Anne Crampton

Anne Crampton, PhD, is the academic program director of Teacher Outreach Education for Inclusive Environments at the Woodring College of Education, Western Washington University. Her research interests include emotions and learning, trauma-informed practices, classroom interactions across social and cultural differences, critical literacy, digital and multimodal literacies, cosmopolitanism, and the role of love in addressing inequities in education.