The Bubble-Wrapped Student: Are Trigger Warnings Necessary in Higher Education?

Barbara L Nicholson, C. Scott Inghram, Pamela Meadows, Amy Saunders, Candice Stadler


Over the last year, trigger warnings have emerged in discussions on college campuses and within higher education professional literature; however, there has been little scholarly research on the topic.  Trigger warnings are disclaimers added to course materials and syllabi to alert students of the potential for course materials to cause discomfort or be considered offensive.  The purpose of this case study was to assess the use of trigger warnings within a state higher education system, including a community and technical college, a predominantly undergraduate institution, and a university. This study examined the extent to which trigger warnings are used in higher education courses; faculty perceptions on the effects of trigger warnings on students’ learning; faculty perceptions on the effect of trigger warnings on students’ perceptions of course material; and faculty perceptions on the effect of trigger warnings on academic freedom.  Findings indicate a fairly high level of uncertainty among faculty on the subject.



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