Date of Award



© 2022 Rachel Seeber-Conine

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)



First Advisor

Gizelle Luevano

Second Advisor

Debra Welkley

Third Advisor

Stephen Danna


Research in higher education indicates students may disclose personal trauma and/or sensitive information in their college classrooms when learning about sensitive academic content; and as a result, these situations may trigger disclosure of previous and/or current personal traumatic experiences (Greener et. al., 1984; Lindecker et. al., 2021; Papadatou-Pastou et al., 2019). However, research relating to online disclosures by students, especially in asynchronous courses, is limited (Hew, 2005; Lindecker et al., 2021; Lister, et al., 2021) despite continual increase in enrollment of online studies in the United States (National Center for Educational Statistics, 2020). This research study narrows the gap in literature related to disclosures in online environments and instructors' ability to recognize and respond during these difficult moments. Given the rapidly accelerating number of students taking online courses, it is critical for higher education stakeholders to reflect on the disclosures of trauma and sensitive information in online courses to better support instructors and students in remote environments. This narrative inquiry study explored the lived and told stories of asynchronous online instructors and underscores the need for additional training in higher education to better support instructors when academic content and other circumstances results in student self-disclosures of personal trauma and/or sensitive information in asynchronous courses. Using Bandura’s (1977, 1986, 1994, 1999) selfefficacy theory to guide this study and drawing on the four antecedents of performance experiences, vicarious (learning) experiences, verbal persuasion (encouragement) and physiological (emotional) states, this study answered two research questions: (1) How do instructors handle disclosure of personal trauma when teaching sensitive academic content that may trigger previous and/or current personal traumatic experiences within their asynchronous online undergraduate students? And (2) How prepared do instructors feel to recognize signs of personal trauma in their students when teaching asynchronous online classes? Findings from this study indicate instructor's self-efficacy levels are generally high relative to antecedents of verbal persuasion, and physiological states. In addition, while instructor’s self-efficacy level are high with respect to performance experiences (recognition of disclosures) conversely there appears to be vulnerabilities in instructor’s self-efficacy levels surrounding performance experiences (specific to levels of preparedness with respect to instructor training/skillset when responding to disclosures) and vicarious experiences. As well, this research indicated the need for increased support and training for higher education instructors to better recognize and respond to these difficult disclosures by students in their asynchronous online courses. All participants reported providing disclaimer statements to students and the benefits of employing these disclaimer statements to asynchronous students, either regarding mental health and community resources available and/or providing messages relative to sensitive content being taught in the modules in their courses.


Ed.D. Dissertation