Play and learning in educational settings

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1 Play and learning in educational settings EDUCATIONAL & CHILD PSYCHOLOGY VOLUME 26, NUMBER 2 Guest editors Pat Broadhead & Diny van der Aalsvoort

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3 Contents 4 About the contributors 5 Guest Editorial: Play and learning in educational settings Pat Broadhead & Diny van der Aalsvoort 9 Don t enter it s dangerous : Negotiations for power and exclusion in pre-school girls play interactions Ann-Carita Evaldsson & Britt Tellgren 19 Gendered discourses and practices in role play activities: A case study of young children in the English Foundation Stage Elizabeth Wood & Joanna Cook 31 Behavioural differences exhibited by children when practising a task under formal and playful conditions Karen McInnes, Justine Howard, Gareth E. Miles & Kevin Crowley 40 Play, Cognition and Self-Regulation: What exactly are children learning when they learn through play? David Whitebread, Penny Coltman, Helen Jameson & Rachel Lander 53 Observed classroom interaction processes between pre-school teachers and children: Results of a video study during free-play time in German pre-schools Anke König 66 Play, narrative and learning in education: A biocultural perspective Pam Jarvis 77 Conceptualising progression in the pedagogy of Play and Sustained Shared Thinking in early childhood education: A Vygotskian perspective Iram Siraj-Blatchford Educational & Child Psychology Vol. 26 No. 2 3 The British Psychological Society, 2009

4 About the contributors Pat Broadhead, PhD, is Professor of Playful Learning at Leeds Metropolitan University. Penny Coltman is Lecturer Director of the Early Years & Primary PGCE, Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge. Joanna Cook is a Reception class teacher in a Primary School. Kevin Crowley, PhD, is a Principal Lecturer in Psychology, Faculty of Humanities and Social Science, University of Glamorgan. Ann-Carita Evaldsson, PhD, is a Professor at the Department of Education, Uppsala University. Justine Howard, PhD, is a Senior Lecturer and Programme Director at the Centre for Child Research, Swansea University. Helen Jameson is an early years teacher and MPhil student, Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge. Pam Jarvis, PhD, Early Years Professional Status Academic Programme Co-ordinator Early Years and Children s Agenda, Teaching, Health and Care Sector. Anke König, PhD, is Professor of Early Childhood Education at the University of Vechta. Rachel Lander is an ex-mphil student in Psychology and Education, Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge and currently an Assistant Psychologist. Karen McInnes is a doctoral student and tutor in Psychology, Faculty of Humanities and Social Science, University of Glamorgan. Gareth E. Miles, PhD, is a Lecturer in Psychology, Faculty of Humanities and Social Science, University of Glamorgan. Iram Siraj-Blatchford, PhD, is Professor of Early Childhood Education, Institute of Education, University of London. Britt Tellgren, PhD, is Lecturer In Education at the Department of Education, Örebro University. Diny van der Aalsvoort, PhD, is Professor of Play at University of Applied Sciences Utrecht. David Whitebread, PhD, is Senior lecturer in Psychology and Education, Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge. Elizabeth Wood, PhD, is Professor of Education, School of Education and Lifelong Learning at the University of Exeter. 4 Educational & Child Psychology Vol. 26 No. 2 The British Psychological Society, 2009

5 Guest Editorial: Play and learning in educational settings Pat Broadhead & Diny van der Aalsvoort THIS ISSUE OF Educational & Child Psychology explores play and learning within educational settings. Whilst play has always been viewed as central to learning, there is very little empirical work available to illustrate and justify this position, even though the view is globally held; this issue hopes to go some way towards redressing this imbalance. The majority of the contributions focus on the early years between 3 and 8 but one contribution focuses on aspects of play, through narrative experiences in older, secondary school children illustrating that play is not only the domain of young children. The editors define educational settings as formal places such as preschools and school classrooms, where professionals provide play opportunities within a broader context of educational experiences and learning, albeit perhaps to differing degrees, and where they also respond to children s self-initiated play though a range of pedagogical strategies. We acknowledge that there are many informal spaces where play occurs, but this was not the focus of the publication. Our understandings of play are influenced by time and place depending on prevailing ideological, socio-cultural and economic influences. These influences shape children s experience of play, and also the range of skills, knowledge and experiences they bring into their educational settings as a basis for their playful encounters; these aspects are explored within the contributions to this special edition. Teachers respond from their own positions of understanding in relation to play and playful learning. These pedagogical decisions shape the child s opportunities and experiences of play and subsequently also influence their learning experiences, for better or for worse. With all this in mind, we invited European colleagues to contribute either recent research studies or conceptualisations of play in order to take forward the debate about play and learning in educational settings. The relative emphasis on either the child s experiences of playful learning or the adult s pedagogies differ across the respective papers but together, they represent a solid engagement with these complementary dimensions and, we hope, a key contribution to the debates. Readers will note that the contributing papers take a range of approaches to the study and understanding of playful learning in educational settings. The majority of contributions are qualitative, using deep immersions and rich descriptions of actions and interactions from both adults and children. But quantitative methodologies still have a key part to play and are not overlooked across the contributors. Our contributors draw from an interesting range of disciplines. They represent psychological perspectives on playful learning and biocultural approaches a relatively newly emerging field that some find contentious in its engagement with evolutionary perspectives. Some papers draw on feminist poststructural theories and others take an ethnographic approach. Whilst every paper draws on related theoretical perspectives and every paper does indeed draw to some extent on empirical work, the balance varies depending on what the authors are seeking to achieve within their papers in pursuit of a deeper understanding of this complex topic. In the first paper, Evaldsson and Tellgren seek a deeper understanding of the commu- Educational & Child Psychology Vol. 26 No. 2 5 The British Psychological Society, 2009

6 Pat Broadhead & Diny van der Aalsvoort nicative competencies involved in the collective processes of social exclusion in girls play. They also illustrate how these processes become an integral part of children s emerging peer culture and their place in the adult world. Their research approach has combined traditional ethnographic observations with analysis of talk-in-interaction. The girls display complex communicative competencies (rejections of request for access, oppositions, ignorance, justifications, and directives). In addition the girls creatively draw on cultural resources provided by the organization of the play activity. In so doing, the girls creatively appropriate educational agendas and institutional rules of conduct, creating a locally shared peer culture, through appropriation and resistance both to peers and to adult rules (pedagogies), in the midst of play episodes. Focussing also on aspects of gender in play, Wood and Cook draw on contemporary feminist post-structural theories to explore gendered discourses and practices in role play, in a small-scale case study of four children (age 4 to 5 years) in the English Foundation Stage (age birth to 5 years). Non-participant observations of classroombased role play activities were carried out over four months, incorporating a focus on progression and continuity in play. This was followed by a reflective re-viewing and analysis of the data by the two authors in order to provoke critical engagement with the gendered relationships and meanings in children s play. The findings confirm that children s gendered identities are related to their emerging understandings of femininities and masculinities, and the complex ways in which these are represented and performed in their social and cultural worlds. As noted above in Evaldsson and Tellgren s paper, power and identity are established through dynamic social actions and interactions, humour, teasing, language and symbolic transformations, as children weave across real/not real boundaries. McInnes, Howard, Miles and Crowley have, innovatively, elicited children s definitions of play as a basis for their study. Their research aimed to create both formal and playful practice conditions to demonstrate the links between playfulness and learning. They carried out analysis of videotaped observations to study the children s behaviours in these contrasting conditions. Their findings indicated behavioural differences according to whether children participated in playful or formal practice conditions. Children in the playful condition exhibited more fluent and purposeful problem solving behaviours than children in the formal, teacher-directed condition. The findings provide support for a cognitive model of playfulness based on a behavioural threshold and fluency theory of play. Using children s perceptions of play assists practitioners in creating and sustaining playful environments. Whitebread, Coltman, Jameson and Lander explored the particular aspects of learning which might be supported through playful activity. They report here on three studies which have explored this relationship one is observational and two are experimental. Evidence from theirs and other studies supports the view that play, and particularly pretence or symbolic play, which might be with objects or other children, is particularly significant in its contribution to the development of children as metacognitively skilful, self-regulated learners. Evidence from the observational study indicated that child-initiated playful activities, in small groups without adult supervision, supported the greatest proportion of selfregulatory behaviours. The experimental studies suggested that the experience of the play condition was particularly effective in preparing the children for effortful, problem-solving or creative tasks which require a high level of metacognitive and self-regulatory skill. König presents research results from a video study on play and structured activities in German pre-schools. The research provides an analysis of how individual teachers interact with children, both individ- 6 Educational & Child Psychology Vol. 26 No. 2

