Brain Science of Trauma
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Microcredential ID : 2700
Trauma-Informed Practices
0.5 USBE Credit


This microcredential represents educators' effective instruction on the brain science of trauma. Many students in our schools have been impacted by trauma. These traumatic experiences can change brain chemistry, thus influencing student behavior. It is important that these changes and the effects that may result, are considered when working with students. Understanding how trauma impacts the brain, will assist professionals as they are interacting with, supporting, and making decisions regarding students that have been affected by trauma.

No standards provided.
How To Earn This Microcredential

To earn this 0.5 USBE credit microcredential you will submit two evidence items demonstrating your effective and consistent use of practices from brain science to address the impacts of trauma. You will also complete a short written or video reflective analysis.

A fee of $20.00 will be assessed once the microcredential is submitted for review.

It is not intended that an applicant be an expert on how trauma impacts the brain. However, the applicant should demonstrate that their level of understanding informs and improves their interactions with students.

Important Terms

An event, series of events, or set of circumstances that is experienced by an individual as physically or emotionally harmful or life threatening and that has lasting adverse effects on the individual’s functioning and mental, social, emotional, or spiritual well-being.

Stress Response System:

Built-in alarm system that is designed to detect a potential threat and help the body respond quickly and effectively to keep us safe. (This system includes the brainstem, the limbic system, and the neocortex.)

Toxic Stress Response:

Can occur when a child experiences strong, frequent, and/or prolonged adversity -- such as physical or emotional abuse, chronic neglect, caregiver substance abuse or mental illness, exposure to violence, and/or the accumulated burdens of family economic hardship -- without adequate adult support. This kind of prolonged activation of the stress response systems can disrupt the development of brain architecture and other organ systems, and increase the risk for stress-related disease and cognitive impairment, well into the adult years.

Background Scenario / How This Will Help You

Suzie came into the classroom for the first time about two months into the school year. The school secretary informs you that she has been in two other schools already during the current school year. Suzie was quiet the first day, and would not respond to you as the teacher, and didn’t interact with other students either. She avoided eye contact and appeared nervous to be in the classroom, especially when others were behind her. She did not engage in any school work throughout the day. This behavior continued through her first few weeks in your classroom. She also became aggressive with some students and became increasingly oppositional when asked to complete work.

Evidence Options
Be sure to submit the type and number of pieces of evidence specified below.
Category: Preparation and Planning

Select ONE of the evidence options below to demonstrate your preparation and planning for trauma-informed practices.

Lesson Plan:

Submit a lesson plan or plans where students are taught the basic structures of the brain associated with trauma, how trauma influences the brain, physiological responses associated with trauma, and calming/mindfulness strategies. Lesson plans should include learning activities to support each learning objective. In a separate section of the lesson plan, include citations for research supporting your instructional approach. (See the resources section for examples to cite.)

Category: Implementation

Select ONE of the evidence options below to demonstrate your effective implementation of trauma-informed practices.


Submit a 5-10-minute video of your instruction with learners, wherein you are teaching the structures of the brain associated with trauma and how trauma influences the brain. Include in this video class discussion regarding physiological responses. Video submissions should follow all relevant district/charter and FERPA guidelines.

Student Work:

Submit at least three completed learner assignments demonstrating the learner’s understanding of brain science, and how trauma impacts the brain. Assignments should include their knowledge of their own physiological responses to stress and include some of the coping skills they have learned to manage their own stress. Learner work samples may include adult learners from a professional development training and/or student learners from classroom/small group/individual instruction. Learner work samples should follow district/charter guidelines for student privacy.

Observation Results:

Submit observation results from an administrator/leader or colleague detailing the impact of your instruction on trauma (including its effects on the brain, physiological responses, and ways to cope with trauma). The instruction described could include explicit classroom, small group, and/or individual instruction with students, professional development for other educators, or consultation at the school and/or classroom level. The observation results should demonstrate effective instruction on the impact of trauma and should follow district/charter guidelines for student privacy.

Review Criteria

Criterion 1: Evidence demonstrates that the applicant understands the basic structures of the brain associated with trauma, the physiological responses of students who have experienced trauma, ways in which trauma may influence student behavior, and at least three strategies that may help students calm down.

Criterion 2: The evidence demonstrates that the applicant consistently and effectively presents information in a developmentally appropriate manner (including in their submission, the ages of the students with whom they work).

Criterion 3: The evidence demonstrates the use of evidence-based instructional materials in trauma-informed practices.

Reflection Prompts

Identify two things you have done to reduce potentially triggering situations for the learners you support.

Describe the impact of your trauma-informed instruction (specifically trauma’s impact on the brain) on learners.

How do you plan to further incorporate your understanding of trauma and its impact on the brain within your scope of practice with students and/or educators?

Review Criteria

Criterion 1:Responses demonstrate the applicant understands the impact of trauma on the brain, the physiological responses of trauma, and how trauma affects behavior.

Criterion 2: Responses include examples of how the applicant’s practices have benefited students and/or educators.

Criterion 3: Responses describe how the applicant plans to improve their practice.

Understanding Trauma and Its Impact

The National Center on Safe Supporting Learning Environments has developed a package of training materials on trauma-sensitive schools. One of these training modules, “Understanding Trauma and Its Impact” provides great information related to the impact of trauma on the brain. Particularly, this discusses the impact on the developing brain, as well as how this impact may influence student behavior in the classroom.

The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Health of Trauma

Bessel van der Kolk takes the reader on a captivating journey that is chock full of riveting stories of patients and their struggles interpreted through history, research, and neuroscience made accessible in the words of a gifted storyteller. We are privy to the author’s own courageous efforts to understand and treat trauma over the past 40 years, the results of which have broken new ground and challenged the status quo of psychiatry and psychotherapy. The Body Keeps the Score leaves us with both a profound appreciation for and a felt sense of, the debilitating effects of trauma, along with hope for the future through fascinating descriptions of novel approaches to treatment. This outstanding volume is absolutely essential reading not only for therapists but for all who seek to understand, prevent, or treat the immense suffering caused by trauma

This is a Student’s Brain on Trauma

This article highlights the difference between trauma and complex trauma. It describes how trauma impacts the brain and provides a link to some strategies that can be used to combat trauma.

Why Do We Lose Control of Our Emotions? Video

This video provides a description of how our brains respond to stress. It uses terminology that can be used with students, and can be used in lessons when teaching students about the brain.

Just Breathe

This is a great video that could be used in a lesson with students after teaching about the brain. It can be used to discuss recognition of the physiological response of our bodies to stress and trauma, and a simple way to help calm our bodies down.

How Childhood Trauma Affects Health Across the Lifetime

This TED Talk describes how childhood trauma impacts health.

USBE Trauma-Informed Professional Learning Modules

The Utah State Board of Education’s Trauma-Informed Learning Modules are available through Canvas and are designed to help participants develop the knowledge and skills necessary to become trauma-informed and trauma-aware.

Jill Bonsteel

Jill Bonsteel
Tracy Hancey

Tracy Hancey
Paola Martinez

Paola Martinez
Utah State Board of Education logo

250 East 500 South

Salt Lake City, UT 84111-3204

Phone: 801.538.7807 

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