Play in academia – Andrew Walsh

1. What is the first things that comes to mind when reading the sentence ‘The Playful Voices of Academia’?

Karaoke lecturers. Improv night. Colleagues who I talk to about playful teaching and learning. An imaginary youtube series with a ventriloquist’s dummy talking about (through other people’s submitted words?) how people teach and research playfully in academia. Balloons… maybe helium balloons so we can make our voices squeaky.


2. In your opinion what might play contribute with?

In Higher Education? Joy. Experimentation. Transforming understanding. Moving power from the lecturer to the learner. Helping people learn how to work and play well with others. Helping people feel that they belong in an often confusing and stressful space (physical and emotional space).


3. Why is play important in adulthood? 

For all the reasons in (2), plus… hope in an often shitty world. Resistance against corporate / capitalist society.  Resistance against power and dark politics. Subversion. Because trees won’t climb themselves. Love. Fun. Imagination. Problem solving. Modelling these for the next generation.


4. How can being playful in adulthood contribute to higher education?

Research and learning ARE play. 


5. What would YOU like to ask or read more about in relation to play, playfulness & academia (max 280 characters including spaces)?

How do we dare to play ourselves in academia, and how can we encourage and give permission for a playful approach in others?



According to my daughter I’m a librarian who teaches grown-ups how to play, so I sometimes describe myself as a PlayBrarian. I’m a National Teaching Fellow in the UK, living and working in Yorkshire. Outside my “normal” job, I run workshops on topics including using playful (and other!) teaching approaches. I sometimes make games to use in my teaching, but I use a range of other playful approaches too. I’m currently really interested in how we can give adults permission to play, in our teaching, but also more generally too. After doing a Chartered Management Institute qualification and accreditation recently I’m becoming slightly obsessed with what playful leadership (and maybe management!) might look like.




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Andrew Walsh

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