7 Guest Editorial ually and in groups. This video study is orientated on social constructivist theories and rooted in empirical research results. The focus lies on constructs of quality in preschools using teacher-pupil interaction as a starting point for conceptualising a stimulating learning environment. Video data of teachers (N=61) was gathered in this field study. The teacher-pupil interactions captured on film were analysed using microanalysis techniques. The results suggest that these pre-school teachers have a poorly developed understanding of how children can be meaningfully engaged in a stimulating educational setting. The findings also show how play and structured activities are offered to the children in pre-school. In her paper Jarvis claims that a substantial body of research suggests that both teachers and students frequently find teaching and learning within the confines of the English National Curriculum a frustrating and alienating experience. Interviews were undertaken in five English secondary schools to explore aspects of both teacher and student constructions of the teaching and learning process. The resulting thematically analysed data supported proposals of impoverished learning. It is proposed in the paper that human beings (in this case young people in a formal learning environment the school) should be viewed as storying animals who make sense of their world through cohesive narratives within Wittgensteinian language games via collaborative play and discovery activities. Within this model of teaching-learning, educators might more readily recognise the problems that emerge for learners and for themselves when they rely heavily upon transmission teaching practices. Finally, Siraj-Blatchford s paper is concerned with the pedagogies applied in supporting learning through children s play. The paper is framed outside mainstream discourses on the nature of play. The development of the paper represents one stage in a continuing effort to develop a better understanding of sustained shared thinking in early childhood education and focuses on the educational potential of shared playful activities. Taking a psychological perspective, the paper begins with an account of sustained shared thinking presenting it as a pedagogical concept that was first identified in a large-scale, mixedmethod, but essentially educational effectiveness study. Following this a consideration of the nature and processes of learning and development is offered. It is argued that popular accounts of a fundamental difference in the perspectives of Piaget and Vygotsky have distracted educational attention from the most important legacy that they have left to early childhood education; the notion of emergent development. The paper goes on to identify pedagogic progression in the early years as an educational response to and an engagement with the most commonly observed, evidence based developmental trajectories of young children as they learn through play. Methodological issues From the perspective of methodology we draw attention to the different approaches that are represented in this special issue. McInnes et al. and Whitebread et al. have utilised experimental approaches to clarify the meaning of play in relation to learning in educational settings. Evaldsson and Tellgren, and Wood and Cook seek to better understand the child s world by looking at the richness of social interactions and the patterns that emerge when analyzing discourse between children carefully. The descriptive approaches of König and Jarvis add to the former methodologies as they try to grasp the meaning of what they see happening as teachers become involved with children at play and for young people in transmissive learning modes. All of the approaches have their own virtues and shortcomings. At the same time they allow specific insights in classroom settings with regard to the meaning of play for adults and for children. The authors who presented research findings have all accounted for their method- Educational & Child Psychology Vol. 26 No. 2 7

8 Pat Broadhead & Diny van der Aalsvoort ology. In doing so they move the theme of play forward in the strengthening of theories about the meaning of play and its relationship with learning. Theoretical considerations As we mentioned above, our understandings of play are influenced by time and place. When children play as an expression of ongoing self determined activity that stimulates learning experiences, the position of teachers becomes crucial in deciding when, where and why space for play is required. The meaning of a pedagogy of play, therefore, seems obvious. Siraj-Blatchford describes why this pedagogy is necessary to guide children s thinking. Drawing upon research findings about child care quality indicators she suggests that the continuum between play and learning can include playful activities that are guided by pedagogical decision making on the part of the child care teachers/pre-school teachers. From the perspective of a transactional model of child development we also stress the reciprocal relationship between the child as a player and the professional adult as a pedagogue. In particular the findings of both McInnes and her colleagues and Jarvis reveal that play in educational settings is a two-way activity in which both professional and child define when and how play is play. Only in sharing the definition of play can playful learning take place. Guest Editors Professor Pat Broadhead, PhD Professor of Playful Learning, Leeds Metropolitan University, England. Professor Diny van der Aalsvoort, PhD Hogeschool Utrecht, University of Applied Sciences, The Netherlands. 8 Educational & Child Psychology Vol. 26 No. 2

9 Don t enter it s dangerous : Negotiations for power and exclusion in pre-school girls play interactions Ann-Carita Evaldsson & Britt Tellgren Instead of focussing on the implications of children s play for individual development, this study explores children s play participation and their appropriation of cultural resources, as collective cultural productions. In short, we are interested in the communicative competencies involved in the collective processes of social exclusion in girls play, and how these processes are part of children s emerging peer culture and their place in the adult world. Data are drawn from ethnographic research in children s peer groups in a pre-school setting in Sweden. The approach taken combines ethnography with studies of talkin-interaction. As demonstrated the girls in foci display complex communicative competencies (rejections of request for access, oppositions, ignorance, justifications, directives). In addition, the girls creatively draw on cultural resources provided by the organization of the play activity (pretend characters, play-script, etc.) to build social hierarchies, strengthen alignments of power, claim authoritative stances, casting some peer group members into more subordinate positions and excluding others. In so doing, the girls creatively appropriate educational agendas and institutional rules of conduct, creating a locally shared peer culture, through appropriation and resistance, in the midst of play episodes. Keywords: pre-school girls, play, situated activity, social exclusion, cultural learning, ethnography, talk-in-interaction. IN THIS STUDY, particular attention will be given to the empirical study of play as social action with a focus on pre-school girls everyday play participation in situated activities (Goffman, 1961). The study of play as situated activities implies a shift in focus from the function of children s play for individual development the pre-occupation of developmentally oriented studies of play to how children collectively contribute to the organization of play, generating qualitatively different versions and experiences through their everyday play participation (see Corsaro, 2005; Evaldsson & Corsaro, 1998; Goodwin, 1990, 2006). In contrast to the romantized view of play as a free activity, outside ordinary life, not serious, but at the same time absorbing players (Opie & Opie, 1969; Piaget, 1962) studies of children s play interaction demonstrate that pre-school children are overtly playful, risky, assertive and even threatening, as they protect their interactive space from intruders and organize ongoing joint play activities (Björck-Willén, 2007; Cromdal, 2001, 2004; Danby & Baker, 1998; Corsaro & Rizzo, 1990; Goodwin, 1990, 1993; Kyratzis, Marx & Wade 2001; Sheldon 1996). The speech activities explored are important because they demonstrate the complexities and ambiguities in children s relationships with each other and adults, and that power, status and social exclusion are accomplished along with social inclusion and solidarity in pre-school children s play. Although studies provide important information, we still know relatively little about the collective processes and meaning of social exclusion in children s play, and how those orders children accomplish in play are related to the adult world and the educational setting at large. For the present study, data are drawn from an ethnographic research combined with video recordings of pre-school Educational & Child Psychology Vol. 26 No. 2 9 The British Psychological Society, 2009

