Alice Kolb and David Kolb (2010) introduced the concept of ludic—or playful—learning space, wherein deep learning is achieved through the integration of intellectual, physical, moral, and, spiritual values.
What are the characteristics of spaces where playful behaviours are thriving? Essentially three namely: it is free, it entails stepping out of “real” life, and it is bounded in space and time. Play is a very seriousness activity (contrary to what some may believe) taking place within a “consecrated spot” mentally and physically; with specific rules; and within a limited time frame—the spielraum (play space).
Identifiable visual, auditory, tactile, or olfactory signals serve to indicate that “what follows is play” or to maintain social play.
Ludic learning spaces provide opportunities for individuals to be enriched within a free and safe space; to play with their potentials and in turn commit to learn, develop, and grow. Ludic learning spaces open up possibilities for individuals to become intrinsically motivated to reinvent themselves. Deep learning entail fill integration of the four Kolb-modes of the experiential learning cycle, namely experiencing, reflecting, thinking, and acting. This process, whereby knowledge is created through a combination of transformation of experience and grasping, is what learning is about.
During the past 40 years of research on experiential learning theory (ELT) play—for example, games, role plays, or outdoor adventure training—retained importance. Huizinga (in Kolb & Kolb, 2010) advocates that humans emerge not as Homo sapiens, man who knows, but primarily as Homo ludens, man who plays.
A tension exists between the Greek terms agon (contest) and paidia (play). A duality-dynamic related to dominance and submission co-exists. Even with children behavioural differences occur between the epistemic-mode versus the ludic-mode: during the period of epistemic play children are serious and focussed with intense, attentive investigation of, for example, all aspects of the toy. However, when the investigation is over, they proceed playfully—in the ludic-mode they are relaxed and apply the knowledge acquired. The two modes relate to the different ways the brain processes information: the epistemic behaviour corresponds to the left hemisphere of the brain (the abstract, symbolic, analytical, rational, and logical); and the ludic behaviour is associated with the right hemisphere (the synthetic, concrete, analogical, non-rational, spatial, intuitive, and holistic). Play fulfils the need of the child’s ego to master different aspects of his life and an integrative process of the limbic system and the frontal lobe of the neo-cortex. Sensory stimuli are transformed and integrated into meaningful thoughts and behaviours.
Play exemplifies experiential learning in three fundamental ways: first, it encourages learners to take charge of their own learning based on their own standards of excellence. Secondly, equal value is placed on the process—play does not happen staring at the scoring board—and the outcome of learning. In the third place, the (Kob) experiential learning cycle is fully engaged in that players come back to the familiar experience with a fresh perspective. The recursive nature of the play further gives continuity for experience to mature and deepen.
Kolb, A.Y. & Kolb, D.A. 2010. Learning to play, playing to learn: A case study of a ludic learning space. Journal of Organizational Change Management, 23 (1), 26-50. Access onlined from Emerald.