Student experiences of learning about potentially emotionally sensitive topics: Trigger warnings are not the whole story

Katie Cebula*, Gale MacLeod, Kelly Stone, Stella Chan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Research into student experiences of learning about potentially emotionally sensitive topics tends to focus on the use of trigger warnings, with less attention paid to other teaching strategies and to broader context. This questionnaire study of 917 arts, humanities and social science students therefore sought to explore the extent to which students experienced courses as distressing, and their perceptions of the teaching strategies implemented by staff. Overall distress levels were low, and university was viewed as a good place for learning about difficult topics. However, a small number of students reported a high level of distress, particularly in relation to seminars. The importance of the overall approach taken by staff to teaching, and their personal approachability was emphasised more than specific strategies. Findings emphasised the importance of staff moving beyond a singular focus on trigger warnings, to consider student course experience more holistically. Implications for university teaching are discussed.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Further and Higher Education
Early online date8 Apr 2022
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 8 Apr 2022

Keywords

  • emotionally sensitive topics
  • higher education
  • student experience
  • teaching
  • trigger warning

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