Fostering Post-Traumatic Growth in College Classrooms During COVID-19

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Dawn Kutza
Katherine Cornell


Almost everything has changed. Aside from losing social connections, academic support structures, and enrichment opportunities, students face new anxieties about health, loved ones, and financial security within an uncertain economy. The sudden loss of control and unanswered questions about the future may leave many feeling helpless, fearful, angry, or grieving. In the middle of this global crisis, does classroom learning and traditional curricula suddenly feel less relevant? With attention on more salient problems and a complexity of emotions students can’t begin to process, where will the motivation and focus to learn come from? How can faculty account for this in their teaching? Feeling at a loss, I was delighted when a former student reached out to discuss these topics. Through a series of individual personal reflections and conversations, we explored ways of interpreting this adversity and ultimately co-created meaning in ways we hope will benefit both students and faculty, whether future learning is conducted virtually or face-to-face. We found great value in illustrating our experiences using Tedeschi and Calhoun’s 2004 conceptualization of posttraumatic growth, which entails positive psychological change experienced as a result of the struggle to make sense of a highly challenging life circumstance—one such as COVID-19, which can shatter our worldview, shake us from our ordinary perceptions, and force us to rebuild ourselves and find deeper meaning. Specifically, we discussed: What choices do students have in responding to the current situation and how can faculty support positive growth choices? What could posttraumatic growth look like during the COVID-19 pandemic? What is deliberative cognitive exploration, how can it foster growth, and how can faculty encourage it in their classrooms? What types of growth “outcomes” could not only give us purpose and meaning in this time, but also build resilience, and perhaps make us even better than before?


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How to Cite
Kutza, D., & Cornell, K. (2021). Fostering Post-Traumatic Growth in College Classrooms During COVID-19. Journal of Teaching and Learning With Technology, 10(1).
Reflective Essay
Author Biography

Dawn Kutza, Indiana University

Instructor, Kelley School of Business, Business Communications