Using Lego to explore dissertation topics

The Under Construction team have been using Lego Serious Play methodology with Surrey’s PhD students for a while now. We’ve seen how researchers are able to clearly articulate the nuances of their research by modelling it in Lego, and how in-depth discussions are prompted by others asking questions about the models. It seemed a natural progression to try out a similar technique with students working on their dissertation projects. We started with Masters Creative Writing, and English Literature students – inviting them to model their dissertation topic, and share it in small groups.

The students came up with some fantastic models:

A student modelled their commentary on William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying, and included a representation of a stream of consciousness.

Another student modelled their exploration into virtual reality’s effect on the power balance between the establishment and queer bodies.

This student created a model to represent their ideas around physical spaces in theatre.

Students participating in the workshop were invited to provide feedback. It was great to see three clear benefits for students coming through in the feedback:

New perspectives

Modelling their dissertation topics helped the students see it from different angles and perspectives:

“Using Lego allowed us to look at our proposals from another angle – caused us to come across new aspects”

“It helped me to figure out what’s going on in my mind”

“Surprising how Lego can make you think more”

Building ideas

Some students found that creating their Lego model went beyond simply representing their ideas, and actually enabled them to create new ideas:

“I thought I knew what my story was all about but this session made me see it from another angle and I discovered a new dimension to it that I’ve never noticed before”

“Feedback from peers was really useful as it raised some questions I hadn’t thought about addressing”

“It actually gave me an idea, instead of me building Lego on an existing idea”

Making connections

Many students simply enjoyed the opportunity to interact with each other:

“I liked getting together in groups”

“I don’t normally talk in class”

“I liked seeing how different people communicate their ideas”

We’re now looking forward to offering other Masters students the opportunity to model their dissertation topic in Lego, and would like to try the technique with undergraduate students too. If this is something you’d like to explore with your students please get in touch with Charlotte Barton