An investigation of two models of professional development to support effective teaching through play practices in the primary classroom : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Education at Massey University, Manawatū, New Zealand

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Massey University
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The use of play as a pedagogical tool in schools and early learning settings is experiencing a rise in popularity. In recent years, primary teachers have shown an increased interest in how play can be implemented in junior primary school classrooms but have also expressed a need for further support to understand how to use play and intentional teaching to meet expected learning outcomes of the curriculum. While teachers have expressed support for, and knowledge of, the benefits of learning through play, the way in which they teach through play is less well understood. The aim of this study was to identify teachers’ beliefs, knowledge and practices when implementing teaching through play in the primary school setting and investigate the impact of a professional learning and development (PLD) intervention on teachers’ subsequent implementation of play pedagogies. The study utilised a mixed methods intervention research design. Participants were assigned to one of two PLD conditions: 1) professional learning workshops only; or 2) professional learning workshops in combination with practice-based coaching. The study utilised both quantitative and qualitative data collection strategies, including questionnaires, classroom observations, and individual interviews. The creation of a Play-Based Learning Observation Tool (P-BLOT) enabled the researcher to observe and quantify the frequency and implementation fidelity of evidence-based teaching practices, desirable in an effective play-based junior school classroom. Pre-intervention findings suggested a tension between what teachers know and believe about play as a pedagogical tool, and how they implemented teaching through play practices with fidelity in their classrooms. Post-intervention findings suggest that while participating in workshop-style PLD successfully increased teachers’ knowledge about play pedagogies, it was participating in PLD that included practice-based coaching that positively influenced teacher behaviour and practices. These findings contribute to the growing international PLD literature identifying the value of more intensive PLD support over an extended period to ensure implementation fidelity of the complex teaching practices required of play pedagogy. PLD that combines workshop and coaching interventions can potentially support teachers to effectively implement play pedagogies and ensure the implementation of intentional teaching methods through both child and adult-guided play experiences.
Education, Primary, Active learning, Play, Teachers, In-service training, New Zealand