Learning Communication Strategies with Lego

I used Lego in a grad level ActSci course and it was great!

I'm teaching ACTSC 635: Actuarial Communications, a small class, and we did an interactive kinesthetic learning activity (similar to Lego Serious Play).

Phase 1: Written communication only (in partners)

  • Each student received a different Lego structure
  • They had 15 minutes to write instructions for building it
  • They built their partner's structure from the instructions
Not surprisingly, this was very difficult, and only 3 out of 18 got it.


Phase 2: verbal communication only (in partners)

  • Sitting back to back, one student created a structure and talked their partner through replicating it
  • Then they switched roles and did it again
This was more successful, with about 9 of 18 correct and many more quite close. Students recognized the advantage of back-and-forth communication.


Phase 3: communication through a third party (in groups of 3)

  • One student can see the stucture, one student must build the structure
  • The third student conveys information from the observer to the builder
  • This is run 3 times so each student can try each role
For the third phase, 15 were exactly right and the other 3 were mirror images of the correct structure. This had the added advantages of body language and gestures.


Students identified many features of effective communication, such as breaking the instructions into phases, giving names to the pieces, having checkpoints along the way ("now it should look like a T"), using an analogy for the overall shape, etc. The group dynamics in phase 3 developed over time, as the team members began to trust each other and understand their learning styles.

The room buzzed with excitement as students got structures right. In fact, Phase 3 was originally only going to be run once, but they were so eager to fully experience the different perspectives that we extended the activity. The excitement in the room throughout made this a very rewarding experience for all.

To round out the activity, the students will write a short reflection paper on the experience, both to think critically about what they learned and to practice writing. This is a communication course after all!


Materials (scale as needed for number of students n):

  • n=18 lego structures made with 5 bricks (n/2=9 of one design and 9 of another for sanity reasons)
  • 1 extra example of each structure to show people afterwards
  • 1 more complicated lego structure with 7 bricks
  • n/3=6 bags of the same lego bricks needed to build it
  • Slides with instructions and discussion questions (mine are attached if you want to use or adapt them)
legocomm.pptx45 KB