Preschool Teachers’ Conceptualizations and Uses of Play Across Eight Countries
Foerch, Daniela Fenu
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Increased emphasis on academics has led to play becoming a controversial and topical issue in the field of Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC). Although play has been extensively researched we still lack consensus on what play is and how play is actually implemented and used in ECEC classrooms. The present cross-cultural study aims at understanding how play is conceptualized and provided across eight different countries. The study investigates whether and how conceptualizations of play affect uses of play; whereas it also examines similarities and differences in conceptualizations and uses across countries. Results have revealed the existence of both universal and non-universal characteristics of play. Despite the existence of universal characteristics, however, variations in the extent to which they were mentioned across countries have been revealed. Differences were identified in terms of how early childhood educators act on their ideas about children’s play within early childhood programs. Various patterns of correlations between definitions and uses have been revealed. Some countries seem to be characterized by an ‘ethos of play,’ both in terms of how play is conceptualized and used, whereas others seem to struggle between offering a more child-initiated, play-based curriculum versus a more teacher-led approaches to instruction.