10 Ann-Carita Evaldsson & Britt Tellgren children s everyday play interaction in a preschool setting in Sweden. In foci are the communicative competencies a group of pre-school girls display as they collaboratively negotiate social exclusion. More specifically, we investigate the multiple interactive and cultural resources used by both the girls excluding others from play and the girls seeking to resist social exclusion. Of interest are also the cultural resources the girls deploy in their protection of play space, for getting around educational agendas, in preschool in Sweden, that everyone can join (Löfdahl & Hägglund, 2006). As will be shown institutional rules of conduct such as everyone can join along with individual characteristics such as age and size were creatively appropriated in the midst of the children s play interactions and used for different practical purposes. In line with Corsaro (2005, see also Evaldsson & Corsaro, 1998) this process of creative appropriations is seen as interpretive reproduction. As will be shown, such appropriation is creative in that it both colludes with and transgresses educational agendas and institutional norms of conduct, and simultaneously contributes to the production and extension of the children s social worlds. By exploring how social exclusion is accomplished within situated action in children s ongoing play activities we will demonstrate the need to go beyond essentialist accounts of learning as individual development that consistently reappears in the literature, attributing individual, and gender differentiated behaviours to children and seeing their play as separate from the adult word. This does not mean that we are uninterested in change and learning. However, instead of focussing on the function of play for individual development we are interested in learning as situated (Lave & Wenger, 1991) in local cultures and how interpersonal processes are collectively produced and change over time and across place in childhood. Research on access and social exclusion in play Several researchers have shown that gaining access is difficult in pre-school settings since children tend to protect shared space and objects and ongoing play from the multiple possibilities of disruption and intrusion of other children (Björck-Willén, 2007; Danby & Baker, 1998; Cromdal 2001, 2004; Corsaro, 1979, 1986; Corsaro & Rizzo, 1990; Löfdahl & Hägglund, 2006; Sheldon, 1996; Tellgren, 2004; Whalen, 1995). In particular Corsaro (1979, 1986, 2005) has shown that gaining access to play groups and maintaining control over shared activities involve complex and elaborate access strategies. In his classic work on children s access rituals Corsaro (1979) identified 15 access strategies ranging from non-verbal (i.e. non-verbal entry, producing variant of ongoing behaviour, disruptive entry, encirclement) to verbal strategies (making claim on an area or object, request for access, questioning participants, reference to adult authority, offering of object, greeting, reference to affiliation, aid from non-participant, accepting invitation, suggest other activity, reference to individual characteristic). It was found that the children used a multiple of non-verbal and verbal strategies, starting with the non-verbal strategies that involved a low risk of rejection, as the first attempts often were denied. The non-verbal strategy of producing a variant of the ongoing behaviour of the participants involved in play was the most successful strategy for gaining access. More recent discourse analytic work by Cromdal (2001), Corsaro and Rizzo (1990), Sheldon (1996), Danby and Baker (1998) and Whalen (1995) has drawn attention to the importance of investigating the collaborative nature of play entry. Here multifunctional aspects of play entry including social exclusion are analyzed, providing an understanding of the collaboration between the child seeking access and the children protecting their ongoing play. For example in his work on children s procedures for entering play activities in a bilingual 10 Educational & Child Psychology Vol. 26 No. 2

11 Don t enter it s dangerous (English-Swedish) school setting Cromdal (2001) demonstrates the role of bilingualism as a resource for children s play entry and that bilingual displays are used for various practical purposes such as forming alliances, building oppositions and preventing others from participation (see also Björck-Willén, 2007). In addition, Sheldon (1996) has shown how pre-school girls participate in extended access disputes and verbally accomplish social exclusion in play. In keeping a third girl out of a play activity, the girls used a range of verbal resources such as mitigators, indirectness, reframings, token agreements, dramatic imagery, etc., that enabled them to confront others without being confrontational. Sheldon (1996, p.58) describes the techniques used by the girls as double-voice discourse, which has an overlay of mitigation and has the effect of softening rather than escalating discord. Sheldon s work is interesting as it demonstrates that pre-school girls use powerful language to actively enforce complex social hierarchies (see also Goodwin, 1993; Griswold, 2007; Kyratzis & Guo, 1996). These descriptions are important as they underscore that empirical work based on play as social action provides insights into the multiple meaning of play for children and language as having a role in children s cultural production. Ethnography combined with recordings The integrated long-term ethnographic studies of children s everyday peer activities combined with methodologies for studying talk-in-interactions have influenced the method used in this study (Evaldsson, 2004; Goodwin, 1990, 2006; Kyratzis, 2004). Video recordings (20 hours) of children s everyday play activities were collected by the second author, as part of a PhD study, during a period of five months in a Swedish preschool setting (Tellgren, 2004). An emphasis on play as a situated activity underscores the importance of video recordings in order to capture the interactional and cultural recourses that children draw upon in their play interactions (Evaldsson, 2004; Goodwin, 2006). As will be demonstrated, the girls proficiency in aligning to one another s actions provides a rich resource base on which to organize participation and enact power in the midst of play interaction. At the same time, multiple cultural resources (concerning personal and social standards) are instantiated and mediated through ethnographically observable peer group activities. Data, play group and setting It was found that processes of social exclusion were recurrently initiated among the oldest girls in the pre-school setting. For the present analysis extracts from play episodes in the girl group involving social exclusion were selected. The girls in the study are Fia (age 4.5), Nilla (age 4), Sara (age 5), Tina (age 5), Mia (age 5), Marie (age 4), Linn (age 4), Isa (age 4). Seventeen children (10 girls and seven boys), 2 to 5 years of age attended the pre-school setting in this study. The pre-school was located in a suburban area in Sweden, where most families were indigenous Swedes with working-class backgrounds. The Swedish pre-school adheres to a national curriculum based on democratic values of gender equality and equity. In this context children s play activities are constructed as educative and a context for children s learning and development (compare with Danby, 1996; not in the references Cobb-Moore, Danby & Farrell, 2008). In their daily practices, the teachers encouraged and supported children s play participation, which was articulated in rules such as everyone can join and children s rights to play on their own. The fact that the teachers usually sanctioned all forms of exclusion was in conflict with the recurrent social processes of social exclusion among the pre-school girls in foci. As will be shown the girls had developed strategies for getting around adult conventional rules in preschool that everyone can join (compare with Löfdahl & Hägglund, 2006). Educational & Child Psychology Vol. 26 No. 2 11

