By Michael Hilkemeijer
Previously I discussed the importance of learning through play and pointed out how digital technology in early childhood education can further enhance this. Despite this, play continues to be increasingly limited in early childhood classrooms (Lynch, 2015 as cited in Ta, 2021). In this session, I will explore the key barriers to play based learning in early years education and suggest recommendations based on existing research.
One of the main contributing factors to teachers not implementing play-based learning in early childhood education is the many different and conflicting perspectives and personal beliefs about play and how it makes an impact on early childhood pedagogy. Some teachers do think that play has a positive impact on learning, however, there are some that do not support the inclusion of play in early childhood education. This view is also held by parents as they see play as being mutually exclusive from learning.
This rejection of play-based learning pedagogy in early childhood education has been directly linked to their lack of experience with more progressive teaching methods. However, it is also due to teachers feeling judged and labeled by others who lack understanding of developmentally appropriate activities as being lazy.
A solution to this as suggested by Pyle and Bigelow (2014, as cited in Ta, 2021) is that in addition to planning play-based learning activities is for teachers to determine their role in children’s play and this will very much present challenges for you as a teacher when collaborating with others with different views and perspectives in play-based pedagogies.
Curriculum and Policy
Curriculum and policy also pose a hindrance to teachers implementing play-based pedagogies as research has indicated that there are some that feel constrained by academic expectations. Curricular emphasis on academics act as a major barrier for early childhood teachers because they feel pressured to focus on early learning activities that boost academic achievement.
Educational policies can also be conflicting, and this also can impede a teacher’s ability to implement play-based pedagogies in early childhood learning environments.
Lastly, research has highlighted issues and challenges in the assessment of play-based learning because it is “difficult to systematically track evidence in an environment that is often chaotic and uncontrolled” (Ta, 2022).
Ironically, the one issue or hindrance to the implementation of play-based pedagogies in early childhood education is the solution to this and the earlier challenges discussed, which is professional development. Despite this, there is a genuine need for more play based learning professional development opportunities in which educators discuss the value of play.
Play-based pedagogy is yet to be fully understood and applied by many teachers today and with the introduction of a new curriculum and the expectation to implement new pedagogical practices in early childhood education, teachers are finding it difficult to apply to play in a meaningful way because they lack the training to do so. Still, “it is imperative that teachers be given professional development opportunities where they can share their beliefs about play and conceptions of play-based pedagogy with others” (Ta, 2022).
Coincidently, this echoes that for the need for teachers’ professional development in the area of ICT competencies:
“New technologies require new teacher’s roles, new pedagogies, and new approaches to teaching. The successful integration of ICT into the classroom will depend on the ability of teachers to structure the learning environment in non-traditional ways, to merge new technology with new pedagogy, to develop socially active classrooms…”
(UNESCO, 2010, p. 83)
Digital play in the early years and technology integration in early childhood education is the same.
This online training for early childhood educators, however, is not about arming you as the teacher with research. It is, though, about delivering practical and immediately actionable advice on strategies and steps that you can implement and apply today, that are derived from research. They are researched based play-based pedagogy.
It will be throughout this course that you will be able to take a more active role in developing strategies to successfully implement play-based pedagogy in your early learning environment with digital technology in early childhood education, today.
So how will this course help you?
- You will be involved in setting the professional development agenda;
- You will be able to conduct it in your own working classrooms;
- You will be able to build on your existing knowledge about curriculum and practice;
- You will be given time and opportunities to experiment and reflect on new experiences and;
- The is course is based on relevant and specific topics or projects that YOU plan to implement in your own early learning classroom.
The lack of clarity surrounding how teachers should implement play-based pedagogies in early childhood classrooms continues to constitute as a key barrier today. This is despite play being an important dimension of early childhood education and care as it contributes to a child’s social, emotional, cognitive learning and motor development.