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The Impact of Postprogram Reflection on Recreation Program Outcomes

Mat D. Duerden, Peter A. Witt, Stacy Taniguchi

Abstract


When developing, implementing, and evaluating programs, recreation practitioners and researchers often focus solely on the participant phase without considering the pre- and postprogram stages of involvement. The adoption of a more holistic program perspective could facilitate the enhancement and longevity of program impacts. The purpose of this study was to investigate the postprogram phase of program involvement with a specific focus on the role of reflection and its relationship to postprogram outcome trajectories. Reflection has long been considered an essential element of recreation experiences. Although a sizeable literature related to reflection exists and a variety of reflection facilitation strategies have been developed, these efforts have focused primarily on either unstructured activities or within program reflection. In attempt to address this gap in the literature, a mixed-methods approach was employed to examine postprogram reflection within the context of an adolescent international immersion program. The program is an enrichment-based recreation experience. The qualitative findings suggested postprogram reflection was perceived to be important because there was not enough time to fully reflect upon the experience while it occurred. Additionally, adult leaders questioned whether youth participants possessed the maturity to process the experience and if it would take additional time for the full impact of the experience to become manifest. The youth reported facing constraints to postprogram reflection including difficulties communicating the experience to nonparticipants and the weakening of program impacts after returning home. Despite these constraints many youth took intentional steps to facilitate more frequent reflection on the experience through the use and display of mementos (e.g., pictures, journals, etc.) from the trip. Quantitative findings suggested a positive connection between the degree to which participants engaged in postprogram reflective activities and changes in their perceived teamwork scores between postprogram and follow-up survey assessments.

The findings present practitioners with several implications. First, intentionally facilitating postprogram reflection may be a way to prolong a program’s impact. Second, research and experience suggest the more individuals positively reflect upon an experience the more likely they are to become repeat participants. Research is needed to better understand the efficacy of various postprogram reflection facilitating strategies. Although work remains in order to fully understand processes associated with the post-participation program phase, this study’s findings support the need for both practitioners and researchers to expand their conception of the program experience.


Keywords


Programming; postprogram reflection; program phases; structured recreation; and evaluation

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