Journaling was a huge part of the Experiential Education program when I started leading experiential education courses in the Sierra Nevada mountains. However, I recall asking the more senior instructors why we did this and didn’t get any solid reasons as to why this was part of the course. The best explanation I got was that “well, it gives the student something to take home to help them remember the course, later down the road.”. This only brought up more questions.
Does journalling actually work?
What was it I was trying to get them to remember?
What were the best techniques for using journaling in these settings?
We’ve seen a steady decline in journaling with the programs I have worked with in recent years. I think this is because journaling has unanswered questions for staff and administrators. Some of these questions could be;
Who provides the journals?
How do we build in time for our already busy programs?
Do we train instructors to utilize these?
Provide standardized journals?
How do we keep them from coming instructional manuals like many of us carry in the field?
All these questions are essential to grapple with. However, we need only look at the research and other fields to see if we can find solutions to these questions. All signs suggest that it is probably well worth our time and can provide profound benefits for our students.
The mental health literature is ripe with the benefits of journaling. Some examples include;
Connecting students to their emotions