LEGO® Serious Play® Community Development... and a new partnership
By Dr Holly Henderson, Education Incubator Fellow 2020/2021, University of Exeter Business School
This remarkable teaching technique has been introduced to the University of Exeter by Dr Holly Henderson, Senior Lecturer in Management, Business School. After running immensely popular sessions across three colleges and to University partners, Dr Henderson secured funding from the Education Incubator, which supports academic staff in exploring and developing innovative teaching concepts and ideas. This has allowed her to train an extended team of LEGO® Serious Play® facilitators to expand the reach of LEGO® across the University and beyond.
Research shows that the LEGO® Serious Play® technique can help students experience emotional positivity and a ‘state of flow’, which enhance engagement and lead to deeper, higher-quality learning. As sessions are delivered to cohorts working in small teams, it can foster a sense of community, facilitate peer learning, and allow participants to better understand and empathise with others’ points of view. This type of learning also aligns well with the institution’s longer-term Education Strategy: in particular, the innovative pedagogy of the Learning Reimagined theme, the student-centred approach of Success for All, and the employability and critical thinking aspects of Graduates of Distinction. LEGO® Serious Play® , along with similar playful techniques, allow the University to respond to a growing sector-wide focus on learning as knowledge production, innovation, and solving complex real-world problems.
To date, the team have delivered over 80 sessions to nearly 3,000 participants, using Microsoft Teams and Zoom to run sessions remotely to students, staff, and partners based around the world. The workshops have explored issues as diverse as sustainable energy, equality and diversity, employability, curriculum design, and overcoming writer’s block. Thanks to support from the University of Exeter Annual Fund, students will soon be able to sign up for a series of LEGO® Serious Play® sessions designed to support mindfulness and wellbeing, helping to combat mental health problems created or exacerbated by the global pandemic.
While some workshops are offered centrally by the LEGO® Serious Play® team, others are bespoke sessions designed in collaboration with module leads who feel the technique will offer a stimulating new way to approach the subject content. Students taking part in LEGO® Serious Play® sessions have described them as enjoyable, inspiring, surprising, and novel. Module convenors have praised how the technique ‘got students talking’ and helped build a community, despite the remote learning conditions.
In November 2020, SeriousWork and the University of Exeter agreed for the University to become the first SeriousWork LEGO® Serious Play® Training associate in Higher Education. Dr Holly Henderson is in the trainer-training programme at present and Sean Blair, founder and Master Trainer at SeriousWork said:
"We are excited at the prospect of this partnership with Exeter University and the brilliant Holly Henderson. COVID has had a huge impact on students’ lives, and we have enabled Universities in the UK, USA, and Pacific Asia to adopt LEGO® Serious Play® as a way to improve student engagement and experience. We look forward to collaborating with Holly, to build on this experience and work with other groups within the Higher Education sector".
In January 2021, the second in-house training of new facilitators took place at the University of Exeter with another seven members of staff trained. One of these trainees, Dr Tom Ritchie reflected on this training, and said:
"Holly led our training on LEGO® Serious Play® facilitation training. She was really inclusive in her approach to training; her high energy meant we were enthused throughout, and that even at the end of a long day of training, we were all still focused, enjoying ourselves, and learning".
This means there are now a band of 14 facilitators at the University of Exeter. If you want to hear more about the community development at the University of Exeter or discuss in house training in higher and further education, please contact Holly and Sean firstname.lastname@example.org or Sean@serious.global.
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