Learning through Playful Methods

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Roscoe building



M13 9PL

United Kingdom

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A two-day event about how to use playful methods in social science research

About this Event

Cost: This event costs £30 per person - you will need to pay via our e-store link which you will receive via e-mail within 72 hours.

Please note: No registrations will be accepted via email or telephone. Participants SHOULD be able to attend and remain for both days of the workshops. If you cannot attend, please let us know as soon as possible so that we can offer your place to someone else.

Presented by: Chrissi Nerantzi, Dawn Mannay, Kate Fox, Alistair Roy, Helen Kara and Alke Gröppel-Wegener.


Day 1: 1st April 2020

11am-1pm: LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® (LSP) for research

1-2pm - Lunch

2pm-3pm: Sandboxing

3pm-3.20pm – Tea/Coffee break

3.20pm-4.50pm: Comedy as Research-Practical Tools and Theoretical Pointers

Day 2: 2nd April 2020

9am-11am: A walk in the park – a mobile exploration of using walking methods in research (weather dependent) or if it rains, Altered images – a visual method for social research

11am-11.20am - Tea/Coffee break

11.20am-1pm: Taking Poetry Off The Fridge

1-2pm - Lunch

2pm-4pm: Visualising Your Research in a Playful Way (the Board Game approach)

LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® (LSP) for research

In this practical hands-on LSP playshop we will explore together this creative method, its theoretical underpinnings and how it can be used in higher education and specifically in research settings. We will discuss a range of possible applications in this context and you will have the opportunity to immerse yourself and experience the method yourself while considering how you could use and adapt LSP and further LEGO® approaches for your own research.

The workshop will be led by Dr Chrissi Nerantzi (NTF, PFHEA, SFSEDA) @chrissinerantzi a Principal Lecturer in Academic CPD within the University Teaching Academy at Manchester Metropolitan University. Her practice and research focus on openness, creativity and innovation, including play. She is an accredited and experienced LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® facilitator and has used this method with staff, students and businesses in a range of learning, teaching and development contexts and also carries out research in this area. In 2019, she published together with Prof. Alison James the open access book LEGO® for university learning: inspiring academic practice in higher education available at

https://zenodo.org/record/2813448#.XfEwHOj7Q2y The special issue Discovering innovative applications of LEGO® in learning and teaching in higher education again with Alison, may also be of interest. You can access this from http://ijmar.org/v5n4/toc.html

Comedy as Research-Practical Tools and Theoretical Pointers

This fun, practical workshop in comedy and improvisation techniques and joke writing will help complete novices, students and participants to build confidence in their self-expression in a supportive environment.

This workshop will be led by Dr Kate Fox, ‘stand-up scholar’. During her practice based PhD at the University of Leeds she used performance ethnography as a tool to examine how comedy writing and performance could be used as reflexive research tools. This session will combine the usual exercises and games she would use in a comedy workshop for beginners, with reflections on how these tools could be used to explain and interrogate ideas, theories and resistances to ideologies.


This workshop focuses on a visual data production approach developed drawing on ‘the world technique’ in which participants create three-dimensional scenes, pictures or abstract designs in a tray filled with sand and a range of miniature, realistic and fantasy, figures and everyday objects as part of a psychoanalytical therapy session. The workshop explores whether psychoanalytically informed techniques can be applied ethically and effectively as a research tool in qualitative inquiry with adults, young people and children. It will offer an opportunity for participants to try ‘sandboxing’, creating sand scenes with sandboxes and figures. We will discuss experiences of sandboxing and the potentialities and difficulties of applying the technique in participatory, visual and creative research.

The workshop will be led by Dawn Mannay, a Reader in Social Sciences (Psychology) at Cardiff University. Her research interests revolve around class, children and young people, education, identity and inequality; and she employs participatory, visual and creative methods in her work with communities. She has worked on projects related to motherhood, health, poverty, migration, care experienced children and young people, and arts and heritage. Dawn established the online community of practice ExChange: Care and Education, which hosts free-to-access multimodal materials, case studies, and best practice guides to inform key stakeholders with an interest in the education of care experienced children and young people. Dawn edited the books ‘Our changing land: revisiting gender, class and identity in contemporary Wales’ (University Wales Press 2016), ‘Emotion and the researcher: sites, subjectivities, and relationships’ (Emerald 2018 with Tracey Loughran); and ‘Children and Young People ‘Looked After’? Education, Intervention and the Everyday Culture of Care in Wales’ (University Wales Press 2019 with Alyson Rees and Louise Roberts); ‘The SAGE Handbook of Visual Research Methods’ (Sage 2020 with Luc Pauwels); and wrote the sole authored text ‘Visual, narrative and creative research methods: application, reflection and ethics’ (Routledge 2016). Dawn is committed to increasing the impact of research findings through the use of film, art work, music and a range of other participatory and co-produced multimodal materials.

