• Kristen Miller

Trauma-Informed or Restorative Practices?


As I continue working with more schools and districts, there seems to be some confusion about Trauma-Informed Practices (TIP) and Restorative Practices (RP). Many seem to use these two "practices" and their associated terminology interchangeably. However, these two practices and their associated frameworks are completely different and complement one another extremely well. Let's take a look at the two in more detail in the chart below by looking at the definition of each framework, the foci of each framework, and associated CASEL domains.

TIP focus on individual students and how trauma may have impacted them internally. This framework teaches educators how to identify trauma in students, and gives them a set of interventions to ensure they are regulated internally to be able to absorb academic material. This framework is deeply rooted in neuroscience and brain development and provides educators with explicit tools and interventions to help students feel safe in their academic environments, build relationships with their teachers, staff, and peers, allowing them to absorb academic material more effectively.


RP focus on how individuals interact with each other, and how to effectively communicate and resolve conflicts with one another. This framework is rooted in affective language, affective questioning, small impromptu conversations, circles, formal restorative conferences, and reintegrative shame, in which students who "commit offenses" are reintegrated back into the school community after doing harm and repairing the harm that has been done.


Both practices are extremely important, effective, and transformational when implemented with fidelity. Having utilized both practices throughout my career as a teacher and administrator, I've seen drastic improvements in school culture and climate, disciplinary infractions, attendance infractions, and academic achievement.

COVID-19 has given us a tremendous opportunity to reimagine and reinvent the way we interact with our students. Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs states that in order for individuals to reach a state of self-actualization, a variety of basic human needs need to be met, including physiological needs, safety needs, love and belonging needs, and esteem needs. TIP helps meet all of these needs, while RP mostly helps meet love and belonging, and esteem needs. Both frameworks are crucial for the success of our students.

Schools and districts have been given quite a bit of funding to utilize to help mitigate the effects of COVID-19, specifically calling out social-emotional learning (SEL). Both of these frameworks fall directly within SEL and it is my sincere hope that schools and districts across the nation are lining up associated resources to ensure the success of students and staff once school reopens for the 2021-22 school year.

If your school/district is in need of support, please don't hesitate to reach out.


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