LEGO® for Learning – Seriously!


Extract from Issue#29 of Teaching Tuesdays@CSU

All issues of Teaching Tuesdays can be accessed through the folder at this link

The LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® method is a facilitated thinking, communication and problem solving technique. Its goal is to foster creative thinking about real-world challenges through metaphor and story-telling.

In this week’s bulletin we are looking at some thought starters for how you can use this concept in your teaching.

Here are some resources for your information, up front:

“LEGO, SERIOUS PLAY, the Minifigure and the Brick and Knob configurations are trademarks

of the LEGO Group, which does not sponsor, authorize or endorse this website”.

© 2018 The LEGO Group

The background

LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® (LSP) is an established business development tool used by many major global companies and organisations. The focus is on metaphorical and symbolic representations. Several academic groups have also investigated its use for learning in Higher Education. We have drawn on some key academic literature for this bulletin (Nolan, 2009, James, 2013; James & Brookfield, 2017; Peabody & Noyes, 2017).

The underpinning theories

LSP is commonly associated with three learning theories: adult transformative learning theory, constructivism, and constructionism (See James & Brookfield, 2017 for discussions of these theories).

QUOTE: Metaphorical modelling works best at times of choice, change, crisis, and challenge when the learners existing internal metaphorical model needs to adapt (Roos, 2006). … Modelling during times of steady, unchanging work is a far less effective use (Nolan, 2009).

Contexts for usage

  • Creative arts context has been regarded as a natural fit for LSP with visual and kinaesthetic learning approaches
  • As a research tool for understanding rhetorics of play within HE and in the creative industries
  • As a tool for participatory and collaborative design, E.g. Architecture and town planning; developing a design brief with a client.
  • As a way of organizing research networks
  • As a way of designing collaborative, interactive narratives
  • As a research tool for understanding a student’s orientation to learning
  • Facilitation in doctoral research programs, performing arts, faculty education and training, mentees on work placement, leadership, team identity, orientation of incoming students, evaluations at the end of a course, sustainability, student engagement, and motivating learning and teaching
  • Study of learner identities
  • Retention studies
  • Change management and organisation theory
  • Autobiographical writing
  • Modelling affect as cognition– intuitive and reflective practice
  • Metaphors in education


LSP approaches

  • Are transferable and open to adoption in all disciplines
  • Can prepare the way for deeper and more engaging learning
  • Can inform or feed into work in digital formats

Students find:

  • Clarity in modelling their learning, including skills, competencies, emotions, orientations to learning, courses, choices, placements, planning, professional relationships
  • Control over their learning
  • Revealing options that were previously hidden
  • Personal metaphors can be identified
  • Collaborative metaphors can emerge in the building of shared models

Teaching staff find:

  • Windows into the actual learning of students
  • Spotting problems in terms of students’ practical and emotional learning needs
  • Good for group bonding and relationship building in group projects
  • Enriching communication
  • Possible use as a form of assessment
  • Enabling students who struggle with producing academic writing by providing other modes of learning and assessment
  • A non-traditional mode of reflection
  • Promotes thinking in 3D
  • Democratic process that can bridge diverse learning cultures
  • Good means to engage students with English as second language


  • Core method of sharing stories through metaphorical modelling is only effective for groups of between 5 and 12
  • Initial time investment is quite high
  • Physical use of the materials can be unsuitable for those with certain disabilities
  • The initial materials expenditure is high
  • Negative reactions to the idea of using a toy for serious educational matters
  • Fear and timewasting perceptions
  • Too constraining for some creative participants
  • Protocol driven that can also seem constricting
  • Seen as a ‘corporate training tool’
  • Suspicion by participants that they are being psychologically analysed by the facilitator

The challenge

LSP can provide a valuable approach in many learning contexts. The reference articles provide expanded information, references to other key works and are also cited by other educational LSP literature.

Can you see possibilities for your own teaching context?


Consult CSU LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® Trained facilitator, David Cameron to learn details of the protocols and discuss facilitation of workshops (



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

James, A., & Brookfield, S. (2017). The serious use of play and metaphor: LEGO® models and labyrinths. In V. C. X. Wang (Ed.) Adult Education and Vocational Training in the Digital Age(pp. 118-133). IGI Global.

Nolan, S. (2010). Physical metaphorical modelling with LEGO as a technology for collaborative personalised learning. In J. O’Donoghue (Ed.) Technology-supported environments for personalized learning: Methods and case studies(pp. 364-385). IGI Global.

Peabody, M. A., & Noyes, S. (2017) Reflective boot camp: Adapting LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® in higher education, Reflective Practice, 18(2): 232-243, doi: 10.1080/14623943.2016.1268117