Pedagogy of Play


Much is known about the importance of play in children’s development, yet little research has explored what it might mean to put play at the heart of schooling. In 2015, the Pedagogy of Play (PoP) research project began exploring just that.

Pedagogy of Play children music


Perhaps the simplest way to understand PoP is through these paradoxes of playful learning. ISB is a school and, therefore, must be safe and orderly. At the same time, we want our students – and teachers – to take risks, make messes, and get lost in the moment. How to put more PLAY in SCHOOL: that is the driving question behind PoP.


At ISB, we want learning to be playful. But how do we know when we’re succeeding? One of the first developments to come out of PoP was the “indicators of playful learning,” a graphic overview of what we’re hoping to see (and feel) in the classroom.  It’s the basis for almost everything we do.

Pedagogy of Play indicators


If the indicators are the what of playful learning, then the practices are the how. Developed through years of research and experimentation, these are practical strategies for promoting playful learning in schools. Check out our What if booklet for inspiration and examples of how we’re putting these practices into action at ISB.

Empower learners to lead their own learning  (see how we do it)

Build a culture of collaborative learning

Promote experimentation and risk taking

Encourage imaginative thinking

Welcome all emotions generated through play (see how we do it)

Teacher toolbox

These tools for playful practitioners have been created by ISB teachers. We also use a variety of other tools for reflection, documentation, and discussion, created by our friends at Project Zero. You can find them here.


Popatplay is a mental playground (aka blog) administered by Project Zero, highlighting some of the current thinking around the Pedagogy of Play project.  As the blog grows, you’ll find posts written by Project Zero researchers, ISB staff and teachers, and researchers and teachers at some of the other schools collaborating with PoP, for example in South Africa.

Pedagogy of Play blog