Playful Learning – School of Health Sciences Teaching and Learning Innovators Event – November 2016

Following the success of the the first two Teaching and Learning Innovators Event in January and May, we as LEaD at SHS put on the 3rd Teaching and Learning Innovators Event on Monday 23rd May 12-1pm, focused around playful learning, 12 people attended. Thank you Rosa Benato for running the session.

Below is Rosa’s method for running a similar session, with some embedded tweets of what those who took part in this session produced.

The next Teaching and Learning Innovators event will be on 22nd March 2017 at 12-1pm and 14th June 2017 3-4pm, lunch and tea/biscuits will be provided respectively. Calendar invites will be sent this week to School of Health Science Staff. If you’d like to present at the Spring or Summer events, please get in touch.

Remember a full programme of Autumn CPD for School of Health Sciences staff is available here, as advertised in the October Teaching and Learning Newsletter.

Using 3D play to reflect and explore difficult issues

Adaptation of the Lego Serious Play method: experimental use of PlayDoh by Rosa Benato

What is Lego Serious Play?

  • Trademarked as a business development tool, but more recently as a personal, curriculum and educational development tool
  • Based on theories of how children learn and develop
  • Lego has been used by most people as children: everyone knows what it is and how to use it: democratic (albeit expensive) , ditto Play Doh.
  • Basically make a model to answer a question
  • Can be individual or group models
  • Systematic, 3 dimensional process for: deepening understanding of issues
  • Building connections and relationships
  • Uncovering insights and thinking laterally and creatively about phenomena


  • Thinking, sharing, discussing


  • Design your question: what would enable me to…? What would xxxx look like?
  • Answer that question through making: 7 mins maximum
  • Share: 1 minute
  • Reflect: as a larger group

For me, in education, this is about a series of principles:

  • Academic practice is interwoven with creative practice: teaching or study as practice
  • Enables learners to engage with troublesome knowledge, practices and understandings: these are systemic and relational, internal and external, and different for each person
  • Cognition using metaphor
  • Managing complexity, stuckness and anxiety associated with teaching and studying and conceptual change (eg Ronald Barnett, 2004), “pedagogy for the human being”: what kind of learning is appropriate for our unknown future?
  • Education as a ‘liminal space’: (Land et al 2014): transformative state in the process of learning in which there is a reformulation of the learner’s meaning frame and an accompanying shift in the learner’s ontology or subjectivity


  • It is inclusive
  • Unlocks and potentially constructs new knowledge
  • No right way to make or tell the story
  • Owned by the builder
  • You must accept the maker’s meaning and story
  • A shared model is a metaphor of shared understanding


  • Playfulness is important in education, especially if different disciplines or different stages of learning (Bahktin, 1981)
  • Taking risks and being fearless (Bateson and Martin, 2013)

Potential pitfalls

  • Need to ensure all are familiar with the method first: have longer making time to start with
  • Can take people out of comfort zones: people want rescuing and directions: don’t direct!
  • Need a plan B or way to manage difficult feelings or those who struggle with an abstract or creative method: it won’t suit every kind of learner

Important considerations

  • Not just an exercise on its own, needs to fit within a lesson plan. The key is the facilitator who pulls together thoughts, reflections, issues that come up in models and applies these to relevant theory/concepts/whatever you wanted people to learn about or explore.

Discussion on Twitter by Rachael-Anne Knight with some of her Speech and Language Therapy Students, this was one response.

Rosa Benato


Bahktin, MM (1981). The dialogic imagination. University of Texas Press, Austin.

Barnett, R (2004) Learning for an uncertain future. Higher Education Research and Development 23 (3) 247-260.

Bateson, R; Martin, R (2013). Play, playfulness, creativity and innovation. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Land, R; Rattray,J; Vivian,P (2014). Learning in the liminal space: a semiotic approach to threshold concepts. Higher Education, 67 (1) 199-217

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One thought on “Playful Learning – School of Health Sciences Teaching and Learning Innovators Event – November 2016

  1. Thanks Rosa and SHS LEaD team for putting on such a great session. It was really excellent to see our students responding to the playful learning concept so positively on Twitter. I need to get myself some materials and have a good think about how I can incorporate it into teaching….

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