Playful Pedagogy - Research Shows Play Belongs in Higher Ed

We’ve been saying for a long time that play isn’t just for little kids. Last Fall, we discovered the research of Lisa K. Forbes in the Journal of Teaching and Learning titled “The Process of Play in Learning in Higher Education: A Phenomenological Study.” She incorporated play into her classroom at the University of Colorado Denver and identified a number of positive outcomes including: 

- play removes barriers to learning

- play cultivates relational safety and a warm classroom environment

- play ignites and open and engaged learning stance to enhance learning

Forbes along with colleague David Thomas have created a group called Professors at Play, a group of playful faculty/instructional designers that share their experiences, develop their ideas, and get resources and inspiration.

This year, I started attending a webinar series related to that group called Playful Pedagogy in Higher Education. The February session featured author Dr. Lindsay Portnoy talking about her book Brain On? Game On! The Surprising Relationship between Play and Gray (Matter). To be honest, I have not completed the book yet, but I can share that it is geared towards all teachers, not just higher ed. She says this about the value of play:

"When kids are driven to create through play, their conceptual learning is rich, deep, and meaningful. Not all play is equal to learning, but if we connect with our students while they are engaged in play, then we’ll have a greater chance of seeing what matters to them and how they ultimately make sense of the world around them."

If you’re someone interested in or curious about integrating play into your teaching, I recommend the above resources. Or feel free to contact for other recommendations.