Co-producing a play space

Co-producing a play space: reading playwork stories, practices and artefacts on an adventure playground

Project Lead: Wendy Russell

Research team members: Stuart Lester, Wendy Russell and John Fitzpatrick
Project rationale/outline

This study explored the ways in which playwork practitioners at an adventure playground make sense of and give meaning to their practice in designing and maintaining a ‘space for play’. It introduced a range of theories of play and space and how these work together to inform practice. Using an action research approach, the study explored current articulations of design intentions and practices, and from this introduced conceptual tools aimed at enabling practitioners to develop a critical reflective and analytical approach that works with uncertainty and openness. Through the introduction of concepts and tools, the use of reflective diaries and observations, and the iterations of action research dialogue, the playworkers were supported to experiment with approaches to the co-production of ‘play space’ that embrace openness, flexibility, complexity and emergence.

Research questions:

  1. What value does an action research approach to professional development have for playwork practice?
  2. How might theoretical concepts of the playful co-production of space in an adventure playground inform practice?
  3. What lessons can be learned to inform policy development and shared practices beyond the participating adventure playground?

Research methods

An action research approach enables both bringing about practical transformation and advancing knowledge, working with and reconfiguring the situated knowledge and practices of the playworkers charged with the everyday production of adventure playgrounds.

Action research is responsive to what emerges through the process. Being mindful of this, project planning was only possible up to a point. Key stages were:

  1. Recruit research participants; agree details of research design.
  2. Gather initial data about the playground and current practice.
  3. Hold a two-day programme to introduce the aims and intentions of the research, including: approaches to reflection including observation and journals, consistent with the underpinning principles of the project; drawing on the experiences and ideas of participants, introduce key concepts on play and space; introduce the model for further facilitated discussions through meetings and online forum; establish a programme of regular communication, both face-to-face and online, that facilitates experimentation and playing with concepts introduced;
  4. Through an iterative process, key themes emerged that were informed by the introduction of concepts and theories as the discussions progressed.
  5. Use identified themes to inform each iteration and also the final analysis of all the data.
  6. Final analysis and report writing. 

Click here to view the final project report.

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