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Improving Special Education Teacher Understanding of Secondary Traumatic Stress

Dwulit, Keera (2022) Improving Special Education Teacher Understanding of Secondary Traumatic Stress. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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This dissertation in practice focuses on the cost of compassion in a classroom. It explores
the secondary traumatic stress impacting special education teachers as they support middle and
high school students daily. More specifically, this program evaluation examines how an
intervention can increase teachers’ understanding and awareness of their own secondary traumatic
stress. From the literature review of Charles Figley’s work in the 1990s to current research that
helps identify the emotional and physical toll on teachers, this researcher seeks to inform practicing
educators about what can occur when students share their trauma. Teachers do not fully
understand secondary traumatic stress, so many feel inadequate, guilty, and even powerless as they
reconsider their chosen profession (Rankin, 2020). Struggling educators say the strain is too much
and are leaving the profession they love at rates reaching nearly 25% (Rankin, 2020). Through
intervention outlined in this dissertation, teachers can not only confidently define secondary
traumatic stress but also identify signs, risk factors, and effective preventative strategies. Data are
examined through the lens of straightforward research questions and point to effective, inexpensive
steps to reach a successful level of teacher understanding of secondary traumatic stress. The
responses were gathered through a post-test, evaluation, and survey and include quantitative results
and open-ended feedback. These results are both inspiring and concerning as teachers share
honestly about the impactful phenomenon of secondary traumatic stress and the importance of
knowledge and self-care.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Dwulit, Keerakld114@pitt.edukld114
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairTrovato,
Committee MemberKerr, Mary
Committee MemberRalston,
Committee MemberErickson,
Date: 31 August 2022
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 17 June 2022
Approval Date: 31 August 2022
Submission Date: 8 August 2022
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 69
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: School of Education > Administrative and Policy Studies
Degree: EdD - Doctor of Education
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: Secondary Traumatic Stress Compassion Fatigue Special Education Residual Stress Emotional toll Student caretaking
Date Deposited: 31 Aug 2022 18:12
Last Modified: 31 Aug 2022 18:12


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