12 Ann-Carita Evaldsson & Britt Tellgren Managing social exclusion in play entry As noted in previous research gaining access is difficult in pre-school settings as children actively protect their play from intruders (see Björck-Willén, 2007; Cromdal, 2001; Corsaro & Rizzo, 1990; Sheldon, 1996; Danby & Baker 1998). The verbal request can I join was frequently used among the children as an access strategy in the bidding of entry. Similar as Cromdal (2001, p.522) notes in his study, producing such minimal entry bids could be seen as a routine-like property in the girls play. The teachers also supported the children to use the verbal request can I join?. As will be shown in the first episode (Ex. 1a to Ex. 1b), where two girls (Nilla and Marie) protect their play from a third girl (Sara), a common strategy were to verbally reject the request for participation can I join? by creating a sense of a shared activity and shared interactive play space. Verbal rejection of request for access and social oppositions The following episode starts as Sara asks for permission to join ongoing doll-play with two other girls Nilla and Marie. It is one of several longer negotiations of entry involving serious disagreements that occurred in the girls group. As will be shown, the girl bidding for entry does not accept the verbal rejection of request for access. Instead, the rejections are responded to by a series of resistance moves. The following transcription conventions apply: abrupt cut-off; o:: prolonging of sound; nine stressed word, NO high pitch; no low pitch; <we want> high speed; hh laughter; [yeah] overlapping speech; = contiguous utterances; (.) micro-pause; rising and falling in intonation; (xx xx) nontranscribable segment of talk; ((laughs)) non-speech activity (see Sacks, Schegloff & Jefferson, 1974). The English translations in italics are as close as possible to the Swedish verbatim records. All names are fictional. Exc. 1a 01 Sara can I join? ((stands in the doorway into the room)) 02 Nilla but we are here 03 Sara yeah but I (.) ((enter the room)) everyone can join 04 Marie ((turns to Sara))(xxx) we want to play on our own 05 Nilla ((fetches a doll s pram))<we want to be on our own> 06 Sara everyone can actually join 07 Marie NO:: now we want to play on our own As shown the use of an exclusive we in the rejection of the request for access invokes a positive category affiliation for the two girls (Nilla and Marie) involved in the play (line 2) and contrasts with the use of the single pronoun I in Sara s request (line 1). As Corsaro (1979) demonstrates verbal request for access is a high risk-strategy, which most often result in rejection by the play participants. The high risk of being refuted is also noticed by Sara, who justifies her request by invoking the institutional adult-based rule that everyone can join (line 3). However, Sara s bid for entry is refuted by Marie who refers to the right to play on her own (line 4). The argument that Marie invokes to assign authority is related to a contrasting institutional rule that sees children has having the right to play on their own. The second girl, Nilla aligns to Marie s justification and recycles the argument (line 5). The alignment is strengthened in terms of both verbal and spatial proximity, as the two girls are standing close to each other, and have access to the equivalent play materials. Thereby the two girls Marie and Nilla construct a social organization of twoagainst-one, which function to strengthen Sara s negative category affiliation as an intruder. The girls actions are immediately opposed by Sara, who recycles the format in her prior argument, everyone can actually join (line 6). The justification is expanded with the authoritative stances actually, presupposing the truth of the claim, which 12 Educational & Child Psychology Vol. 26 No. 2

13 Don t enter it s dangerous positions Sara as possessing a specialized knowledge of the institutional rules. However, Sara s attempts to strengthen her own power and justify her inclusion in the play, by utilizing adult formulated rules (Maynard, 1985), is immediately opposed. Marie responds with a prosodically marked expression of polarity (NO::) that works to highlight the other girl s oppositional stance (line 7). She then justifies her opposition now we want to play on our own. In saying this, Marie for the second time strategically invokes the adult formulated rule to legitimate their right to play on their own. The above example demonstrates that the girls align with each other s version to strengthen solidarity along with social relations of power in play (see Griswold, 2007; Sheldon, 1996, p.63). Within the process of social exclusion, the girls draw upon justificatory devices that invoke adult-formulated rules in order to increase their own power (Maynard, 1985) and strategically support their own interactional interests and positions, or argue for a particular version or course of action (Cobb-Moore, Danby & Farrell, 2008). Non-Verbal ignorance of request for access In the continuation of the previous extract, there is an escalation of the girls conflict starting when Sara forcefully grabs Marie s arm (Exc. 1b, line 10). Since she does this as a way of responding to the other girls rejection of her play entry, instead of complying with it, she displays her oppositional stance against the two girls demand to play on their own. By addressing Marie with you know that, Sara positions herself as possessing the right to teach the other girls to understand better what is expected of them. Simultaneously, as she addresses Marie, she switches into a softer voice with a lower pitch. As shown in the subsequent turns, Sara s contrasting actions accomplish rather diverse interactional work (compare with Cromdal, 2001). Exc.1b 10 Sara ((grabs Marie s arm))yeah everyone can join (.) Marie 11 you know that 12 Nilla STOP:: don t hold her ((releases Marie)) then- (.) then you 13 might strangle her ((leaves the room)) 14 Linn ((enters the room)) 15 Marie ((looks at BT)) < Britt is here > 16 Sara no she can no::t ((looks for Nilla)) 17 Linn ((leaves the room)) yeah:: 18 Sara no::(looks in the girls direction))(1) ugly 19 Marie ((sits at the table stirring freneticly in a saucepan)) 20 Sara everyone can play ((looks at Marie)) 21 Marie ((looks down, stirring in the 22 saucepan, looks up)) we don t have any food ((shakes her head)) to you 23 Sara ((grabs Maries sweater))(.) I might 24 not (.) wa:nt any foo:d ((pushes Marie)) 25 Marie ((covers her face with her hand and leaves the room)) 26 Sara I ll tell the teacher The physical action set up by the beginning of Sara s turn in line 10 intensifies and escalates the social opposition between Sara and the other two girls, which is evidenced by Nilla s subsequent directive stop and her statement that Sara might strangle Marie (line 13). In contrast to Nilla s previous turn, where she overtly opposed Sara s claim for access, her current statement disqualifies Sara s resistance moves, casting her opposition as irrelevant. Although Nilla succeeds in forcing Sara to release Marie, she just leaves the room (line 13). One possible interpretation is that Nilla s account, which is directly addressed to Sara, may display an attempt to close the dispute. However, if we take a closer look at the girls response work the oppositional stances are more elaborated that is, they are simultaneously escalated and downplayed in a step-by-step fashion. In response to Sara s aggravated moves the two girls (Nilla and Marie) orient Educational & Child Psychology Vol. 26 No. 2 13

