I found a recent article in the Vancouver Sun paper on September 29, 2011, to be very disappointing.  The article explains that a group of teachers form a secondary school attended an offsite retreat where they spent the day engaging in co-operative team building. But the majority of the activities included playing ping-pong, air hockey, foosball, archery, bocce, shuffleboard, Frisbee golf, volleyball, basketball, and board games.

First, it is unfortunate these opportunities for professional development are not better planned, organized, and facilitated with real business goals and outcomes attached to every activity.  I am sure many readers can relate to attending workshops or training where the goal or outcome for the session was unclear. But offsite, educational meetings that incorporate play can be extremely useful if the activities are relevant and are connected directly back to work.

Our teachers are tasked with an extremely important job.  They deserve quality professional development days that offer a high level of current training where they can gather new information and think about things in different ways. They also need opportunities where they can become re-engaged and re-energized to once again perform at their peak.  Playful, self-directed learning opportunities can be very beneficial.

Second, this occurrence of seemingly pointless play sends the wrong message to the public. Many people are unaware that research supports play for learning; when people experience hands-on learning they are able to store useful information in their long term memory where it can be recalled when situations arise at work. This is much more effective than traditional training where the subject matter presents disconnected facts, which people store in their short-term memory and quickly forget.

Training our children’s teachers in this fashion would allow them to consider the way they teach in the classroom.  Most people remember grade nine-science class where they dissected a frog, but they do not remember the lecture. So for the public to read this article and then draw the conclusion that experiential play is not a great investment is a huge disservice.

Strategic Play workshops are in high demand globally. Facilitator trainers are designing and creating customized workshops that use play with a purpose to help governments at all levels, fortune 500 companies, communities, and non-profits to tackle some of the most complex problems impacted by globalization and constant societal change.  Strategic play sessions have proven invaluable in dealing with issues related to homelessness, resource industry shifts, health care customer needs, shifts and stress upon the educational system, reducing crime, reengagement of youth, etc.

A day of play may be enjoyable for some and may even encourage bonding among colleagues. But it is optimistic for anyone to believe that simply having fun together at an offsite meeting with no clear goals will translate into better work performance.

For more information on how to target goals, outcomes and tackle messy problems, visit :www.strategicplay.ca

 

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