Strategies on Witnessing and Listening
Students are routinely exposed traumatic conditions in fieldwork related to their research (thesis or dissertation work), practical, or work/study placements, including: natural disasters, conflict zones, poverty, extreme medical distress, discrimination, violence, or challenging interactions with participants. This fieldwork can put students in proximity to people and environments that can lead to countertransference of trauma, which can significantly impact students’ wellbeing and ability to complete academic work.
Our goal is to create an online open educational resource that enhances students’ resiliency and preparedness for the possibility of being affected by trauma in academic and journalistic fieldwork. Specifically, the “Vicarious Trauma Training Modules” will use online video training modules and accompanying teaching guides to equip students with strategies for identifying signs or risks of vicarious trauma in different circumstances, addressing challenges in fieldwork (i.e., interview or active listening techniques for interviews about violence or discrimination), and coping or moving forward with projects after fieldwork (e.g., writing about trauma or violence; representing the self and other in academic work; self-care, healing, and closure).
Issues related to trauma rarely have clear-cut answers or procedures. With this in mind, the curriculum for the video modules and teaching guides will use case studies and problem-based learning techniques to build students’ capacity to identify key issues, tailor strategies to their own needs, and make informed decisions within the context of their own projects. The video modules will be designed to both stimulate discussion and group learning in classroom settings, and also provide guidance for students engaged in independent research or fieldwork.
For example, one video module about witnessing trauma may include: a theoretical overview of bearing witness; a detailed case study using real examples of witnessing trauma; evidence-informed strategies for coping, building resilience, and using rigorous techniques in the field to conduct meaningful and ethically sound work; and challenges, dilemmas and opportunities of bearing witness. The video would feature interviews with industry leaders who can offer important insights into the topic. The accompanying teaching guide would expand upon the content in the video by offering points of discussion for individuals or classrooms, additional context in terms of theories or practical application of research techniques, and link to additional resources for students to capitalize on (i.e. key readings, related online materials, support resources). We will do our best to balance the heavy content of the videos with an accessible and empowering tone that extends students’ comfort with discussing these issues openly, identifying strategies that are relevant to their work, and places where they can seek additional support.
The development of the “Vicarious Trauma Training Modules” will also provide learning and training opportunities for senior graduate students including a ‘doctoral research coordinator,’ two master’s student ‘GRA’s in a related field, and a media GRA,’ in a media-based program. Students will receive valuable hands-on experience and one-on-one mentorship from the project PIs, who are industry leaders. The process of developing the video modules and the final product will create valuable learning opportunities for UBC students.