A walk in the park – a mobile exploration of using walking methods in research (weather dependent)

Interest in walking as a research method has been driven by the ways it alters the research relationship through the kinetic and relational affordances of moving side by side and because walking brings place and space into the research encounter. However, a walking interview is also a mobile event that occurs in time. This workshop will playfully explore the ways in which mobile methods can work simultaneously through the temporal/musical and the visual/spatial registers. In the workshop we will do some experiments with walking together. Students will be introduced a case example taken from a study of the everyday lives of young men accessing an organisation for homeless people, which allowed for a shared re-imagining of the young man’s biography as he escorted us through the scenes, settings and phases of his everyday life.

If it rains, the following workshop will run instead: Altered images – a visual method for social research

This workshop introduces an innovative research approach called the visual matrix. This approach uses the visual imagination, expressed both verbally and in drawing, to reveal hidden or unexpressed ideas, feelings and emotions about research subjects. It has been used in a number of research projects and has proved especially fruitful in exploring complex relationships, situations and practices, which people sometimes find it difficult to express in normal discussion groups. The visual matrix is discussed as a method that can used in applied research. The workshop will allow people to take part in an example matrix. After this, I will introduce some date from a visual matrix completed as one element of a research project undertaken with an organisation supporting vulnerable, marginalised young men, in which it proved helpful in understanding complexities and paradoxes in the relationships between professionals and those they worked with that might have otherwise remained hidden and unexplored.

This workshop will be led by Ali Roy, Professor of Social Research and Co-Director of the Psychosocial Research Unit, University of Central Lancashire. With a professional background in detached youth work he has a particular interest in the development of psychosocial approaches to research. Exploring the links between social responsibility and the social imagination has been central to work undertaken across the fields of social welfare, criminal justice, health and the cultural sectors.

Taking Poetry Off The Fridge

Found poetry as you’ve never seen it before. Don’t worry if you haven’t a poetic cell in your body; this hands-on practical workshop will help you find words that are important to you, and give you space to mobilise them for new insights. No previous experience of poetry needed. Bring an open mind and you’re very likely to have fun.

This workshop is led by Dr Helen Kara, an independent researcher since 1999 who also teaches research methods and ethics. She is not, and never has been, an academic, though she has learned to speak the language. In 2015 Helen was the first fully independent researcher to be conferred as a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences. She is also an Honorary Senior Research Fellow at methods@manchester, University of Manchester. She has written several books and journal articles on research methods and ethics, including Creative Research Methods in the Social Sciences: A Practical Guide (2015, Policy Press) and Research Ethics in the Real World: Euro-Western and Indigenous Perspectives (2018, Policy Press).

Visualising Your Research in a Playful Way (the Board Game approach)

The board game is an excellent analogy to communicate research to a lay audience - it allows researchers to break a complex process into digestible chunks, suggest a process, but also to play with obstacles and shortcuts in an easily understandable and engaging way. This workshop introduces a number of steps that allow researchers to develop a board game based on their own research, but it will in particular focus on one crucial step: finding an analogy that explains one of the key messages (of either the process or the outcome) to be used as the underlying visual for a board game concept (although it could also be further developed for a non-board game poster, for example). Come with a project in mind (this could be completed, but it doesn't have to be), and we will consider different ways of focusing and explaining what this project is about - and how to visually get this across. We will also consider how to add a game-path and game dynamics to turn our visual analogy into a board game.

This workshop will be led by Dr Alke Groppel-Wegener, Associate Professor of Creative Academic Practice at Staffordshire University and a National Teaching Fellow since 2015. Bringing the creative methodologies of her design background to Learning and Teaching has led her to develop the Tactile Academia approach, which uses creative making activities and everyday analogies to explain complex concepts in simple terms. One of these is the use of the board game concept to disseminate both research process and findings to a range of audiences. Find out more about her work and workshops at www.tactileacademia.com

Catering Policy

Since September 2019, to reduce our environmental impact and make sustainable choices, we have introduced a new catering policy making vegan the default option. If you would like to eat meat or fish at this event or you have any specific health-related dietary requirements, please inform us in the corresponding question response section on this Eventbrite booking page.


There is a maximum of 25 places and all participants need to register via this Eventbrite page. You will then receive an email within 72 hours of registration, with a link to our E-store online payment option. This event costs £30 per person.

If you have any questions, please contact us directly at methods@manchester.ac.uk

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Roscoe building



M13 9PL

United Kingdom

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