Session 1A The playful pivot: how a compassionate approach to teaching was moved online

Dr Jessica Hancock, Lecturer Educational Development – City, University of London, Academic Team (LEaD)


The workshop will look at creative approaches to teaching that focuses on issues of compassion and identity, and how these might successfully be translated into online learning. It will enable participants to participate in a creative activity and reflect on how this approach might work in their own teaching contexts.

This workshop investigates the benefits of using play to explore issues of identity and compassion in HE, in both face-to-face and online teaching. My own subject area is education; compassion and identity are likely to be particularly important for professional courses, such as healthcare or law. Indeed identity is a key issue for any student (for example developing a sense of belonging) and recent work on compassion demonstrates the benefit for all students. A compassionate approach may combat the myriad of pressures students face (Denovan & Macaskill, 2013). Waddington (2018) has demonstrated the benefits of self-compassion, arguing that it “helps facilitate the learning process” (211.3).

One face-to-face activity utilised Lego, which has been associated with creativity and self-expression in identity formation (Hayes, 2016). This task encouraged participants to move away from a static conception of identity which White (2018) argues is in opposition to a compassionate approach. An act of creation drew their attention to identity as a continuous process of becoming, and emphasising the possibilities for playfulness empowered them to move away from potentially toxic concepts of identity, externally imposed upon them.

The workshop will then explore how this activity was translated to online learning during the pandemic-related digital pivot, using a choice of pictures rather than a Lego model, and involving participants exploring their own found or composite pictures in relation to identity, and enabling similar possibilities for creativity and self-expression in identity formation. The workshop will also look at other creative activities during the teaching such as online bingo. Participants will undertake a similar picture activity during the session, and reflect on the extent to which it opened up a compassionate approach to conceptions of their own identities and teaching. They will also discuss the possibilities for a creative approach to compassionate teaching in their own contexts.

Slides from the session

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Recording of the session:


Denovan, A. & Macaskill, A. 2013, “An interpretative phenomenological analysis of stress and coping in first year undergraduates”, British Educational Research Journal, vol. 39, no. 6, pp. 1002-1024.

Hayes, C. (2016). Building care and compassion – introducing Lego Serious Play to HCA education. British Journal of Healthcare Assistants, 10(3), 127–133

Waddington, K. (2018). Developing compassionate academic leadership: The practice of kindness. Journal of Perspectives in Applied Academic Practice, 6(3), 87-89. doi:10.14297/jpaap.v6i3.375

White. R. (2018) Compassion in Philosophy and Education. In Gibbs, P. (Ed.), Higher Education: A Compassion Business or Edifying Experience?. Cham: Springer (75-117) [online] DOI 10.1007/978-3-319-57783-8_1.

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