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A day workshop in February 2017, organised by Game Changers at the Disruptive Media Learning Lab at Coventry University.

The day was an interesting fun day with a broad range of speakers and activities, ranging from commercial computer games, to traditional games and games designed for learning, reflecting the development and interest in gamification and ‘serious games’.

One thing that struck me, in this mixture of things, was an interesting confusion about what we were talking about, certainly when I started playing with ideas about ontology.  At a superficial level, there was a lack of clarity about the nature of the activities, for example a reference to a flight simulator as a game, there are flight simulation games, but a flight simulation is very much not a game and one of the design features, in common with other simulations is how you reduce the game element (learning that accidents are fun and you can reset the machine and have another go is not a good thing for a pilot to learn).  More fundamentally, was the issue about the nature of play.  We switched from play as an aspect of games, as in children’s and theatre games, Bernie DeKoven, to discussion about whether Universities could be playful, to mention of playfulness as a personal characteristic or attribute.  I spent a lot of the day returning to the later, although it wasn’t a major element of the day, with thoughts about play and reflection, and experimentation (Kolb), immersion and the flow state and the psychological conditions for playfulness with thoughts about the psychoanalyst Winnicott.  It also perhaps relates to attachment theory – is it a sign of security that someone can engage fully in playful activity, temporarily losing themselves in the play?

The idea of play at University was a theme of the day, with lots of criticism of developments in education being a reduction of play and creativity.  I am not sure whether playfulness is a characteristic of University, or of education and although I know that one of my tutors who was involved in the setting up of Sussex University was very informed by Winnicott, but it was me rather than the University that was playful.  Thinking of my more recent of Higher Education I have come across pockets of organised playfulness, interestingly more in the sciences than humanities, but not many – learning is a serious business.

The relationship between games and play is an interesting one to consider, many computer games are serious business too, which is why I think I have never got into them in a significant way.  This goes back to the sense of independence and freedom in play.  Gamification in education, using competition and the structure of games to engage students is not about developing their independence and creativity.

So the question I am left with, as a psychologist and an educator is whether playfulness is an important aspect of development that needs to be more recognised, encouraged and included in our learning outcomes.

There was a lively twitter discussion during the day.


The eleventh annual Drapers’ Lecture was held on Wednesday 25th January at 6pm at Queen Mary University of London, recording of that and the conference during the day are available at


She loves me, she loves me not, she loves me, she loves me not, …………

Dealing with ambiguity in emotions is at the heart of relationships. We all know that the romantic dream of falling in love and never having any negative feelings or doubts about the person is, just that – a dream.
One of the dynamics of a relationship is how we deal with that ambiguity and we can do that is two ways. Synchronous ambiguity is where we embody both sides of the ambiguity in the present, in early stages of the relationship using the ambiguity to build the relationship through choreography where the ambiguity is expressed in different moves, often across lines of symmetry, so my right side may be moving towards you, and my left away in a dance which invites you to respond and through which we establish closeness (or not as the case may be). My engagement with my ambiguity engages with your ambiguity and we dance towards a conclusion.
Non-synchronous ambiguity is where I manage my ambiguity by separating the states of engagement and doubt in time, usually being totally in love when I am with you, and spending ages with my friends talking about my doubts. There is little flirting, if I am with you I throw myself at you, no ambiguity to play with, no dance. Unless of course it is going badly in which case we are arguing when we are together and I am telling my friends how you are really nice, really and how I wish we could get through this rough stage.
So to work. In modern organisations there is a tendency to non-synchronous ambiguity. Right from the interview the expectation is that I demonstrate my love for the job and the organisation, maybe a little flirting in the interview if I am feeling confident and to extract a better deal, but on the clear understanding that once I accept the deal – I will be totally positive.
Because it is difficult in the modern organisation to be ambiguous about work, the organisational boundaries become borders of emotion. If I am expected to be totally positive in my work place then my negative feelings are placed outside my workplace, my friends and family receive a totally negative view of my work, all the negative feelings which are hidden at work.
This can of course create problems for the organisation if its image is important and its staff are outward facing, so some organisations will try avoid this. This can be done paradoxically by encouraging a negative climate within the organisation to reverse the dynamic.
A more sophisticated approach of course would be to encourage ambiguity in the organisation, but that is difficult and not common, although required for any true organisational development process, and failing results in the pathological state of an organisation that loves itself because it is self-critical and developing, although the friends and family of its staff know otherwise!
David Andrew 13th May 2016
DOI: 10.13140/RG.2.1.2654.2963

Assessment for learning – the Angry Birds model: exploring disciplinary boundaries.

