Using Hermeneutic Phenomenology and Visual Representation to Explore Trauma in the Primary Classroom
: The Case for Classroom Teachers to Access Supervision

  • Samantha Jayne McNally

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    Research indicates that teachers are particularly vulnerable to workplace emotional distress and burnout compared to those in other professions. A key source of emotional stress for teachers is managing student behaviour in the classroom, and a challenging behavioural presentation is increasingly recognised as often being indicative of a child’s trauma history. This thesis explores the emotional impact on teachers of managing trauma in the primary classroom and asks if a supportive function is needed to mitigate harm.
    The study employed a hermeneutic phenomenological methodology to interpret teachers sense making of their experience and gain an understanding of the impact of this work on their emotional wellbeing. The data presented is derived from creative, multimodal submissions which offered thick descriptions via narrative and visual representation of lived-experience utilising symbolism and metaphor to create psychological space between experience and recall.
    The uncommon use of participant authored photography as data, not for photo elicitation purposes, alongside accompanying narrative descriptions required a new analysis framework which was developed to afford equal status to visual and textual descriptions. The submissions from primary school teachers suggested a workforce doing their best but impacted by the pervasive nature of trauma and imperilled by emotional contagion, burnout, and vicarious trauma.
    The study argues that a trauma-informed supportive supervision framework is needed to safeguard the wellbeing of teachers in the way that other helping professions benefit from supervision to support and contain the professional and combat trauma.
    Date of Award26 Apr 2023
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorAnita Franklin (Supervisor), Nikki Fairchild (Supervisor) & Jacqueline Priego Hernandez (Supervisor)

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