14 Ann-Carita Evaldsson & Britt Tellgren towards less confrontational verbal strategies for managing social exclusion. Nilla responds to Sara s repeated access attempts, by withdrawal from the actual play space (lines 13, 17). If we look at the other girl, Marie, she makes use of the resources of pretend play to display her objection against Sara s bid for entry (lines 19, 21 22). Marie postpones Sara s participation within the logic of the pretend frame, referring to that we don t have any food left (lines 21 22). The tactic used by Marie is an example of what Sheldon (1996, 58) calls double-voice discourse, which has an overlay of mitigation and has the effect of softening rather than escalating discord. It is a sophisticated use of verbal and non-verbal resources to pursue her own agenda without disrupting the social fabric of the doll-play, resulting in Sara being excluded. However, these moves are not understood by Sara as an attempt to close the dispute, but as an adversarial form of interaction as displayed through her objections, recycling of the institutional rules and references to the teacher (lines 16, 18, 20, 23, 24). As Sheldon (1996) also demonstrates in her study of American White middle-class pre-school girls play, nonverbal ignorance of request for access is commonly understood by girls as a strategy to exclude non-participants from play. Negotiating exclusion within role play frame Let us now turn to another episode involving more complex patterns of collaboration. As will be shown social exclusion was not only accomplished in play entry but also emerged in ongoing play within role play frame, and was embedded in the play theme and in the fiction (see Sheldon, 1996). In the following, we analyse two different episodes where the girls are involved in family play, acting as if the family members were the cat-mother and cat-sisters. As will be shown the structure of the play activity provides a pattern for the development of sophisticated processes of social exclusion. It is, as Sheldon (1996) demonstrates, the social organisation of the play activity (i.e. play characters, play script, etc.) that provides the girls with resources to define a player s status as a ratified participant or as a non-ratified participant in the play. In this process the players draw on cultural resources from the social world outside, such as age and size, as well. Postponing exclusion within the frame of pretend play The following episode takes place in the doll room. The characters of cats in a family, with a cat-mother (Linn) and three cat-sisters (Mia, Tina, Sara) are assigned to all the girls in the play. The episode starts with that the youngest cat sister (Sara) asks the cat mother (Linn), to help her in line 1. In what follows Mia, the oldest cat-sister, controls Linn s involvement in the play and establishes a process within the pretend frame for excluding Linn. Exc. 2a 1 Sara mummy, mummy help ((approaches Linn)) 3 Linn but (.) what is i:t? 3 Mia ((comes crawling and pretends as if 4 she eats up Linn)) now you re dead and now you ((points at Tina)) and 5 I and she ((points at Sara)) are 6 friends (.) all three are friends 7 Tina no not quite yet ((puts her socks up)) 8 Mia no soon 9 Sara ((to Linn)) you re dead 10 Tina now now you chased us ((to Sara)) 11 Mia now (1s) ready steady go ((Mia and Tina crawl away)) 12 Sara never ((turns away, shakes her head)) NE:VER 13 Tina what (.) never she says (2s) but (.) you were a little-you chased us 14 Sara <okay> (1s) but then only me and 15 you can be cats ((chase the others)) 16 Linn ((rests in the bed for a while, then 17 leaves the room, stamping her feet)) In response to Sara s cry for help in line 1, Mia the oldest cat-sister approaches Linn the cat mother and pretends to eat her up. 14 Educational & Child Psychology Vol. 26 No. 2

15 Don t enter it s dangerous Then Mia tells her that she is dead (lines 3 5). In the next step she makes her own pretend character and the relationship between the other characters relevant all three are friends (lines 4 6), also within the logic of the pretend frame. By using the exclusive we and portraying her and the other two girls as friends, Mia solidifies her alliance with the other two play characters, Tina and Sara. The others align to Mia s version of the play script (lines 7 9) and establish a social organization of three against one, where three of the girls in play position themselves as friends while one girl, Linn, is not taken into account. In what follows Tina introduces a renegotiated playscript in which one of the three girls, Sara, is forced into the character of a wild cat which the other two (Mia and Tina) avoid by running away (lines 10 15). By giving Linn the character as a dead cat the other girls postpones Linn s participation in the play, without entirely refuting her. Thereby, the dead cat is given a future possibility to participate in the play not yet realized but one that is still within the imaginative play framework. However, the character given to Linn is a rather non-existent play character, leaving Linn alone in the room on the bed (lines 16 17). Renegotiating play characters and justifying exclusion In what follows in the continuation of the previous extract Linn makes several attempts to change her participation status in the play. When the sequence begins the two cat sisters (Tina and Mia) have captured the wild cat (Sara) and put her in a cage (lines 21 22). Parallel to this, Linn has left her bed and circles around the others and sits down close to where the girls are playing. However, without Linn having said anything Tina justifies her own actions and tells Linn to not enter the room (lines 24 27). Exc. 2b 21 Tina ((to Sara)) but the two of us had 22 caught you (.) but then tomorrow we opened ((closes gate)) 23 Sara let s say that I was very quiet, that I was very good 24 Tina we have to make a cake ((to Linn)) 25 you can t enter it s very dangerous >we are Kling and Klang< and you 26 can t enter because this cat is very 27 dangerous ((Linn stands up)) 28 Linn shall I prepare tea for you 29 Tina don t enter it s really dangerous 30 Sara if someone enters then I ll be very angry 31 Tina Yeah I told you so ((to Linn)) 32 Sara no (.) I wasn t angry with you 33 Tina no because we were nice to you In the above exchange Tina provides the justification for Linn s exclusion in the dollroom by stating, you can t enter because it s very dangerous (lines 24 25). By this reasoning, it would seem that Tina protects Linn from facing the dangers and the fears from the adult world (see Corsaro, 1986, 2005; Löfdahl, 2005). However, as shown in the example children not only learn to deal with concerns like facing dangers in their play but also draw on these concerns to support their own interactional interests and positions. Here, Tina, uses children s concerns of facing danger to achieve authority and counter Linn s request to participate in the approach-avoidance play (Corsaro, 2005). Without disrupting the ongoing play Tina then introduces two new pretend characters, Kling and Klang, the names of the two policemen in the story about Pippi Long-stocking, for herself and for Mia (lines 25 26). The pretend characters of two policemen function to position Tina and Mia as the most powerful participants in the play. Tina s plans include Sara as a wild cat, who is kept in a cage, while Linn s bid for participation in the play is still ignored. Tina s response does not appear to satisfy Linn who instead tries to get herself Educational & Child Psychology Vol. 26 No. 2 15

