OECD Education Working Papers

This series is designed to make available to a wider readership selected studies drawing on the work of the OECD Directorate for Education. Authorship is usually collective, but principal writers are named. The papers are generally available only in their original language (English or French) with a short summary available in the other.

English, French

Improving education outcomes for students who have experienced trauma and/or adversity

All children experience some level of stress in their lives. If stress is persistent and accumulative, it may have detrimental effects on the social, emotional, and physical well-being of the individual child and long-term economic and health impacts on our societies. Understanding the causes, effects, and mitigating and exacerbating factors of adversity and trauma is critical to promote practices and policies for better lives. The purpose of this working paper is to help education policymakers and education leaders and practitioners know how to better support students who have experienced adversity and/or trauma and build their resilience.

In this working paper we synthesise the best available evidence for the causes and effects of adversity and/or trauma in children, specify the factors that exacerbate poor educational experiences and outcomes as well as mitigating factors that support resilience, and draw together evidence on effective practices in education systems to improve supports and outcomes for students who have experienced trauma and/or adversity. We also feature five case studies of these effective practices. We conclude with considerations for education stakeholders. This includes, strengthening linkages between schools and services and supports in other sectors; using learner-centred pedagogies for social and emotional learning (SEL) and resilience building; prioritising teacher training and support to understand and respond to adversity and trauma of learners and to promote their own well-being; employing frameworks, such as multi-tiered approaches, to identify and meet the needs of learners; and using technical assistance centres and networks to share evidence-based practices and provide guidance to education stakeholders about how to meet the specific needs of sub-populations of students. Together, these approaches should provide better learning experiences for all learners, especially for those who have experienced adversity and/or trauma.


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