Becoming a Meddler-in-the-Middle: LSP Journey Part 1

Chris Barbalis

I’m sitting in the airport waiting for my flight to London for LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® (LSP) facilitator training, a four-day intensive course, and this seems a pretty good point to reflect on some recent joining-of-the-dots for me. Being a fan of constructivism and constructionism introducing LSP into medical education seemed a logical extension based on my educational beliefs. Whilst familiar with Piaget and Papert (I’ve written a bit on this in a previous #mscde assignment about Play in Higher Education), a talk on Creativity, by Professor Carol McGuinness, at the annual Centre for Educational Development conference in March this year, sent me down a couple of new paths.

Firstly, the concept of flow had been floating around in my periphery somewhere but after this talk I followed up a bit on reading more about it and Csikszentmihalyi himself. However, it was the text on this particular slide that really got my attention. Right down at the bottom there was a call to “Become the ‘Meddler in the Middle’”; this was a light bulb moment literally moments before facilitating a LSP workshop.

Slide from the Centre for Educational Development Annual Conference

After the conference I sought out the Meddler in the Middle paper by Erica McWilliam, Teaching for creativity: from sage to guide to meddler (Williams, 2009). Williams proposes that in addition to Sage on the Stage and Guide on the Side, there is space for a third type of educator called the Meddler in the Middle. Their role is neither to impart knowledge directly, nor jumping in to save students in moments of difficulty, but instead to encourage participation in the messy, complex, grey areas of learning:

“They allow their students to experience the risks and confusion of authentic learning by allowing their students to stay in the grey of unresolvedness, supporting any and all attempts on the part of their students to experiment with possibilities in ways that put their ignorance to work.” (McWilliam, 2006)

This appealed to me on several levels and linked my OER made for my final #mscde module on messiness in open learning inspired by Ross and Collier’s work on Complexity, Mess, and Not-Yetness (Ross & Collier, 2016) and LSP.

As an aside, I also found this paper interesting with regards to my edtech role, as it also calls out that educators assume students have much further developed digital literacy skills than they may do as “… in their first year, many students struggle not to make technology work per se but to make it work for academic ends.” (Williams, 2006). Indeed, it seems that twelve years on we are in much the same place, with current work and research on digital literacy continuing to highlight we are still not providing students with sufficient training in these for learning and future careers, especially in light of current digital issues surrounding privacy and surveillance.

One of the things I love most about working in education is when lots of the little random dots begin to join together to make a coherent pattern or picture and this particular case is definitely one of the nicest instances of things clicking into place for me. All in all, it is perfect timing for beginning my LSP facilitator training journey.

After all who wouldn’t want to become a meddler in the middle?


McWilliam, E. (2006). Teaching for creativity: from sage to guide to meddler. Asia Pacific Journal of Education Vol. 29 (3).

Ross, J. and Collier, A. (2016). Complexity, Mess, and Not-Yetness: Teaching Online with Emerging Technologies. In G Veletsianos (ed) Emergence and Innovation in Digital Learning: Foundations and Applications. Athabasca University Press.

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