16 Ann-Carita Evaldsson & Britt Tellgren accepted and visible in the girls play by offering to prepare tea (line 28). Yet Tina, who is in control of the play agenda is not persuaded, and counters by recycling the format in her prior argument don t enter it s really dangerous (line 29). The recycling is elaborated with the word really (Sw. ju ), which intensify and provide the local topic of facing of dangers with greater validity. Once again Tina postpones Linn s participation in her play script, without entirely refusing her to participate, keeping the cat (Linn) a possibility to participate later in the play. The ways Tina draws on cultural resources such as the renegotiation of play characters and play script to justify the social exclusion of Linn, has similarities with the tactic used by Marie in example 1b, which was referred to as a form of double-voicing (Sheldon, 1996). Through the renegotiatons of play characters and play script Tina manages to soften disagreements and mask the exclusion of Linn. This in turn makes it more difficult for Linn to counter Tina s directives. If Linn were to contest it would not only question the stance taken, but also Tina s position of authority, maintained through her pretend characters (oldest catsister, hunter, policeman) in the play. As demonstrated the pretend frame of play itself allows participants both accomplishing exclusion and social hierarchies as well as soliciting support, seeking affiliation and strengthening alliances. Referring to individual characteristics and invoking powerful positions As shown, so far, Linn s participation status as a participant in the pretend play is postponed and remains unsolved for the moment. Linn is still ignored and cast as a peripheral member of the play and continues to play off stage. In the continuation of the episode Linn returns to the room where the three girls are playing, now requesting an explanation for why she cannot join (line 41). The utterance why can t I join can be interpreted as a metacommentary of the other girls play behavior, attributing blame or responsibility to the others for excluding her from their play, indicating that the issue of social exclusion has to be explained and accounted for. Exc. 2c 41 Linn why can t I join (.) why can t I join? 42 Tina well cause it s too scary (.) if you fall 43 down you can hurt yourself 44 Mia yeah 45 Sara we are grown ups you are only four years 46 Tina I m so many years ((demonstrates with her fingers)) 47 Sara yeah: cause we re only five 48 Linn ((leaves the room running)) In saying that Linn cannot participate because its too scary and that you can hurt yourself (lines 42 43), Tina takes the role of a protector who protects Linn from facing dangers. In so doing Tina gives voice to and takes up the institutional identity of a preschool teacher using a genre associated with adult authorities, which care for children. The role of the protector includes the rights and responsibilities not only to tell other children what to do, but also to define play characters and manipulate the play script. Tina s accounts, therefore, position herself as an authority in the play that is able to direct the others without moving out of the pretend frame (Griswold, 2007). Ultimately, Sara, who has previously been part of the audience, steps outside the play frame and elaborates Tina s argument by making a reference to age we are grown ups you are only four years (line 45), describing Linn s need of protection as a display of being a minor. Although age is not explicit as a category in Tina s prior talk, it is available as part of the sequential environment, belonging to the frame of reference for the categorization of Linn as someone who needs protection. The other girls demonstrate their orientation to Tina as an authority in the play by aligning to her version, elaborating on her suggestions and obeying her orders (lines 44 47). The girls 16 Educational & Child Psychology Vol. 26 No. 2

17 Don t enter it s dangerous collaborative actions along with the reference to age cast Linn as not having equal status and as being powerless. As Danby and Baker (1998) note age and size are visible characteristics of pre-school aged children and being younger and smaller is usually associated with being less powerful. As shown the reference to age makes it difficult for Linn, who is the youngest girl in the play group, to refute the arguments and is effective in getting her to give up her bids for entry (line 48). Conclusions and discussion In this article we have stressed the importance of viewing children s play as situated activities that are collaboratively produced and articulated with features of the interwoven local cultures that make up the children s social worlds (Evaldsson & Corsaro, 1998). These pre-school girls creatively appropriate multiple interactional and cultural resources provided by the turn structure of the play activity. They transform the activity by: (a) controlling the play boundaries; (b) deciding on and (re)negotiating pretend characters; (c) (re)defining the play agenda; and (d) shifting between the pretend and nonpretend play frames, to mitigate, postpone and justify social exclusion. The intricate collaborative interactional process involves complex communicative competencies (requests and rejections of request for access, oppositions, ignorance, withdrawal, justifications, directives, format tyings). Moreover the girls appropriate a variety of characteristics concerning personal and institutional standards such as adult-based institutional rules, language structures (voicing, directives, commands, requests, justifications) and individual characteristics such as age, length, size, etc., to achieve power, subordinate others and strengthen alliances. This kind of creative appropriation highlight how play is not the result of an individual actor s social competence but evolves in the children s collective actions and is embedded as routine, situated activities in their peer cultures. As shown in the detailed analysis, the girls appropriate and strategically manipulate power and language structures available in the adult culture in peer play interactions to produce their own rules of orders. The ways in which the girls actively manipulated and skilfully exploited the adult based institutional rules everyone can join and the rights to play on their own in peer play interactions underscores that it is necessary to attend to the collaborative nature of children s play and how play participation is embedded in the institutional practices that organize these activities. Moreover children do not simply passively reproduce or learn to deal with adult based rules, but also draw on these rules to support their own interactional interests, and claims for a particular play position or course of action (compare Cobb-Moore, Danby & Farrell, 2008). All these features are important because they point to that children are active agents in their own cultural learning engaged in orderly actions for producing and resisting a taken-for-granted social world. Correspondence Ann-Carita Evaldsson Department of Education, Uppsala University, Sweden. Britt Tellgren Department of Education, Örebro University, Sweden. Educational & Child Psychology Vol. 26 No. 2 17

18 Ann-Carita Evaldsson & Britt Tellgren References Björck-Willén, P. (2007). Participation in multilingual pre-school play: Shadowing and crossing as interactional resources. Journal of Pragmatics, 39, Cobb-Moore, C.L., Danby, S.J. & Farrell, A. (2008). I told you so. Justifications used in disputes in young children s interactions in an early childhood classroom. Discourse Studies, 10(5). Corsaro, W.A. (1979). We re friends right? : Children s use of access rituals in a nursery school. Language in Society, 8, Corsaro, W.A. (1986). Routines in peer culture. In J. Cook-Gumperz, W.A. Corsaro & Birgen Streeck (Eds.), Children s worlds and children s language (pp ). Amsterdam: Mouton de Gruyter. Corsaro, W.A. (2005). The sociology of childhood (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Pine Forge Press. Corsaro, W.A. & Rizzo, T. (1990). Disputes in the peer culture of American and Italian nurseryschool children. In A.D. Grimshaw (Ed.), Conflict talk: Sociolinguistic investigations in conversation (pp.21 66). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Cromdal, J. (2001). Can I be with? Negotiating play entry in a bilingual school. Journal of Pragmatics, 33, Cromdal, J. (2004). Building bilingual oppositions: Code-switching in children s disputes. Language in Society, 33, Danby S. (1996). Constituting social membership: Two readings of talk in an early childhood classroom. Language and Education, 10(2 & 3), Danby, S. & Baker C. (1998). How to be masculine in the block area. Childhood, 5, Evaldsson, A.-C. (2004). Shifting moral stances: Morality and gender in same-sex and cross-sex game interaction. Research on Language and Social Interaction, 37, Evaldsson, A.-C. & Corsaro, W.A. (1998). The ethnographic study of play and games in children s peer culture. An interpretative approach. Childhood: A global journal of child research, 4, Goffman, E. (1961). Encounters. Two studies in the sociology of interaction. Indianapolis: Bobs-Merill. Goodwin, M.H. (1990). He-Said-She-Said. Talk as social organization among Black children. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press. Goodwin, M.H. (1993). Accomplishing social organization multi-modality in girls play: patterns of competition and co-operation in African-American working-class girls group. In T. Hollies, L. Pershing & M. J. Young (Eds.), Feminist theory and folklore (pp ). Urbana: University Ill. Press. Goodwin, M.H. (2006). The hidden life of girls: Games of stance, status, and exclusion. Malden, MA: Blackwell. Griswold, O. (2007). Achieving authority: Discursive practices in Russian pre-adolescent girls Pretend play. Research on Language and Social Interaction, 40(4), Kyratzis, A. (2004). Talk and interaction among children and the co-construction of peergroups and peerculture. Annual Review of Anthropology, 33, Kyratzis, A. & Guo, J. (1996). Pre-school girls and boys verbal conflict strategies in the US and China: Cross-cultural and contextual considerations. Research on Language and Social Interaction, 34(1), Kyratzis, A., Marx, T. & Wade, E. (2001). Preschoolers communicative competence: Register shift in the marking of power in different contexts of friendship group talk. Early Pragmatic Development, 21, Lave, J. & Wenger, E. (1991). Situated learning: Legitimate peripheral participation. New York: Cambridge University Press. Löfdahl, A. (2005). The Funeral : A study of children s shared meaning-making and its developmental significance. Early Years, 25, Löfdahl, A. & Hägglund, S. (2006). Power and participation: Social representations among children in pre-school. Social Psychology of Education, 9, Maynard, D. (1985). How children start arguments. Language in Society, 14, Opie, I. & Opie, I. (1969). Children s games in streets and playgrounds. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Piaget, J. (1962). Play, dreams and imitations in childhood. New York: W.W. Norton. Sacks, H., Schegloff E. & G. Jefferson (1974). A simplest systematics of turn-taking for conversation. Language, 50, Sheldon, A. (1996). You can be the baby brother, but you ain t born yet: Pre-school girls negotiation for power and access in pretend play. Research on Language and Social interaction, 29, Tellgren, B. (2004). Förskolan som mötesplats. Barns strategier för tillträden och uteslutningar i lek och samtal. [Eng. Pre-school as a meeting-place. Children s access strategies and negotiations of exclusion in play and talk.]. Örebro: Licentiate thesis. Department of Education. University of Örebro. Whalen, M. (1995). Working towards play: Complexity in children s fantasy activities. Language in Society, 24, Educational & Child Psychology Vol. 26 No. 2

