Play Time

Someone recently shared this article from Edutopia with me and though it’s a few years old, it got me thinking about how wonderful ‘play’ can be as a conduit of learning. I know most of us work with adults and have big, serious learning objectives to accomplish, but I think play can be an amazing tool for anyone looking to up-level engagement, transfer, and enthusiasm for learning regardless of the audience.

I decided to dig into the literature on adult play-learning and found precious little. There’s plenty on play-adjacent topics like experiential learning and gamification, but this time I was looking more to boil those down to their essence.

Why is it that our primary means of learning about the world as children is so scarce in how we are taught (and teach) as adults?

How can we inject curiosity, discovery, joy, and experimentation into all of our instructional projects…even if they’re about–snooze!– cultural sensitivity or maritime security regulations?

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Admittedly, it's kind of an ethereal concept. What constitutes play anyway? As I said, the lack of published literature on this topic is disappointing, but I did find a few great articles:

  • Mainemelis, C. & Ronson, S. (2006) 'Ideas are born in fields of play: towards a theory of play and creativity in organisational settings, in B. M. Shaw (Ed.) Research in organisational behaviour, an annual series of analytical essay and critical reviews, 27, 81-132. Oxford: Elsevier Ltd.
  • Kanhadilok, P. & Watts, M. (2014). Adult play-learning: Observing informal family education at a science museum. Studies in the Education of Adults, 46.
  • Glynn, M. A. & Webster, J. (1992) 'The adult playfulness scale: An initial Assessment', Psychological Reports, 71, 83-103.

My favorite of the three is Ideas are born in fields of play. It best addressed the utility of play for people in the working world and boils "play" down to the elements that make it effective for motivation, creativity and skill building. I'll warn you, it's a lonnnng read, but I read it in little chucks before bed for a few nights and found it extremely enjoyable and helpful (pairs well with mint tea and shortbread!).


Words of Wisdom

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