Getting Unstuck Podcast Summary: Using Simulations to Train Trauma-Informed School Personnel

PK-12SELTrauma-Informed Teaching

Kognito founder and head of research Dr. Glenn Albright, along with Kim Wieland, head of product, education, were featured guests on the “Getting Unstuck: Educators Leading Change” podcast, hosted by career and leadership coach Jeff Ikler and innovation catalyst Kirsten Richert.

Ikler and Richert’s podcast looks at change in education—who is leading it, what they’re trying to accomplish, and why. They speak with professionals and thought leaders to help listeners “get unstuck and move toward their desired goals,” as their podcast description states.

Below are a few key topics discussed on the episode. Listen to the full episode on the Education Podcast Network, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you listen to podcasts.

social-emotional learning

Using virtual humans or avatars can provide an ideal learning environment

Studies show that people are more likely to open up when practicing conversations with virtual humans, enhancing their ability to learn at deeper levels.

“You feel less likely to be judged,” Dr. Albright said. “Think about when you’re in a roleplay with an instructor face-to-face, or a live roleplay, maybe with other people watching, and how that generates a certain degree of anxiety of what we call social evaluative threat. But when you role play with virtual humans that are programmed with emotions and memory and personality, and will react like a real student in psychological distress, you and I, we become very comfortable in having those conversations.”

Dr. Albright also mentioned other advantages of virtual characters such as their neutral appearance, which reduces transference reactions.

Learn more in the blog post, “7 Advantages of Learning with Virtual Humans.”

Educators are not psychologists, but can be effective gatekeepers

The point of trauma-informed teaching and social-emotional learning is not to transform teachers into psychologists. It is to give them knowledge and skills to be able to identify warning signs, have meaningful conversations with students, and refer them to the appropriate resource or professional if needed.

Kognito’s simulations clarify this for the user. In fact, knowing that your role is to act as a gatekeeper is an area assessed in the pre- and post-simulation surveys that evaluate the programs’ efficacy. There is a significant increase from pre-training to post-training that users identify gatekeeping as being their role.

Swimming upstream is critical to addressing problems before they escalate

Over 50% of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) are experienced in a child’s first five years of life. Dr. Albright says that there’s a need to focus on training parents in healthy attachment strategies, and training pre-K educators and K-12 teachers to embrace social-emotional learning strategies to help address problems earlier.

“As they go into pre-K and K-12, teachers need to learn how to embrace social-emotional learning, how they can continue the dialogue for students to become aware of their emotions, how they can put emotions into words, without acting out on them and give them the skills early on to prevent the psychological disorders that result later on in life. It’s really critical,” Dr. Albright said.

Are teachers and staff ready to apply trauma-informed practices? Download our whitepaper with survey results from over 8,000 educators across 11 states that seeks to answer this question.

The ability to practice in a safe learning environment—before working with real students—is valuable for teachers

Jeff Ikler described a legacy “one and done” workshop-style, in-person training for restorative justice. After the training, Ikler said “the teachers are supposed to feel more comfortable and they just didn’t.”

Kognito’s trainings are evidence-based and provide didactic content, followed by interactive practice in a safe, online environment.

“When we are developing one of our programs, we’re very heavily focused on this understanding that if you learn a skill, you need to be able to then quickly practice that skill and really have that ability to go through some of those reflective moments and embed that knowledge much deeper,” Wieland said.

Teachers know they make a difference, Kognito’s simulations just empower them further with better knowledge and skills

Wieland’s final takeaway was that Kognito’s simulations aren’t meant to motivate teachers to want to make a difference—because teachers join the field knowing they will make a difference—but rather that they are meant to provide them tools that empower them to make the most impact.

“…just this little bit of extra practice and awareness about how to have these conversations in a way that’s even more impactful is what is so powerful about what we do, because we’re not having to get teachers to want to make a difference. We’re just helping them have those conversations in a little bit better way to really be able to support those kids and build that strong, connected climate that schools are really focused on creating for their students, their teachers, and their parents,” Wieland said.

Listen to the full episode now.

Listen to Episode 197 of the Getting Unstuck Podcast: “Using Simulations to Train Trauma-informed School Personnel” on the Education Podcast Network.