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Video transcript: Using creative methodologies to reflect on sustainability

Creative activities such as LEGO® Serious Play and role play workshops are effective ways to help students reflect on the values they hold with regards to sustainability and/or how they put these values into practice. In this Micro-CPD, we are going to share two brief examples of how we have used creative methodologies to bring sustainability education to  life. You can find more details of the methods that we used in the supporting information.

As part of an introductory module on Sustainability and Responsible Practice, students on the Msc Sustainable Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Birmingham Business School take part in a LEGO workshop. LEGO® Serious Play is a method where participants use LEGO blocks to build symbolic or metaphorical representations of their thoughts and ideas into a LEGO® Model. Everybody has to contribute and narrate their model to other participants. It is a more inclusive way of teaching as it helps break down language barriers, increase students’ participation as they talk through their model while supporting their reflective practice. As such, it is a helpful way for students to reveal where their values around sustainability are i.e. the promotion of the environmental, and/or the social and/or the economic aspects of sustainability.

As part of MSc Accounting and Finance programme, our compulsory module ‘Professional Ethics and the reflective Practitioner’ 20 credit, arrange an Improvised Role Play led and co-designed by professional actors/leadership experts. The role Play use the BP Water Horizon Oil spill as its role play scenario. This enables students to encounter ‘real life’ professional ethical dilemmas with uncertain outcomes. It enables them to reflect and consider their own professional ethical values. Students really enjoy these activities and the opportunity to present their own perspectives and learn from others.

Caroline Chapain and Ann-Christine Frandsen, from the Business School, share some creative methodologies that can be used to deliver education for sustainability. 

One key element of teaching students about sustainability is to engage them with exercises to identify the values and representations they hold with regards to sustainability and sustainable practices and then examine how these may play out in practice. In doing so, students engage in some form of moral reflexive practice i.e. “a way of being that involves questioning who we are in the world and how we can act in responsible and ethical ways” (Hibbert and Cunliffe, 2015: 180). In business disciplines, such as Accounting, this moral reflexive practice links to ethical standards that students will need to uphold as part of their professions. More widely, this is an essential part of developing students’ competences towards sustainable and responsible business mindsets. Using creative methodologies has proved a very effective way to support such reflections within modules.  In this Micro-CPD, we discussed the details of two activities that we run.

The first one is a LEGO seminar activity entitled “Thinking about you, your entrepreneurial project & sustainable and responsible business” that students on the MSc Sustainable Innovation and Entrepreneurship undertake at the start of their MSc. Having been introduced to conceptual definitions and understandings of sustainability and sustainable entrepreneurship and values, the students then take part in a 2h LEGO seminar where they are asked to explore what it means to them at an individual level and to share with others. In groups of 4 to 5 students led by a tutor, students were asked to undertake a series of LEGO building activities culminating in them building a model to represent what sustainable and responsible entrepreneurship meant to them, thinking of their core values, skills and behaviours, the relationship with the environment and society, and what success and/or outcomes would mean for them. Some pictures of the activities are available in the video for you to look at if helpful. Students really enjoy the activities, appreciate the opportunities to represent their own views and learnt from others’ perspectives. Following the seminar, they are asked to write a reflective piece using their LEGO exercise and representation(s) to analyse how these relate to the conceptual understandings discussed in class and then draw implications for their personal and professional development and sustainable entrepreneurial project.  If you would like to learn more about this activity or discuss how to embed creative activities to bring sustainability education to life, please contact Caroline Chapain at c.a.chapain@bham.ac.uk

LEGO® Serious Play is a technique that can easily be learned by tutors through undertaking a workshop prior to running them with the students. One key element is first to have activities that help participants to familiarise themselves with using LEGO to build symbolic or metaphorical representations of their thoughts and ideas into a LEGO® Model and second to delve into the particular topic that is of interest for the session. HEFI can offer some help in designing the activities, please contact hefi@contacts.bham.ac.uk  

The second example is from our MSc Accounting and Finance programme, and the compulsory module Professional Integrity and the Reflective Practitioner (20c). A key pedagogic practice to promote reflexive thinking, is our Improvised Role Play. We use BP’s Oil Spill disaster in the Mexican Gulf as our base in making an emotional impact. An emotional impact to initiate reflection. Facing professional ethical dilemmas and possibly emotional impact but in a safe place. Experiencing dilemmas upfront where they are also the co-author of the role play’s outcome. Having the opportunity to reflect on what kind of professional they think they are, and want to become. Also being able to reflect on their ethical values and how to deal with possible hurdles. How becoming the ‘reflective practitioner’ is valuable in their development as a professional. 

 More specifically, the purpose of the session is:

  • To enable the students to encounter ‘real life’ professional ethical dilemmas where the ‘outcomes’ of the scene for the role play are uncertain.
  • To create an emotional impact that triggers reflections on their own practices as ‘acted out’ in the role play scenes they participate in: also to generate reflections on their own professional ethical values and how they may wish to move forward. 
  • To return to and reflect on the business cases that we have already looked at in the module and their learning about professional ethics and integrity.

The Role Play has two parts. First there is a two-hour warming-up preparatory session where the students get to know the facilitators and what the Role Play session is about. The session includes a range of group exercises to help them learn to reflect on their ethical values and choices they make. Second, there is a three -hour Role Play session (one group in the morning and one in the afternoon. Each Role Play session can comprise 100-120 students). Students work in small groups of 3. There are two Role Play scenarios with three roles in each. Each student will play all roles. There are no scripts to follow, just an overall basic frame of the scene and the roles included. Between each scenario they are asked to reflect and write down any thoughts. The students really enjoy the event and there is a real buzz during session. 

For further information about co-design ideas and role play please contact Ann-Christine Frandsen at a.frandsen@bham.ac.uk

If you would like to propose a MicroCPD topic, please fill out this form and send to hefi@contacts.bham.ac.uk.


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