Meet Alison – PLA member profile

Each month we will introduce a PLA member through 5 photos telling their Playful Learning journey. This month, we introduce you to…

Alison James: Professor Emerita, University of Winchester. Researching the use of play in higher education, particularly in relation to the teaching of management concepts and theories.

As a child I lived almost permanently in another world, complete with imaginary friends and alter ego. Looking back I realise I first encountered Czikszentmihalyi’s concept of flow on a beach in Sussex…(hairstyle hasn’t improved much)…

Alison James as a child

I never grew out of building with LEGO®,  just from 2009 it,  and the LEGO® Serious Play®  method, became a touchstone of teaching and learning for me. Designed anything from personal development planning courses, curriculum design sessions, ‘stuckness’ workshops with my colleague Graham, conference activities and all sorts.

Photo of Lego Serious Play constructions

One of my great joys with play was inventing and co-convening the Play and Creativity Festival at the University of Winchester which ran for three years, including two festivals in a magical Play Tent. This opened my eyes wide to the diverse forms of play that are going on underneath our (institutional) eyes which we may not be widely aware of, or appreciate.

Photo of adults using Lego in a tent

I’m fascinated by the different kinds of imaginative and playful teaching that teachers invent. Forty-odd (hyphen is important here) examples are published in The Power of Play in HE: Creativity in Tertiary Learning, which I co-wrote andedited with Dr Chrissi Nerantzi. Among many things, they give the lie to the old chestnut that play is *just*for arty/sporty types.

Book Cover for The Power of Play in Higher Education

I’m now a few months (and elbows deep) into funded research exploring the value of play in HE. Already the opening survey and interviews (not, alas, planned playworkshops ,due to present global circs) are revealing powerful messages about educator passion, purpose, practice, values and beliefs concerning play which extend far beyond the pedagogic. You can see an aspect of this in my webinar Play as Survival for Dale Sidebottom; he’s a super dynamic sports coach and play fan in Australia who runs Energetic Education and jugarlife.

Screenshot of video 'Play as Survival with Professor Alison James'

(Don’t click play. It won’t. I know. The irony)

I’ve been incredibly grateful to have been invited to speak at so many fabulous events to support play, creativity, imagination and innovation in HE. This was from the Abertay L&T conference in 2018, colleagues rocking our Dundee sunglasses with Alastair Robertson and. Who says play doesn’t belong in HE?

Photo of conference with delegates and two presenters all wearing sunglasses

Thanks for sharing your story and your photos Alison.

If you are unlucky, you might be selected as next month’s sacrifice chosen member – we will be in touch!