Expressive Writing in College Classroom

Sometimes I just want to check in with my students and feel their heartbeats. I want to know if the writing process for them has been a healthy one or if they have some unresolved emotions.

I recently heard that when students are confronted with a lot of information, it can be a type of trauma. “In a twisted sort of way a lecture is like a trauma for the audience. People are passively confronted by a bewildering amount of information over which they have little control” (Pennebaker and Smyth Opening Up by Writing it Down).

I had never thought that lecturing was a type of trauma, but I think the bigger point here is that students need to be given opportunities to confront and control what is happening in their own learning experiences and not constantly be confronted by the lecturer’s ideas. Expressive writing is one of those confronting strategies to put the power back in the hands of students.

An unexpected outcome of the journaling session was the immense outpouring of support, compassion, and love that the students shared with one another in the chat box after someone was brave enough to read their journal entry. I couldn’t have prepared or constructed this result in a million years with just me lecturing to the students. When I let go, and let the students explore their own lives, they wanted to be present for one another and they felt a deeper bond as a result. 

What other confronting strategies do you use to have students reflect on the connections between the subject matter and their own personal lives?