All posts by Sharon Boyd

Playing with wicked problems

In his keynote for the annual Association for Learning Technology conference in Edinburgh, Ollie Bray gave an inspiring talk on the importance of play. Ollie is Global Director for Connecting Play and Education at the LEGO Foundation, leading work related to education improvement through the use of technology and play. In his talk, in addition to getting an excellent opportunity to play with LEGO, I noted a number of areas where the research linked with our findings on this project. It left me wondering, are we missing the opportunity to play with wicked ideas.

In his outline of the “playful paradoxes”, Ollie talks about play as being chaotic and risky, versus the ordered and safe teaching environment. In teaching about wicked problems, we need to work in this chaotic, risky space. I found the comparison between divergent and convergent thinking an interesting extension of this, as a mix of idea generation, risk-taking and flexibility with logic, focus and persistence would be core to dealing with these complex issues.

The creative learning spiral of imagine, create, play, share, repeat, imagine
The Creative Learning Spiral – earliest reference for the source image is credited to Mitchel Resnick (MIT and Lego Foundation)

The LEGO Foundation state that their work aims to “ensure children develop the skills needed to navigate an uncertain and complex world”. The five skill centres described were physical, social, cognitive, emotional and creative. A key area for me was the recognition of emotion. In our research, participants talk about the deep concerns expressed by students and staff when faced with wicked problems. In his talk, Ollie spoke about the characteristics that underpin powerful learning experiences: activities that are meaningful, socially interactive, actively engaging, iterative and joyful. The tasks and activities our participants have shared cover the first four characteristics, but not so much the joy. While it is difficult to find joy in the super-complex problems we are facing, perhaps we are seeking what Ollie describes as part of a more structured activity, that “joyful feeling of hard fun”.

My colleagues at the vet school are tackling this exploration of play in higher education in a project on Vets at Play. Watch out for an upcoming guest blog post from one of the team!

You can watch a recording of Ollie’s presentation on YouTube by following this link:

LEGO Foundation (2018) Learning through play: A review of the evidence. White Paper available at:

Celebrating “Wicked” Teaching at the Vet School

The Vet School hosted a Celebrate Teaching event on Wednesday 6th June to recognise the work of over 70 colleagues and students at the R(D)SVS/Roslin who have gained HEA fellowships. This included two Principal Fellows, 11 Senior Fellows, 41 Fellows and 19 Associate Fellows.

At the event, the Head of School presented certificates to thank everyone for their ‘commitment to professionalism in learning and teaching in Higher Education’ that their fellowships represent.

There were presentations by colleagues who were EUSA Teaching Award finalists and R(D)SVS Teaching prize winners in 2017-18 and by two undergraduate students who have undertaken educational Student Research Component (SRC) projects whilst working towards their AFHEA. It was fascinating to see the innovative ways in which super-complex problems are being tackled by students and staff.

There was also a poster presentations of current and previous educational research and development projects undertaken by R(D)SVS staff in partnership with colleagues within and outwith the University. This was an excellent opportunity for us to talk about our work on the wicked problems project with people who have a shared interest in teaching and educational research.

One colleague commented that:

“Reading this [poster], I realise I do this in my teaching, finding creative solutions to complex problems. I’m looking forward to this talk [at the Learning and Teaching conference], getting a chance to share my experience and learn what others are doing in the University.” GB, Lecturer

Following our recent Learning and Teaching Conference presentation, we are now looking forward to our Practical Strategies event in March 2019, where we will get the opportunity to do just that!

Staff and students with certificates at the RDSVS
Celebrating in style: Staff and students from the RDSVS with their certificates.