Assessment for Learning is used to describe any approach to assessment which aims to take the learning forward rather than just assessing the learning that has already happened (Assessment of Learning).

The term can be used interchangeably with formative assessment, but in my experience it is often used to describe assessment in which the student is given a task which gives them a wider degree of freedom and opportunity to be creative, demonstrating their understanding of the subject through an autonomous piece of work, the undergraduate dissertation being perhaps the clearest example.

Designing these assessment tasks is similar perhaps to the popular computer/phone game Angry Birds Space in which the aim is to launch the bird across space into the atmosphere of a planet, in which it will circulate and destroy buildings etc to earn points. In this analogy the atmosphere of the planet is a metaphor for the academic disciplinary space. The assessment task is the vehicle to launch the student into autonomous work within that space, demonstrating their ability to operate within it.

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As well as being a nice metaphor for assessment for learning this highlights two problems that the process may raise for the educator and the student.

The first problem is when the student either fails to understand the nature of the task, thinking that they can treat the assessment as a more traditional assessment, or failing to appreciate the level of the academic performance required by the task, therefore failing to make it to the planet, falling feebly into space. They never enter the disciplinary space in the first place, so can’t earn points by demonstrating their engagement with the subject. It can be argued that this is merely the assessment task identifying the student who has failed to engage with the educational experience, which may be the case, but whereas in a traditional assessment they would get a low mark, here they may get a very much lower mark because in effect they never effectively start the assessment, they never reach the planet’s atmosphere at all.

The other problem is when the student takes off into outer space, not failing to reach the atmosphere but shooting right past it. They fail to appreciate the nature of the disciplinary boundary and produce a piece of work so innovative it is possible to evaluate, or they use theories and approaches from other disciplines. This raises an issue for the assessor – how far do I go out of my discipline to understand a student who may be brilliantly exploring new uncharted territory, or who may not understand what they are doing but are following a whim. Applying quantum mechanics/chaos theory/phenomenology or whatever to this problem may be an absolute stroke of genius but it is difficult for me to tell so how am I expected to assess that?

These issues can be avoided by clear assessment design, clarity of instruction and scaffolding for the students, but I think should be considered when designing innovative assessment.

David Andrew
April 17th 2016

Key Centre for International Higher Education established in London

ESRC/HEFCE Centre for Global Higher Education (CGHE) - UCL Institute of Education, University College London, Director: Professor Simon Marginson The Centre for Global Higher Education (CGHE) is an Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) centre that is funded for the period 2015-2019. Its three research programmes began work in October 2015. CGHE is an ESRC foundation that is 50% funded by the Higher Education Funding Council of England (HEFCE).  It is a partnership led by the UCL Institute of Education that includes Lancaster University, the University of S

Source: Centre for Global Higher Education (CGHE) - UCL Institute of Education, University College London

International Higher Education offers commentary and current information on key issues that shape higher education worldwide, from the perspective of distinguished international scholars, policymakers and informed practitioners.

Source: International Higher Education

Academic systems rely on the existence of a supply of “outsiders” ready to forgo wages and employment security in exchange for the prospect of uncertain security, prestige, freedom and reasonably h…

Source: Impact of Social Sciences – How Academia Resembles a Drug Gang

Mark Walsh is offering his on-line course for coaches, free in February - a useful set of resources:


BOC for life and executive coaches who would like to learn practical techniques and deepen their own understanding and embodied presence. It also covers group-work techniques so would be useful for group facilitators from business trainers to yoga and dance teachers.

This article is specifically about the balance and relationship between auditory and visual information - but the introduction is a good summary of lots of research around presentation - Partial Verbal Redundancyin Multimedia Presentations for Writing Strategy Instruction
Rod D. Roscoe, Matthew E. Jacovina, Danielle Harry, Devin G. Russell and Danielle S. McNamara
Article first published online: 24 JUL 2015 | DOI: 10.1002/acp.3149