Title

The Reverse Domino Effect: How to Nurture Self-Belief, Self-Determination, and Post-Traumatic Growth in Students Who Have Experienced Trauma

First Presenter's Institution

Mercer University

Second Presenter's Institution

n/a

Third Presenter's Institution

n/a

Fourth Presenter's Institution

n/a

Fifth Presenter's Institution

n/a

Location

Session 9 (Westbrook)

Strand #1

Mental & Physical Health

Strand #2

Social & Emotional Skills

Relevance

This proposal is related to the Mental & Physical Health strand because it will address the following:

1. Basics of trauma and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), as well as how this can affect the student and the educational community. This includes exploring examples and case studies of students who have experienced traumatic or distressed home and family lives while trying to succeed academically.

2. In-depth exploration of post-traumatic growth and what it means to live a healthy life after living in a traumatic or distressed environment.

3. Overview of the reverse domino effect, which can help change the trajectory of a students' life.

4. Introduction to coaching techniques as they pertain to the reverse domino effect that can serve to support, advocate for, and empower students who struggle to succeed academically while managing traumatic or distressed home and family lives.

5. Development of a plan for professionals to implement these techniques in their schools or college campuses.

Brief Program Description

This session highlights the success strategies of first-generation students who experienced trauma prior to entering college. It uncovers an apparent pattern to success referred to as the reverse domino effect. This pattern can dramatically change the life trajectory of a student who has experienced trauma and hardship in the years leading to college. Implications include offering opportunities that go beyond goal attainment, academic success, and overcoming difficult situations, but that also address the core elements of belief, self-determination, and post-traumatic growth.

Summary

This session is based on a qualitative phenomenological study on the success strategies of first-generation college aspirants who experienced trauma prior to entering college. It uncovers an apparent pattern to student success and growth referred to as the reverse domino effect. According to the findings, this pattern that can dramatically change the trajectory of a student who has experienced trauma and hardship in their younger years. This reversing begins with a relativistic approach to mentoring and coaching on the behalf of educators inside and outside of the classroom. In qualitative research, relativism is a common epistemological approach that requires the researcher to suspend judgment on the perspectives and experiences of their subjects. In an educational context, relativism means that as educators, we suspend judgment and find value in our students’ journeys, validity in their experiences, and meaning in their perspectives. The findings of this study indicate that students attributed relationships with relativistic-minded educators to a belief in self that triggered a reverse domino effect in their lives. This reverse domino effect represents a series of developmental events that set the students on a path to healing and life change. This includes: relativism to self-belief, self-belief to self-determination, self-determination to post-traumatic growth. Implications include engaging students in motivational activities and offering opportunities that go beyond goal attainment, academic success, and overcoming difficult situations, but that also address the core elements of belief, self-determination, and post-traumatic growth.

Evidence

Self-Determination Theory

As indicated in the research, first-generation college aspirants, especially those who have experienced trauma face a number of challenges that make it difficult to pursue higher education, including lacking academic preparation, family support, financial resources, college knowledge, and an environment that embraces the pursuit of a college education to enable smooth cultural transitioning. Thus, if first-generation students who face these challenges manage to manage to make it to college in spite of those challenges, it can be said that they chose to take these challenges on and used their own sense of self-determination to push forward. Self-Determination Theory, as coined by Ryan & Deci (2001) was used to explore the pre-college experiences of 20 first-generation college aspirants.

Self-Determination Theory posits that all human beings have a natural propensity to pursue growth and integration. The authors explained that even as infants, humans are self-motivated to learn and progress and will continue in this motivation as long as the three psychological needs—competence, autonomy, and relatedness—continue to be met. Self-determination is interrupted only when at least one of these needs goes unfulfilled.

The first psychological need, competence, refers to believing that one is capable of accomplishing a goal. This term resonates with Nasim, Roberts, Harnell, and Young’s (2005) characterization of positive self-concept as possessing qualities such as strength of character, motivation, independence, confidence, and a strong feeling of self.

