“The Writing Assignment that Changes Lives”

NPR has a good article on some fairly recent research about how having students write about their goals may lead to vastly improved overall outcomes.

JP headshot_10Why do you do what you do? What is the engine that keeps you up late at night or gets you going in the morning? Where is your happy place? What stands between you and your ultimate dream?

Heavy questions. One researcher believes that writing down the answers can be decisive for students.

He co-authored a paper that demonstrates a startling effect: nearly erasing the gender and ethnic minority achievement gap for 700 students over the course of two years with a short written exercise in setting goals.

Jordan Peterson teaches in the department of psychology at the University of Toronto. For decades, he has been fascinated by the effects of writing on organizing thoughts and emotions.

Experiments going back to the 1980s have shown that “therapeutic” or “expressive” writing can reduce depression, increase productivity and even cut down on visits to the doctor.

“The act of writing is more powerful than people think,” Peterson says.

You can read the related article, in the Journal of Applied Psychology, in its entirety, here. Per the abstract:

Of students who enroll in 4-year universities, 25% never finish. Precipitating causes of early departure include poor academic progress and lack of clear goals and motivation. In the present study, we investigated whether an intensive, online, written, goal-setting program for struggling students would have positive effects on academic achievement. Students (N 85) experiencing academic difficulty were recruited to participate in a randomized, controlled intervention. Participants were randomly assigned to 1 of 2 intervention groups: Half completed the goal-setting program, and half completed a control task with intervention-quality face validity. After a 4-month period, students who completed the goal-setting intervention displayed significant improvements in academic performance compared with the control group. The goal-setting program thus appears to be a quick, effective, and inexpensive intervention for struggling undergraduate students.

Will see if there is any evidence of this program working at two-year schools, but it would seem logical that it would.

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