Bourdieu, learning theory and a new game for action learning in lectures

Document Type

Conference publication

Publication details

Coco, A, Woodward, I, Lupton, G, Peake, AG & Shaw, K 2000, 'Bourdieu, learning theory and a new game for action learning in lectures', in L Richardson & J Lidstone (eds), Flexible learning for a flexible society : refereed proceedings of the ASET/HERDSA 2000, Toowoomba, Qld., 2-5 July, University of Southern Queensland, Toowoomba, Qld. ISBN: 0908557477


Taking a social-constructionist approach to teacher-learner relations it is proposed that a teaching strategy based on the principles of a bingo game is a meaningful way to energise the structured lecture environment. Designed in the first instance to facilitate students’ understanding of substantive information, the game also enables teachers to elicit reactions to the process which serve as teaching points about the theory and practice of social research. In the following we draw together strands of sociological and educational theory to demonstrate the pedagogical value of this game approach. The question of structure and agency, or individuation and community, has been the central concern of classical and contemporary scholars of society alike. It is however, notoriously difficult to explain to students, and even more tricky to model in any meaningful way in the lecture situation. One of the most elaborate and powerful attempts at a theoretical synthesis of these forces is found in the work of Bourdieu. In this presentation we seek to link Bourdieu’s theory on the limits of objectivism and subjectivism with contemporary approaches to learning. We argue that Bourdieu offers a neat rationale for the game technique. Not only does our ‘Bingo’ game enable individual practices to be placed within a space of social structure, it also allows for critical reflection on the nature of social scientific practice. The strategy requires students to call up personal experiences and life choices in the process of ‘playing the game’. It therefore fosters deep learning through relevancy to individual lives and the provision of an enjoyable learning environment. A collation of student responses is used to encourage reflexivity, both in regard to one’s own cultural capital and also with respect to the research process. Accordingly, the ‘game’ brings together relevant personal experience, sociological theory and method as a coherent whole, generating a more meaningful and active engagement with the material. We suggest that the game is transferable to a variety of social science orientations and propose that it can be used with both small and very large classes. The game strategy was evaluated using a short questionnaire to elicit students' opinions about its relevance, usefulness and its quality as a teaching tool.