Category Archives: 2. Featured Articles

Acknowledging the New Normal: Helping Students Weather Pandemic-Induced Trauma

It’s hardly a secret that our students have endured a great deal over the last few years. Experts are calling it collective trauma, or the impact of a harrowing occurrence that affects an entire community and that can change policies or social norms. College learning most definitely qualifies as one of the institutions profoundly affected by the pandemic. So how can instructors acknowledge this new normal and help students?

Experts point to pedagogical strategies especially helpful at the beginning of a new semester.

  1. Emphasize safety. Many young people have felt unsafe during the pandemic, but they typically have a hard time admitting their vulnerability. One of the ways to address this reality is to remind students that the classroom is a safe space, that while learning may not always be easy, instructors consider students’ mental health when creating and teaching the course. It also helps for instructors to show their own vulnerability to be more relatable.
  2. Be transparent and predictable. People who have experienced trauma require predictability to avoid triggers that stoke their fragility. A clear syllabus that spells out the instructor’s expectations about participation, deadlines, and policies helps students grasp onto something solid.
  3. Encourage peer support. One of the worst by-products of the pandemic has been isolation. Whether a class is fully or partially remote or if it is face-to-face, students need to interact with one another. Some instructors allow 5-10 minutes at the beginning of class for students to talk about what’s happened in their lives. Instructors can create groups of 4-5 or open the discussion to the entire class. The point is for classmates offer solutions to problems their peers face. Not only does this exercise allow students to disgorge difficult experiences, but it encourages problem-solving, always desirable in the business communication classroom.
  4. Include students in (some!) classroom decisions. Many students consider their teachers authority figures and are resigned to following instructions without offering their own input. But students affected by trauma especially need collaboration. Instructors can include students in certain decisions. For example, at the beginning of the course, students can weigh in on which classroom behaviors should be adopted and how breaches should be dealt with.
  5. Foster student voices. Trauma victims tend to experience low self-worth. Such feelings impede learning, but they can be countered with activities that build classroom camaraderie while reminding students about their skills and attributes. One such exercise that is especially helpful at the beginning of a new term is to have students work in pairs to answer questions such as What are you good at? How can you add value to our class, How can we support one another? before opening the conversation to the entire class. Some students may be hesitant to share such ideas with a large group and may require an alternative such as e-mail to voice their responses.
  6. Provide a welcoming atmosphere. Our diverse students come to college with a multitude of experiences and cultural backgrounds. When welcoming students on the first day, instructors should discuss inclusivity and make sure that all students feel they belong to the classroom’s learning community.

No one is immune to the difficulties the pandemic has foisted on us all. By showing our students that their collective trauma is acknowledged, we create a supportive learning space they will appreciate.

Source: Herr-Perrin, A. (2021, November 15.) Six tips for cultivating a trauma-informed higher education classroom at the beginning of each semester. Faculty Focus. Retrieved from https://www.facultyfocus.com

Acknowledging the New Normal: Helping Students Weather Pandemic-Induced Trauma

It’s hardly a secret that our students have endured a great deal over the last few years. Experts are calling it collective trauma, or the impact of a harrowing occurrence that affects an entire community and that can change policies or social norms. College learning most definitely qualifies as one of the institutions profoundly affected by the pandemic. So how can instructors acknowledge this new normal and help students?

Experts point to pedagogical strategies especially helpful at the beginning of a new semester.

