Physical Metaphorical Modelling with LEGO as a Technology for Collaborative Personalised Learning

Physical Metaphorical Modelling with LEGO as a Technology for Collaborative Personalised Learning

Stuart Nolan (Hex Induction, UK)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-884-0.ch020


LEGO Serious Play is a business development process where users build metaphorical models from LEGO bricks in order to explore and share their perceptions of various aspects of their working lives. They model important symbolic elements of their personality, emotions, working practices, organization, and the relationships between these elements in order to share stories that aid the construction of organizational knowledge. This chapter reports on trials using LEGO Serious Play with HE students from a range of subject areas who used metaphorical modelling to articulate their learning autobiographies, current situations, orientations to learning, and aspirations. The models helped students make informed choices and helped staff to understand their needs and personalise the learning provision appropriately
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It is in playing and only in playing that the individual child or adult is able to be creative and to use the whole personality, and it is only in being creative that the individual discovers the self. (Winnicott, 1971, pp 54)

In its simplest form, personalised learning is about tailoring education to the individual’s needs, interests and aptitude, giving the learner a degree of ownership of the learning process. This deceptively simple statement sets out two very clear but complex challenges, how do we discover what the needs, interests and aptitudes of an individual are and how do we facilitate the learner’s attempts to own the learning process? To rephrase this from a speculative learner’s perspective, “How do I know what my relevant needs, interests and aptitudes are and what exactly is this learning process that I’m supposed to own?”

This chapter describes the evaluation of a process that attempts to deal with both of these challenges by having students physically model their needs, interests, aptitudes and learning processes in order to model the learner journey itself. Students then use these models in metaphorical storymaking and storytelling in order to articulate their learning autobiographies, current educational context, orientation to learning, and aspirations to other students and to staff. Models are revisited and reconfigured throughout the learners engagement with Higher Education (HE) and are used to help them make choices related to course and module options, placements, projects, training, and other personal and professional development planning. We refer to this process where groups of students help each other to understand their learning processes and make decisions based on this understanding as collaborative personalised learning. The strengths and weaknesses of this process will be the primary focus of this chapter.


The Lego Serious Play Process

Kjeld Kirk Kristiensen, the owner of LEGO, and Bart Victor and Johan Roos, professors at the Swiss business school IMD, developed LEGO Serious Play in 1996 in order to find a way to generate more engagement, imagination, and playfulness in staff meetings (Roos & Victor, 1998). It is now is an established business development tool used by companies such as Google, eBay, Roche, NASA, AstraZeneca, the International Red Cross and DaimlerChrysler as an alternative to traditional planning meetings. Participants use LEGO bricks to build models of themselves, their teams, the organization, and business strategies (Roos & Victor, 1999). The process discourages the making of literal models, which would be no more useful than traditional tools such as flipcharts and diagrams, by focusing on metaphorical and symbolic representations.

This is best explained with an example. Figure 1 shows a model made by a final year student representative to describe a negative attitude exhibited by senior managers at their University. The model shows two managers looking away as the University “cash cow” feeds on the bones of students who haven’t been supported properly.

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