Learning through Play: An Interplay between Early Childhood Teachers' Beliefs and Practices in Aotearoa-New Zealand
This study explores teacher conceptions of play and its relationship to children’s learning. It also explores how this influenced the role teachers took during play and the way they approached assessment. This case study research involved three teachers across three early childhood education centres in Wellington, New Zealand. Data drawn on included teacher interviews, observations, document, and field notes. Piaget’s (1973) and Vygotsky’s (1978) Constructivist theories of learning through play provided the theoretical framework informing both data collection and analysis. Findings suggested that teachers held various conceptions about how learning through play could be practiced and how children learn. These beliefs and assumptions were further influenced by an ad hoc range of contextual factors, including the children’s ages, differing centre philosophies and goals. Teachers revealed that the professional development they had been able to access concerning learning through play and assessment had been limited, largely relying on professional development provided by their own centre, discussions with their head teacher, peers, and their own initiative and understanding. This research suggests there is a need to provide ongoing professional development to assist teachers to engage with the place of learning in play-based activities; strategies to assess learning during play activities; and effective documentation. This might help teachers work through the complex and sometimes contradictory ideas about play and children’s learning they encountered and the inconsistencies there were at times between their espoused beliefs and practices.