Ryan and Deci (2001) described autonomy, the second psychological need, in terms of having a sense of personal control, freedom, and choice. In their words, it is “the feeling of volition that can accompany any act, whether dependent or independent, collectivist or individualist” (Ryan & Deci, p. 74). A group of high-achieving African American students in one study described the sense of autonomy they felt through the ability to be “agents of their own success” and to rely on their own “will, effort and resourcefulness” (Griffin, 2005, p. 11).

The final psychological need, relatedness, refers to having social support or strong connections to other people. Schlossberg’s transition theory identifies five types of social support, including intimate relationships, family units, networks of friends, institutions, and communities (Evans, Forney, & Guido-DiBrito, 1998). It has been noted that students who are successful in college have find ways to connect themselves with the community through service and extracurricular activities (Harper, 2005). When students interact with others and feel accepted within the environment, the likelihood of achieving academic success increases (Astin, 1984; Harper, 2005; Tracey & Sedlacek, 1984; White & Sedlacek, 1986).

To consider how the psychological needs of competence, autonomy, and relatedness affect the college aspirations of first-generation students, the self-determination strand in this framework explores the connection between these key supportive conditions and the disposition to aspire to a college education. However, while this theory serves to explore the internal drive that a first-generation student may possess, it cannot stand alone in uncovering the academic and resourceful strategies that these students employ to enable them to progress from having college-going aspirations to actually setting foot on a college campus. Hence, it is necessary to also examine how these students might ensure that they are qualified for college and how they might go about securing the resources necessary to make a college education possible.

Post-Traumatic Growth

When students experience trauma and still find the strength to not only bounce back from those situations, but to grow even stronger as a result, they experience a phenomenon called post-traumatic growth (Calhoun & Tedeschi, 2010). This theory explains how individuals manage to thrive and overcome challenges, even in the midst of most dire of situations. Post-traumatic growth is described as positive psychological change experienced as a result of the struggle with major life crisis or a traumatic event.

The result is post-traumatic growth five-fold: growth in our connection to others, the phenomenon of seeing new possibilities for our lives, enhanced personal strength, a greater sense of spirituality and purpose, and greater appreciation for life. Individuals who experience growth to this extent find that they are much more capable than they thought of overcoming the very trials that once debilitated them (Cann, et. al, 2010).

Trauma and ongoing distress can have a devastating effect on student success. Students from a variety of backgrounds come to college and find refuge from traumatic and distressful situations including, the alcohol abuse of family members, physical, emotional and sexual abuse, violence in their neighborhoods, and a lack basic resources such as healthy food and water. Because student affairs professionals tend to be the first line of contact for students, it is important to have a set of skills and strategies for working with students who face traumatic or distressed home lives without inappropriately stepping into the realm of therapy. Three foundational theories lay the foundation for student affairs-appropriate strategies that can help students thrive and succeed after trauma. These include: Post-traumatic growth (Calhoun & Tedeschi, 2010), self-determination theory (Ryan & Deci, 2001), and the conceptualization of hope (Snyder, et. al, 1991). The Conceptualization of Hope

Snyder, Harris, and colleagues (1991), conceptualized that the development and maintenance of hope involves two essential components: agency and pathways. Agency - the internal component - is the idea that one has the ability to navigate his or her own path to the accomplishment of a goal. Pathways - the external component - refers to the available resources and forms of support needed to implement goal-oriented strategies. Agency and pathways are two very different concepts, and although a sense of hope can exist through agency alone, both must work together for an optimal disposition of hope (Irving, Telfer & Blake, 1997).

The benefits of hope after trauma was well articulated by Snyder, et. al (1991) in the following statement:

“...high hope persons reported a greater number of life goals, perceived themselves as having more control over their goals, and generated a greater number of strategies for attaining goals. In addition, high hope persons were found to focus on success rather than failure while pursuing goals, and to rely on adaptive coping strategies in pursuing goals, even in the face of obstacles.”

As the findings of the current study indicate, hope and self-determination are precursors to achieving one’s life goals. Thus, instilling strategies for support and self-belief are essential elements of nurturing post-traumatic growth and ultimately, student success.

References

Astin, A. (1984). Student involvement: A developmental theory for higher education.

Journal of College Student Personnel, 25, 297-308.

Cann, A., Calhoun, L. G., Tedeschi, R. G., Taku, K., Vishnevsky, T., Triplett, K. N., & Danhauer, S. C. (2010). A short form of the posttraumatic growth inventory. Anxiety, Stress, & Coping, 23(2), 127-137.

