Creative and Relational Thinkers: The Potential of LEGO® Serious Play®

Some lego being used for 'Serious Play'

LEGO® Serious Play® (LSP) is a unique and innovative enquiry based learning methodology designed to scaffold deep engagement with the development of key graduate employability skills, for example creativity, innovation, problem solving, team working and reflection.

Through a process of facilitated metaphorical modelling, participants in the LSP process assign meanings to materials they have created in order to illustrate and unlock values, processes, relationships and thinking. The methodology is based on well-established educational theories of social constructivism, constructionism, and reflection.

The project leads wanted to explore the methodology and its application in a higher education context in order to assess the extent to which this might serve as a basis for deep group discussion, knowledge sharing and problem solving within a learning environment.  In doing this the aim was to establish whether LEGO® might be a tool for fostering creative thinking, and finding unique solutions using skills of critical reflection.


Start/end date: 1st August 2015 to 31st July 2017
Beneficiaries: Staff and students
Theme/focus: The place and purpose of play in Higher Education
Discipline: Higher Education, Staff Development
Cohort size: N/A


Our project aimed to explore the Lego Serious Play methodology and its application in a higher education context. We explored current practice, were trained as Lego® Serious Play® facilitators, ran workshops and developed innovative pedagogic approaches using the methodology. We tested and evaluated the use of Lego as a learning resource with over 100 members of staff and students during the project and have continued to run professional development workshops using the methodology on a regular basis since. Lego has also become a feature of teaching in a variety of different contexts within the University.

What we did

We were trained as LEGO® Serious Play® facilitators and used this to design and then run a number of pilot workshops with staff and students. Early taster sessions allowed us to refine approaches to using the methodology to a higher education context – recognising, for example, that some of the immersion techniques used in the methodology were not possible given the time constraints and resources available. We evaluated sessions and obtained feedback and this enabled us to identify a series of core themes that were developed into workshops. Many of these focussed on personal, academic and professional identities which have now been run many times with staff teams across the University.

What we achieved

One concern before the project started was that the use of Lego would not be seen as academically worthy and that staff and students would not understand the “serious” nature of the methodology. This never became an issue and in feedback participants have often reported how the methodology unlocks thinking and allows for deeper reflection. Many participants have commented on how the active modelling techniques support reflection, one participant commenting:

 “doing sometimes is more important than thinking first”

What we learnt

There were some challenges along the way – mostly related to time and the ability to devote energy to this alongside other roles and commitments. We could have delivered more workshops, and had to turn away some invitations due to time constraints. It is important to be realistic about what can be achieved with the time and resource available.

That said, we would encourage anyone to apply for EEF funding and particularly to be confident about applying for slightly more “off the wall” projects. Provided they are evidence-based and grounded in a robust methodology these can sow the seeds of innovation around the University community.

Looking ahead

We have continued to use Lego® Serious Play® in our own teaching practice and to run workshops for staff at the University of Birmingham. We have also demonstrated and talked about the methodology at a number of different external conferences and workshops. The Lego is available to University staff to borrow via HEFi.

Reading list

Barton, G. and James, A., (2017) Threshold Concepts, LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® and whole systems thinking: towards a combined methodology.

Buckley, C. (2015) Conceptualising plagiarism: using Lego to construct students' understanding of authorship and citation, Teaching in Higher Education, 20:3, 352-358,

Gauntlett, D. (2013) Open-Source Introduction to Lego Serious play, David Gauntlett Blog,

James, A.R., (2013) Lego Serious Play: a three-dimensional approach to learning development. Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education, (6).

Kurkovsky, S., (2015) Teaching software engineering with LEGO Serious Play. In Proceedings of the 2015 ACM Conference on Innovation and Technology in Computer Science Education (pp. 213-218). ACM.

Peabody, M.A. and Noyes, S., (2017) Reflective boot camp: Adapting LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® in higher education. Reflective Practice, 18(2), pp.232-243.


For more information, contact the projects office on, quoting reference CSLP094.