19 Gendered discourses and practices in role play activities: A case study of young children in the English Foundation Stage Elizabeth Wood & Joanna Cook This paper draws on contemporary feminist post-structural theories to explore gendered discourses and practices in role play, in a small-scale case study of four children (age 4 5 years) in the English Foundation Stage. Non-participant observations of classroom-based role play activities were carried out over four months, with an original focus on progression and continuity in play (Cook, 2003). This was followed by a reflective re-viewing and analysis of the data by the two authors in order to provoke critical engagement with the gendered relationships and meanings in children s play (Cook & Wood, 2006). The findings reveal the ways in which role play provides flexible contexts for children to explore and take up gender identities, and the social competences and power dynamics used to sustain or disrupt play. The findings confirm that children s gendered identities are related to their emerging understandings of femininities and masculinities, and the complex ways in which these are represented and performed in their social and cultural worlds. Power and identity are established through dynamic social actions and interactions, humour, teasing, language and symbolic transformations, as children weave across real/not real boundaries. Re-viewing the data through feminist post-structural theories challenges established free play/free choice pedagogical approaches in relation to diversity and equity. Gender, power and socialisation in early childhood ESSENTIALIST THEORIES of development retain currency in early childhood, and are used to explain gender differences in maturation, behaviour, socialisation and educational achievement. From a bio-cultural perspective, Jarvis (2007, 2008) argues that children are born with sex differences, which derive from genetic, chromosomal and hormonal make-up, and determine pathways of development. These discourses assume that children s progress reflects different norms for boys and girls in specific areas. For example, boys typically out-perform girls in areas such as visualspatial abilities, gross- and loco-motor skills, but mature more slowly than girls in their language, emotional and social skills (Kimura, 2000). In contrast, socio-cultural theories propose that children learn to perform gendered roles as a result of cultural beliefs and practices, such as assigning different tasks, having different expectations of behaviour and performance, and being offered different play activities and toys (Rogoff, 2003). Girls and boys may be socialised into different social affiliations, with girls tending towards more intensive friendships, and boys towards more extensive peer relationships in larger groups and with more assertive language and action, such as fostering independence, task orientation, physical activity and overt competition (Tietz & Shine, 2001). Within developmental discourses, gender categories are positioned as binary and mutually exclusive (Ryan & Grieshaber, 2005). However, from feminist post-structuralist perspectives, such discourses ignore dimensions of diversity across gender, ethnicity, ability, sexualities and social class (Blaise, 2005; Brooker, 2002; Browne, 2004; MacNaughton, 2000, 2008). MacNaughton (2000, 2008) challenges essentialist accounts of gendering which maintain patriarchal gender relations and positions, including the ways in which children are regulated Educational & Child Psychology Vol. 26 No The British Psychological Society, 2009

20 Elizabeth Wood & Joanna Cook through institutional norms and practices. She explores the concepts of discourse, power and subjectivity in early childhood, and argues that gender is a social construct in which gendered discourses and practices are established and maintained. Reay (2001) and Blaise (2005) concur that gendered power relations are complicated and contradictory. In a study of Year 3 pupils (age 7 8) in an inner-city primary school, Reay observed children engaged in gender work, in which some transgressed prevailing gender regimes, and others followed more conformist patterns. Blaise (2005) demonstrates how children create and re-create meanings about gender through their talk and action (including play): they are not simply being boys and girls, but are taking an active part in constructing what it means to be a boy or a girl at a particular time and place. Therefore, gender work may also be related to identity work as children establish friendships, play patterns and preferences, and peer group cultures. In contrast to developmental and bio-cultural theories, post-structuralism provides contrasting propositions about the degree of power and agency that children exercise in constructing and contesting gendered identities. From a policy perspective, gender differences are reinforced in national assessments of children at the end of the Foundation Stage (age 3 5) in England (DfES, 2007), where girls perform at higher levels than boys in measures of language and literacy, creative development, and personal, social and emotional development. Therefore, policy frameworks and pedagogical practices may also be implicated in maintaining gendered discourses and practices, particularly in play. Gendered play? The value of play is well-established in early childhood education, with many contemporary curriculum frameworks supporting pedagogical approaches that combine adultand child-initiated activities (Wood, 2009). There is broad agreement that children should have some freedom to make choices and decisions, and follow their own needs, interests and ideas, with minimal or no adult control. However, such truths have, until recently, remained uncontested. From poststructuralist perspectives, the free play/free choice discourse is problematic in terms of the choices that children make, whose choices and interests are privileged, and what implications those choices have across peer groups (Ryan, 2005). Such pedagogical practices can present problems for individuals or groups, because, as Ryan argues, some of the discourses that are enacted through play may limit children s agency and identities as learners. The free play/ free choice discourse also creates conditions of power, where institutional values and cultures approve some freedoms and choices and disapprove others. For example, girls and boys are typically discouraged from engaging in noisy, boisterous, play, especially rough and tumble play (Jarvis, 2007), aggressive play with weapons (Holland, 2003), and irrational, wild, deep and dark play (Sutton- Smith, 1997). Role play is considered to be important for children s social development and friendship skills, because they have the freedom to co-construct shared contexts of meaning and experience, and create discursive spaces which may be child- rather than adultcontrolled (Broadhead, 2004). Play can create sites for cultural production, where children create individual and group identities which are imbued with their own imaginative interpretations and meanings. Role play may also promote cultural reproduction where boys and girls are assigned different subject positions according to their understanding of social roles. Browne (2004) argues that boys learn to perform versions of hegemonic masculinities that reflect a dominant or culturally accepted form of masculinity, and emphasise men s (and boys ) superiority to women, competitiveness, physical strength and rationality. This is complemented by emphasised femininity, which juxtaposes male masculine power with 20 Educational & Child Psychology Vol. 26 No. 2

