Trauma-informed practice in education: a South Australian example of how AEDC data is being used to inform wellbeing initiatives and track outcomes in schools

Tania Plueckhahn1, Elizabeth Button2 and Yasmin Harman-Smith2

1Department for Education, Engagement and wellbeing; 2Telethon Kids Institute, Fraser Mustard Centre

Increasing complexity of behaviours and educational needs of children and young people has seen our schools recognise the need for greater understanding of behaviour and the underlying factors impacting engagement and learning. The systems approach from the Department for Education in South Australia includes an evaluation framework using regularly collected data to inform and evaluate the impact of implementing trauma-informed practice strategies and outcomes for schools and students.

The impact of complex trauma can been seen in the data with increasing levels of vulnerability in our communities. This is also reflected in many areas within preschools and schools, including disengagement from learning and disconnection of students from the school community. When students feel they belong, are connected and are safe, research evidence shows increases in social and emotional skills, enhanced problem solving abilities and improvements in academic outcomes.

This presentation will discuss the use of AEDC data to plan for professional development needs in schools and measure the impact of whole of school change. We will also discuss the preliminary results from the evaluation using examples from system wide data collection and ongoing focus groups. The impact of past and current professional development and implementation at schools and the future plans for evaluation will be presented.


Tania Plueckhahn is part of the Child protection and trauma-informed practice team within the Engagement and Wellbeing directorate in the Department for Education (SA). She is the project and evaluation lead for the trauma-informed practice in education approach and leads the delivery of the Trauma Aware Schools initiative. Tania’s background is teaching, technology, psychology and research in learning and behaviour. Her current role provides coordination and support for building capacity in schools and for individuals in the area of trauma-informed practice in education and evaluation support.

Elizabeth Button works for the Telethon Kids Institute in the area of research translation and community development. Elizabeth has worked to develop resources to support remote Aboriginal communities to use data in planning and creating systems change, and resources to support schools to identify challenging and complex behaviours and develop evidence-based responses. Currently Elizabeth is working on an evaluation of the Trauma Informed Practice in Education (TIPiE) initiative. Elizabeth holds an Honours degree in Psychology and prior to working at the Telethon Kids Institutes has been involved in a range of research areas including eyewitness identification, language development and palliative care.