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Title:Play-based kindergarten in an era of academic rigor: A case study of one teaching team’s experience
Author(s):Lyons, Mary Elizabeth
Director of Research:Sanders-Smith, Stephanie C.
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Sanders-Smith, Stephanie C.
Doctoral Committee Member(s):McCarthey, Sarah J.; Mercier, Emma; Ostrosky, Michaelene
Department / Program:Curriculum and Instruction
Discipline:Curriculum and Instruction
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
play-based learning
teacher learning
Abstract:The purpose of this qualitative research was to investigate the processes teachers went through as they integrated play with their kindergarten curriculum by studying their individual and collaborative processes of implementation. Based on strategic sampling, this study was conducted with kindergarten teachers who reported that time for play was a part of their daily schedule. The case study method was a good fit as the data were bound by the experiences of educators and children at one early childhood school. I observed in the naturalistic environment of the teachers’ classrooms and collaborative spaces and explored two focal participants’ daily interactions with children and decision-making practices with regard to curriculum enactment to capture their processes of integrating play with their kindergarten program. Interview, observation, and artifact collection were the primary data collection methods. Ongoing work with the data included transcription of audio recordings, peer debriefing, member checking, and analytic memo writing. Constant comparison method, a priori coding, content analysis, and thematic analysis served as the analytic processes. In response to the body of research indicating that five-year-old children are experiencing stress in many classrooms as an emphasis on academic rigor in kindergarten has become more prevalent, this study contributed to the need for research that illustrates how play-based practices can be meaningfully integrated with current kindergarten programs. The participants in this study facilitated various types of play and relied on multiple curricular resources when integrating play and curriculum. They were agents of the kindergarten curriculum, often stepping outside of the district-prescribed sources to ensure playful learning opportunities for children. Implications for practice include the need for preservice and in-service programs to include more attention to collecting and using many forms of assessment evidence to document children’s play-based learning. Teachers who are working to implement a play-based program may also benefit from professional learning to support their understandings of play and play-based pedagogy. Implications for research include the continued need for investigations regarding the role of play as a component of the curriculum, including (1) research that seeks to uncover ways that children’s play-based learning can be evidenced, and (2) research that explores relationships between play and stress in classrooms. Scholars working to articulate the definition of play and play-based learning should consider not only academic and developmental integration (Danniels & Pyle, 2018), but also play-based learning as a multi-, inter-, or trans-disciplinary approach. The factors of child agency and teacher facilitation should also be considered as central.
Issue Date:2020-08-19
Rights Information:Copyright 2020 Mary Lyons
Date Available in IDEALS:2021-03-05
Date Deposited:2020-12

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