Serious Play 2: interdisciplinary creativity.

For this next post, we share some more ideas of how creativity can be implemented across disciplines.

Technique no3 : Sound Collage (Phil Beadle) (15 mins plus)

Key ideas:

  • cognitive: Imaginative and Inquisitive > making connections and challenging assumptions > idea generation > enhancement through collaboration> explanation
  • social: developing listening skills and agency

Desks are pushed to the side of the room and seats are placed in the free space.  Students sit on these, leaving enough room for a teacher to walk between them.  Each student is asked to think of three ideas/words which they hold onto.  When the teacher walks past them, they repeat their first choice idea/word three times; they repeat their word loudly and clearly like a chant.  Students listen to the cacophony as the teacher walks past their peers.

  • Students then stand-up and walk around the room repeating their idea/word looking to cluster with other ideas/words that they think they have a connection to.Students form pairs or groups of three then discuss why they have linked with each other.  Each group explains to the other groups what the links are.
  • Students then break their cluster, and form new groups and try to find words with which they have no obvious, immediate connection. They ask each other whether those new connections are stronger than the previous ones.

Example:  This technique can be used to build definitions and understandings of important concepts.  It can help to also identify how much a class knows about a concept.  In history, this can be used to explore the meaning of revolution.  Groups may align around words such as ‘change’, ‘violence’ and ‘complaint’. During the second phase, words such as ‘anarchy’ and ‘rights’ might find themselves aligned.

Technique no4 : four dimensional question frames (Cambridge University) (15 mins plus)

Key ideas:

  • cognitive: Inquisitive > exploring and challenging assumptions > enhancement through collaboration> building tools for analysis
  • social: developing listening skills and agency, sharing and shaping guesswork and hypotheses


A research question is examined to explore the students’ understanding of the potential meanings within it and the set of dimensions embedded within it that need to be understood before analysis begins and before writing-up an answer. In small groups, the students are encouraged to think of how many questions they can ask of the question.

  • What do the concepts mean in the question? Do they contain any assumptions?  Can these be questioned?
  • Is there an implied debate?
  • Is there a clear focus to the question that suggests ajudgement, assessment or evaluation that needs to be arrived at?
  • Is there a beginning, middle and endimplied within the question?

And a 5th dimension:

  • Why is the question worth asking to begin with? Why do we need to know the answer?

Example: In science, practical investigations are often performed to answer a question. For instance, “what happens to a spring when a force is applied?”  It is often tempting to give students a set of instructions telling them how to perform the experiment and then some questions to check they have understood the rules. This may make them passive learners and thinkers. Another approach would be to ask the following questions.

  • What are the variables in the question? (Look at the extension of the spring and the force applied.)
  • What hypothesis will allow you to answer the question? (look at when a force is applied how the spring will stretch until the tension in the spring equals the force applied.)
  • What do you predict from your hypothesis? (look at the greater the force applied the greater the extension.)
  • What experimental method will allow you to test the prediction? (e.g., hang a spring vertically using a clamp. Measure the original length of the spring. Add a 100g mass to the end of the spring and measure the new length. Continue adding 100g mass up to 1kg and record the length each time.)


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