Evans, N., Forney, D., & Guido-DiBrito, F. (2010). Student development in college:

Theory, research, and practice. San Francisco, California: Jossey-Bass.

Griffin, K. (2006). Striving for success: A qualitative exploration of competing theories

of high-achieving Black college students’ academic motivation. Journal of College Student Development, 47(4), 384-400.

Harper, S. (2005, March/April). Leading the way: Inside the experiences of high-achieving African American male students. About Campus, 8-16.

Peters, P.A. (2012). Inspired to be the first: How African American students make it to college. In Pitre, A. & Hicks, T. (Eds.), Research studies in higher education: Educating multicultural students (chapter 2). Maryland: University Press of America.

Lobo Prabhu, S., Molinari, V., Bowers, T., Lomax, J. (2010). Role of the family in suicide prevention: An attachment and family systems perspective. Bulletin of the Menninger Clinic; 74(4), 301-327.

Nasim, A., Roberts, A., Harnell, J., & Young, H. (2005). Non-cognitive predictors of

academic achievement for African American across cultural contexts. The Journal of Negro Education, 74(4), 344-358.

Ryan, M., & Deci, E. (2000). Self-Determination Theory and the facilitation of intrinsic motivation, social development, and well-being. American Psychologist, 55 (1), 68-78.

Snyder, C R., Harris, C, Anderson, J. R., Holleran, S., Irving, L. M., Gibb, J., Yoshinobu, L., Langelle, C, & Harney, P. (1991). The will and the ways: Development and validation of an individual differences measure of hope. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 60, 570-585.

Tracey, T., & Sedlacek, W. (1984). Non-cognitive variables in predicting academic

success by race. Measurement and Evaluation, 16, 171-178.

Vogt, D., Smith, B., Martin, J., Drainoni, M., Elway, R., Schultz, M., Eisen, S. (2011). Predeployment, deployment and postdeployment risk factors for posttramautic stress symptomatology in female and male OEF/OIF veterans. Journal of Abnormal Psychology; 120:4

White, T., & Sedlacek, W. (1986). Non-cognitive predictors of grades and retention for

specially admitted students. Journal of College Admissions, 3, 20-23.

Format

Individual Presentation

Biographical Sketch

Dr. Larde is an associate professor of qualitative research and higher education at Mercer University, a fellow of the Institute of Coaching at McLean Hospital, a Harvard Medical School affiliate, and a certified life coach. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Journalism from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, a master’s degree in College Student Affairs from Azusa Pacific University, and a Ph.D. in Leadership for the Advancement of Learning and Service from Cardinal Stritch University. Her research focuses on interpersonal relationships, self-motivation, inspiration, resilience, and post-traumatic growth. After completing her master’s degree in College Student Affairs, Dr. Pamela pursued her Ph.D. to better position herself to help develop leadership skills in others, particularly with the desire to help people live fulfilling, purpose-driven lives. She facilitates speaking engagements and training sessions for audiences across the country. Additionally, she has written three books and contributed chapters to four others. The bulk of Dr. Larde’s career has been spent in higher education, where she has twelve years of professional experience. As a student affairs professional, she received training in suicide prevention, motivational interviewing, and substance abuse counseling.

Keyword Descriptors

trauma, post-traumatic growth, coaching, academic success

Presentation Year

March 2020

Start Date

3-11-2020 11:15 AM

End Date

3-11-2020 12:30 PM

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Mar 11th, 11:15 AM Mar 11th, 12:30 PM

The Reverse Domino Effect: How to Nurture Self-Belief, Self-Determination, and Post-Traumatic Growth in Students Who Have Experienced Trauma

Session 9 (Westbrook)

This session highlights the success strategies of first-generation students who experienced trauma prior to entering college. It uncovers an apparent pattern to success referred to as the reverse domino effect. This pattern can dramatically change the life trajectory of a student who has experienced trauma and hardship in the years leading to college. Implications include offering opportunities that go beyond goal attainment, academic success, and overcoming difficult situations, but that also address the core elements of belief, self-determination, and post-traumatic growth.