Evidence That It Works
Several studies have found that free-writing—or writing without stopping—improves college students’ comprehension of lecture material and increases their confidence in academic writing. One study with 200 mainly Dutch 7th graders found that those who wrote freely about their values experienced more prosocial feelings such as love and connectedness and exhibited more prosocial behavior over a three-month period than students in a control group.
Why Does It Matter?
Education is often conducted as an “outside-in” process: the student is an empty vessel to be filled with facts, figures, and ideas that are supported by outside sources. While this method has its place, it ignores a student’s own wisdom and life experience as it relates to the content. As a result, students often leave school not knowing who they are, what they value, and how to approach life’s many dilemmas.
By offering students the opportunity to gain insight into their own thinking, values, and problem-solving abilities, educators are not only helping to deepen students’ learning of content and making it more meaningful, they are also guiding students in the key developmental task of youth: Answering the questions “who do I want to become” and “what strengths can I offer in service of the greater good?”