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#Mindbuilder Lego© Serious Play© Competition for Research Students, DMU Doctoral College 28.11.18

Posted in Events

Last week the DMU Doctoral College hosted the first ever (as far as we know!) Lego© Serious Play© competition for research students: #Mindbuilder.

Eleven students across all DMU faculties, researching diverse subjects ranging from driverless vehicles to civic entrepreneurship, competed by presenting models made from identical Lego© kits.  They had two minutes to talk through their Lego© model, using metaphor and imagination to tell an engaging visual story.

We were very fortunate to have a stellar array of judges: Professor Alison James from University of Winchester, our very own Kaye Towlson, Jackie Hatfield from Loughborough University and CEO of Danish Lego© Serious Play© training company Inthrface, Micael Buckle.

Alison, Kaye, Jackie & Micael
Our judges: Alison, Kaye, Jackie & Micael


Laurence Brooks, Director of the Doctoral College got things underway, then Micael, Jackie and Alison each gave a short presentation to set the scene for Lego© Serious Play© as a valuable thinking and creativity tool.

Micael discussed the origins of Lego© Serious Play© around 20 years ago, and shared his own experiences of using LSP within the Danish armed forces: he also presented theoretical models for the LSP process, and identified the key stages in “letting your hands do the thinking!”.

Jackie then went on to share her experiences of applying LSP principles to one to one writing support for neurodiverse students: it was very powerful to hear how LSP can empower these students and play to strengths such as creative and big-picture thinking.

Finally Alison provided the broader context in her presentation on Play and your PhD, telling us about her involvement in running playful and creative learning events, and providing plentiful sources of further reading and inspiring examples (dolphin training applied to behavioural psychology anyone?).

Then we were off!  Students presented their models “speed-dating” style, with judges and audience moving from table to table in a way that resembled a Lego© Mad Hatter’s Tea Party.  Once the student’s two minute presentation was completed, judges and audience had five minutes to ask questions: there was a lively buzz in the room, interrupted only by the ring of the bell signifying it was time to move on!

Judges were asked to assess each model and presentation against a set of criteria, focussing on skills in creative thinking, storytelling, reflection and use of metaphor.  Scores were calculated over lunch, and prize-winners decided upon: this was a difficult task, as the judges found the overall standard to be very high.

All entrants received a participation certificate (not to mention a Lego keyring!) and students placed first, second and third were awarded cash prizes.

1st Prize: Sam Margrave, "Does Local Government Mean Business?"
1st Prize: Sam Margrave, “Does Local Government Mean Business?”
2nd Prize: Sinan Baho, "War for existence: Humans and Microbes"
2nd Prize: Sinan Baho, “War for existence: Humans and Microbes”
3rd Prize: Ana Weinberg, "Source Roulette"
3rd Prize: Ana Weinberg, “Source Roulette”

Feedback from students, audience and judges alike was positive: the competition was seen by all as adding to student learning, and the vast majority felt that the experience had developed skills in creative/metaphorical thinking, storytelling and reflection.  Student feedback: “I was able to look at my research and its development from a whole new dimension.”

Feedback Postcards
Feedback Postcards

Videos of student models and accompanying stories will be available soon, and we are already thinking about #Mindbuilder2…..for more on PhDs and Lego, see Alison’s recent blog post, “Will this catch on?”

Back soon,



  1. […] Day two of the conference focussed on the LSP Facilitator Community, with presentations from members from around the world.  These included my personal LSP heroine, NTF Alison James: she shared her many and varied LSP-related publications and events including her recent TEDx talk, publication with Chrissi Nerantzi, ‘LEGO® for university learning: inspiring academic practice in higher education‘ and a mention of her role as a judge at DMU’s LSP Competition (see earlier blog post). […]

    December 4, 2019

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