Play is viewed as essential to learning and development in early years education and underpins curriculum guidance despite there being limited empirical evidence to support this viewpoint. Play is traditionally defined from an adult perspective which focuses on the observable act of play. However, the research in this thesis draws on children’s perspectives of play which also gives insight into playfulness, the approach or attitude taken to an activity and it is this which is thought to facilitate learning. It has been shown that children use cues to define an activity as play and three of the studies employed experimental methodology to utilise these cues and create different practice conditions for children to carry out a convergent problem solving task. Results from these studies showed that children assigned to playful practice conditions exhibited superior performance when solving a task and behaviours conducive to learning compared to children in formal practice conditions. Furthermore, the cue of adult presence was shown to be critical in facilitating improved performance and learning behaviours although this seemed dependent upon whether individual children used the cue of adult presence in making play and not play distinctions.The final study sought to identify how the cue of adult presence might develop through examining adult-child interactions in the classroom environment. In addition, practitioners were interviewed about their understandings of play and learning to see how this might affect their interactions with children. Findings from this study showed that practitioners who were confident in their understanding of play and learning were more likely to provide children with choice and control in their activities and engage with children as play partners. Overall, the findings from this research contribute to the literature in this field by providing empirical evidence for the benefits of playful practice and have implications for practice in early years settings.
|Date of Award||2010|
|Supervisor||Martin Graff (Supervisor), Kevin Crowley (Supervisor) & Gareth Miles (Supervisor)|
- Child development