Supporting Challenging Students: Trauma-Informed and Strengths-Based Strategies, Fall 2018

Course Number:  EDU 5515 C01
Instructor: Alex Shevrin Vanet
Location: Online with on-ground days at Castleton University, Stafford Academic Center, Room 142, Castleton, VT.
Dates and Times:

October 5 - December 7, 2018. Two in-person sessions (6 hours each) plus 8 weeks online. Face to face 1: FRIDAY, October 5, 9:00 am - 3:00 pm; Face to face 2: FRIDAY, November 30, 9:00 am - 3:00 pm

Credits: 3 graduate credits
Tuition: $925

Note: Course payment or purchase order of $925, payable to RRWIB, is due at the time of registration. A purchase order number can be entered into the online registration form. Credit card payments can also be made online. Please mail the check to the Castleton Center for Schools, Stafford Academic Center, Castleton University, 251 South Street, Castleton, VT 05773

Course Description

All students are capable of learning, but when working with students who have challenging behaviors it doesn’t always feel that way. To best serve these challenging students, we need to understand the underlying issues that cause that challenging behavior. Once we’re grounded in understanding, then we need to have a robust toolbelt of frames and strategies for working with those students. In this course we will explore theories of learning and behavior as well as models of problem-solving and classroom management. We’ll explore our own beliefs and biases, and articulate philosophies and frames to guide our work. By the end of this course, participants will understand how to use trauma-informed and strength-based strategies in their classrooms. Additionally, they’ll understand the types of shifts that teams, schools or districts could make to better support students with challenging behavior.

Audience: All educators

Course Goals:

To better serve behaviorally challenging students through strategies grounded in trauma-informed practice and strengths-based approaches.

Course Objectives:

Participants will:

  • Identify their own philosophies, beliefs and biases in working with challenging students
  • Develop an understanding of trauma-informed teaching strategies
  • Assess their own practice through a student-centered, strengths-based lens
  • Learn and practice new problem-solving strategies
  • Develop an action plan for better supporting challenging students

Course Expectations


The course will be organized around three main project components:

  • In-person meeting #1: Through a series of conversations and interactive activities, participants will create a self-reflective teacher profile: a portfolio of reflective writing identifying one’s own experiences, biases, and beliefs as those relate to working with challenging students, and create goals for improving their teaching practice.
  • Online weeks: concept exploration and student case study - participants will use readings and their own perspectives to explore several lenses of understanding of challenging students. Teachers will complete a case study applying these frames to one of their current or past students.
  • In-person meeting #2: We will use discussions with one another to synthesize our learning and thoughts, and use this synthesis to create several levels of goals: a personal action-research plan for our individual work as well as “in a perfect world” goals for school and system-wide change.


Students will submit a reflection and action-research plan along with a self-evaluation of learning.


Individual assignments and projects throughout the course will be given narrative feedback rather than grades. At the end of the course, students will self-assess using evidence of their participation and projects and collaboratively determine their grade with the instructor.

Required Texts

Required Readings/Texts: (required texts not included in cost of course)

  • Fostering Resilient Learners by Kristin Souers and Pete Hall
  • Lost at School by Ross Greene

For additional course information

Alex Shevrin

(802) 489-6739

For additional registration information

Bethany Sprague
(802) 468-1325

Register online now!