Whoop! Hello research scholarship!

Happy news! I have recently been awarded a scholarship by the Imagination Lab Foundation in Switzerland, to continue my research into play.  This is a wonderful opportunity to be able to explore play practices in higher education through some particular filters and in specific contexts. Using Brian Sutton Smith’s Seven Rhetorics of Play as my research lens I will be looking at the ways in which play is currently being used in higher education to teaching management concepts and theories.

(I tried to find a good picture of management concepts etc to put in here but was in a hurry and just found lots of grim diagrams. So let’s have an entirely spurious picture of a cat in a tie, courtesy of alsointocats.com. Their caption is ‘middle management cat questions your productivity’ – so it is actually quite relevant )

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This research aims to extend knowledge of the ways in which play and playful learning is used in business, management and leadership contexts in higher education, including institutional understandings of, and strategic commitment to play and playful learning as part of the tertiary experience. Through it, I hope also to challenge the instrumentalist view of education and build on the empirical evidence emerging of the benefit of play practices at university.

Sutton-Smith’s Rhetorics will provide a lens through which to investigate three value systems at work: those inherent within the forms of play adopted, those of the universities in which these take place, and those of the wider cultural systems in which the universities exist.

I am indebted to Professor Johan Roos and Dr Marco Weiss for their support in enabling me to conduct this research and am really excited about it. As I write down the words about it they all yell ‘this is HUGE’ at me – but it will be wonderful to get my teeth into the project. So I am starting to look for as many participants as I can with an interest in play, management and HE, who would like to contribute or be involved in some way. (More anon).

It will also feed nicely into the work I am engaging in at Winchester as institutional project lead for an OECD investigation into the teaching and fostering of creativity and critical thinking. Not only is this a fascinating area to explore, I also get to work closely with my fabulous and esteemed colleagues Professor Bill Lucas and Professor Paul Sowden. So much learning going on I think I need a cup of tea and a biscuit and a calm down.

What mushrooms teach me about university learning

This might sound a bit off-piste for an HE blog post but I promise it’s not an April Fool.

It’s just that this week sees the launch of the third Play and Creativity Festival at the University of Winchester and I have decided to combine one of my hobbies with a play session on HE. On Friday I will release into the wild a workshop on how rummaging around for fungi can help you reflect on learning. It’s got mushroom memorabilia, visuals, a quiz and all kinds of stuff going on (and I really hope it works).

Lost you yet? Read on and let me try and explain this a bit more.

My love of mushroom photo foraging (no picking, just pictures) stems from rides around the countryside on horseback. When you are lucky enough to be several feet off the ground in great natural locations you have the opportunity to spy a) into people’s gardens and b) over and under logs, trees, streams, walls, bushes, brambles and all. Such viewpoints give you a great glimpse into the unexpected – soft, gelatinous jellyear fungus or colourful corals on dying wood; firm, white clumps of mushrooms popping up in damp, shady places or bright, wavy shelves of colourful brackets jutting out from birch trunks. Their structures and ways of producing themselves so spectacularly and surprisingly – even in the most mundane of places – are wonderful and uplifting. They are fascinating and absorbing and invite you to know more, to observe their finest details, to differentiate between the myriad of types and variants that are found.

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