Educational Play: Theories, Perspectives, and Proposals

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Educational Play: Theory, Programs, & Perspectives


The following play program educational survey and observation details the educator and administrator perspectives on performance outcomes in four Virginia Beach schools. The use of play as an effective educational method is supported by the comprehensive literature review on the topic which discusses the major theories of Piaget, Erikson, and Vygotsky as the foundation for concluding how to best utilize play in the formal elementary education segment. The data provides a look into the primary factors driving play program success as well as hurdles to program effectiveness. Further research is needed to substantiate the solidification of play programs as empirically-supported components of successful education initiatives.

Insert Title Page1


Introduction: Literature Review4
Literature Review5

Issues and Considerations11
Data Analysis12

Group A16
Group B18
Group C19
Group D21

Discussion: Use and Limitations22


Table 1. Total Respondents Breakdown27
Table 2. Survey Race and Gender Demographic Breakdown27
Table 3. Top Suggested Improvements for Play Program Effectiveness27 Appendix 1. The Play Curriculum Teacher Questionnaire28

Introduction: Literature Review

In childhood education, the theory of play is of major importance to actualizing learning despite increasing administrator and educator focus on testing scores and performance outcomes. Theorists have posed a number of perspectives that address the importance and role of play in the primary education sector. Hymes (1981) contends that play is a solid foundation for teaching children as well as an insightful tool through which educators can accurately observe and assess student learning. Erikson’s (1950) theory of psychosocial development posits that play in not only helpful, but essential to childhood development. The psychologist states that play creates a safe space in which children can work out their conflicts. The imagination, when allowed to run free, facilitates self-exploration and autonomy. An environment can be deliberately designed to initiate play without personalizing the child’s engagement and interaction, thereby supporting freedom. Piaget (1962) expands play theory from the individual education to social interaction learning and development. Play and imitation become critical elements to learning and adapting to an external environment as the child learns about their world and self within this context. This hands-on involvement allows the child to experiment with symbols and self. According to Vygotsky (1978), play is also pertinent to developing the ability to defer immediate gratification as fantasy play assists the child in adapting to their circumstances and experiences through more mature means. For the purpose of this study, Piaget and Vygotsky’s theories of play will be used to evaluate the use of play in the primary education environment for self and social teaching; this will be achieved through a comprehensive review of current literature in conjunction with a play program survey to connect the theoretical foundation of play theory with the practical application of play in the classroom. Using four primary play programs in the Virginia Beach school district, the author examines play promotion and hindrance to outline avenues for improving the use of play in the elementary education environment.

Literature Review

The United States school systems have moved away from the integration of play in primary education despite the extensive theories and research supporting the importance and use of play to childhood education and development. Even recess has been reduced as administrator and educator focus has been forcibly shifted to core education activities and test score outcomes (Stokes-Guinan,...
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