Date of Award

Spring 5-2012

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)

Department

Education & Educational Psychology

First Advisor

Karen A. Burke, CSJ, EdD

Second Advisor

Patricia Cosentino, EdD

Third Advisor

Laura Shea Doolan, EdD

Abstract

Children have a right to a childhood as well as an education that respects and supports their learning and growth in developmentally appropriate ways. One way to ensure that education is developmentally appropriate is through the use of play. Research supports the use of play as an educational methodology however as standards and mandates influence education, play is becoming an antiquated tool.

This research study examined the interrelatedness of kindergarten teachers’ philosophy, perceptions, and practices of play in the classroom through the use of a survey, interviews, and classroom observations, as well as a review of key district documents, such as websites, curriculum guides, and parent brochures. Kindergarten teachers (n = 35), from the northeast United States, responded to a researcher-created survey that examined teachers’ philosophy and perceptions of play in their classrooms. After data were collected from those surveys, a purposeful sample of teachers (n = 10) were interviewed to examine teacher philosophy and perception in greater depth. Finally, classroom observations of a purposeful sampling of teachers (n = 6) were conducted to compare teacher philosophy and perceptions about play with the actual practice of play in kindergarten classrooms.

Similar to the research, the teachers’ definitions of play as well as their philosophies were quite varied. Teacher philosophy, however, divided itself into two main categories: child-directed or teacher-directed. Teachers’ self-described philosophies reflected their approach in the classroom; however their actual practice of utilizing play was influenced by number of outside sources. These sources included: increased academic expectations by other teachers, administrators, and parents; their district’s kindergarten curriculum; as well as their personal expectations. These sources were a cause of teacher disconnects: a difference in the teachers’ philosophy compared with their actual practice of play in their classrooms.

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