  1. Emphasize safety. Many young people have felt unsafe during the pandemic, but they typically have a hard time admitting their vulnerability. One of the ways to address this reality is to remind students that the classroom is a safe space, that while learning may not always be easy, instructors consider students’ mental health when creating and teaching the course. It also helps for instructors to show their own vulnerability to be more relatable.
  2. Be transparent and predictable. People who have experienced trauma require predictability to avoid triggers that stoke their fragility. A clear syllabus that spells out the instructor’s expectations about participation, deadlines, and policies helps students grasp onto something solid.
  3. Encourage peer support. One of the worst by-products of the pandemic has been isolation. Whether a class is fully or partially remote or if it is live, students need to interact with one another. Some instructors allow 5-10 minutes at the beginning of class for students to talk about what’s happened in their lives. Instructors can create groups of 4-5 or open the discussion to the entire class. The point is for classmates offer solutions to problems their peers face. Not only does this exercise allow students to disgorge difficult experiences, it encourages problem-solving, always desirable in the business communication classroom.
  4. Include students in (some!) classroom decisions. Many students consider their teachers authority figures and are resigned to follow instructions without offering their own input. But students impacted by trauma are especially in need of collaboration. Instructors can include students in certain decisions. For example, at the beginning of the course, students can weigh in on which classroom behaviors should be adopted and how breaches should be dealt with.
  5. Foster student voices. Trauma victims tend to experience low self-worth. Such feelings impede learning, but they can be countered with activities that build classroom camaraderie while reminding students about their skills and attributes. One such exercise that is especially helpful at the beginning of a new term is to have students work in pairs to answer questions such as What are you good at? How can you add value to our class, How can we support one another? before opening the conversation to the entire class. Some students may be hesitant to share such ideas with a large group and may require an alternative such as e-mail to voice their responses.
  6. Provide a welcoming atmosphere. Our diverse student bodies come to college with a multitude of experiences and cultural backgrounds. When welcoming students on the first day, instructors should discuss inclusivity and make sure that all students feel they belong to the classroom’s learning community.

No one is immune to the difficulties the pandemic has foisted on us all. By showing our students that their collective trauma is acknowledged, we create a supportive learning space they will appreciate.


Source: Herr-Perrin, A. (2021, November 15.) Six tips for cultivating a trauma-informed higher education classroom at the beginning of each semester. Faculty Focus. Retrieved from https://www.facultyfocus.com

Career Counseling in the BizCom Classroom

By Janet Mizrahi

I recently read an article about how all faculty, independent of discipline, are being encouraged to integrate career counseling into their curricula. It reminded me about the importance of helping our business communication students connect the dots between their educations and their futures. This is especially important now because students increasingly evaluate the choice of earning a college degree as value proposition that measures the cost compared to the long-term worth of that investment.

As bizcom instructors we may not be able to include career assessment and occupation selection into our curriculum; however, we are in the unique position to include many facets of career guidance that link students’ education to their careers by integrating the strategies below into our teaching practice.

First and foremost is consistently connecting course content and real-life work. Of course, we teach work-related written and oral communication, using case studies and examples from textbooks and perhaps, personal experience. Many of us also teach professionalism across the board—workplace etiquette, meeting behavior, and teamwork. All of this helps cement skills and behaviors that add value to students’ educations and careers as employees and merits conscious repetition throughout the semester.

We should also maintain a regular dialogue about work experiences. While not all students work, many do, and all members of the class benefit from hearing how the learning in the classroom plays out in the workplace. By using class discussions or small group sessions with guided questions that probe students’ work experiences, we can further bring home course learning objectives in a meaningful way.

This leads to the next point: talking about careers often. Doing so demystifies the process and helps students segue from academia to the workforce. In today’s climate, students are especially anxious to learn how the pandemic has affected the world of work, specifically what kinds of work they will be able to find and which industries are hot (and which are not). This situation makes discussions about the opportunities for employment in local industries especially pertinent.

Obviously, bizcom teachers design course activities around the job search as a matter of course. But we must rethink how we do that. The pandemic has changed the face of work, from where employees do their jobs to the creation or demise of entire industries. To nudge our students forward, why not require them to apply for an actual internship or job they find online (they need not send it in, but they should have the experience of responding to an actual job spec) and prepare them with a series of assignments on résumé writing and interviewing skills?

Finally, we can drive home the importance of productive behavior that may start in our classroom but that crosses over to the workplace.

Bizcom instructors hold a unique position to guide students toward rewarding careers. It bears reminding that while no student is forced to visit the career center, all must attend class—where we can be preparing them for their future careers.