21 Gendered discourses and practices in role play activities female compliance, nurturance and empathy. Reay (2001) proposes the contrasting viewpoint that girls map out their gendered positions in the form of transgressive but less prevalent discourses of femininity, in which they can which construct their identities as powerful in different ways. As the data from this study reveal, children also play with meanings and identities, and may exaggerate the gendered positions they perform, as well as contesting classroom power dynamics in which they are regulated by adult-dominated rules and routines. Research design The original research on which this article is based was carried out by Cook (2003), and focused on identifying children s progression and learning in role play activities (Cook & Wood, 2006). The four children in the study, Alice, Lucy, Callum and John, were well-known to her, because she had studied their progress from pre-school (age 3 4) into the Reception class (age 4 5), where she was the class teacher. Their role play activities were tracked across four months, using non-participant observation methods. Each child was observed four times, for 10-minute periods, with detailed field notes capturing the children s actions, interactions and dialogue. The data were analysed using Broadhead s Social Play Continuum (1997 version), and learning stories were then written for each child in order to capture patterns, connections and themes over time. In the original analytical processes, gender emerged as a key issue in children s role play themes and activities, their choices of friends and co-players, social inclusion and exclusion, and their power, agency and control in relation to both peers and adults. Following Ryan and Grieshaber (2005) we (the co-authors) subsequently engaged in a reflexive re-viewing of the data. We identified specific episodes and events where children were actively using gendered discourses and practices, and the implications this had for individuals and co-players. We were interested in the differences in the children s free play choices and activities, their behaviour and dispositions, and the ways in which they negotiated and contested roles, rules and space. These episodes were analysed in relation to poststructural theories with the intention of reflecting on the values and interests framing classroom practices, viewing teaching and learning interactions from contrasting perspectives, and considering ways in which pedagogical responses could be framed with greater consideration for gender equity. Key points from these discussions were scribed, and have been integrated into the following case studies of the four children. (Cg=girl; Cb=boy; SG= small group) Alice Alice s domestic play themes reflect her understanding of social rules and relationships: she is tidy and conformist, and likes to set the rules in role play activities. She makes many attempts to exclude girls and boys who challenge her authority, and regulates the behaviour of the boys. In Observation 1, she tries to develop the party theme in the café, by setting the rules, and keeping the area tidy. Alice tries to involve two girls and a boy by getting them to dress up and choose their own roles. Alice argues with a girl about who dresses up in a shawl, which is resolved by using a counting out rhyme, which Alice won. Cg chooses another shawl from the rack, but makes further attempt at developing the play around her own ideas. This is resisted by Alice who tells the group: Well if you don t dress up you can t come to the party. Two boys dress up and look to Alice for approval. Alice-Cb: Oh Harry you re smart. She laughs at another boy who has put a hat on: Cb-Alice: Am I cool? Alice: Yes, you re cool. At minute 8, the teacher calls for tidy up time. When the boys throw clothes on the floor Alice takes on a teacher role: Educational & Child Psychology Vol. 26 No. 2 21

22 Elizabeth Wood & Joanna Cook 9.0 Alice: No Harry. That s not how you do it. You re both being silly boys Put the money back into the till please boys You two, look how messy it is there. Alice and a girl go into the kitchen to tidy the money: Let s tidy up so Mrs Smith won t believe her eyes The two boys choose not to conform to Alice s instructions, and re-claim the agenda on their own terms: Cb-Cb: Shall we tidy up properly now? In Observation 2, Alice is engaged mostly in solitary play, alongside two girls and a boy. The role play area has changed to the Hogwarts Wizard School so there is much exploration of new resources. There is evidence of continued power play as Alice excludes a girl, and refuses to allow her to develop a play theme. Her peers are becoming increasingly resistant to Alice s controlling behaviours. This solitary play contrasts with Observation 3, which takes place two weeks later when the children have become familiar with the new resources, and are developing imaginative play. One girl makes four attempts to develop a play theme, which Alice resists, and remains engrossed in her solitary activity. Cg then excludes Alice from the play: We ll pretend you re dead so we can t talk to you. In terms of power and agency, this represents an effective retaliation against Alice, who immediately tries to regain control of the play: Alice Cgs: You re back yet... I was making it (referring to a pretend meal) I m the mummy and you re the sister. This leads into some imaginative play based on a domestic theme of setting the table, watering the flowers, and beginning the meal. At 7.5 Cg runs out of the role play area and calls: A shark s out here. She tries to introduce an external danger to disrupt the domestic play and challenge Alice s authority, a device that is also evident in the observations of John and Callum (below). Alice ignores this attempt to change the theme, and re-establishes control by giving everyone a piece of fruit. A month later, in Observation 4 two girls are playing alongside Alice, and a boy is pretending to be the three-headed dog from the Harry Potter story. There is evidence of competing control, power and resistance as Alice continues to manage and dominate the play. The boys pretend to be disruptive dogs, resisting Alice but at the same time wanting to be included in the play. 2.0 Alice: He s in his kennel Hey Lucy, he s going to come out. Hey come on dog, wake up. 3.0 Alice assigns roles: You re Hermione and I m Hermione s mum, and Richard is Hermione s dad. I wonder why our dog has been so naughty. (To two boys) You two play about and eat sweets as bones. I need a doll. The boys play in role, hiding bones in the washing machine. Then Richard decides to join them as a dog, not as the dad, which gives rise to some re-negotiation of roles: Cg: Richard s turned into a dog. Alice Cg: But he can t. Cb Cgs I m a doggy. Alice-SG: No turn him back to Hermione s dad, we want somebody to marry. 6.0 Cg Cbs: Marry me marry me. Abracadabra. Make Richard turn into a boy. The girls chase Richard around the role play area, with Alice again in control: Hey Lucy there s a big surprise for you. These wands will turn Richard into a grown up I ve got off his doggy hair. Cb Alice: I ve put on real hair. Alice SG: He s standing up like a real person. 8.0 The girls are getting really excited now and spoke in much louder voices: Cg Alice: The spells aren t working. Alice Cg: I know, magic drink. They pick up bottles of coloured water and pretend to mix a drink. Alice occupies an ambivalent position in free play: although she has some credibility as a play leader who can develop and sustain play themes, she likes to maintain control. Boys 22 Educational & Child Psychology Vol. 26 No. 2

23 Gendered discourses and practices in role play activities and girls still resist this, although are more willing to play with her. Acting as fierce animals (dogs, sharks and crocodiles are repeated themes in this classroom) is a familiar device, especially for boys, to change power relations because they represent danger and chaos, and cannot easily be controlled. This device enables children to disrupt domestic play themes, thereby engaging in identity and gender work. Positioning Richard as the husband re-establishes domesticity and reflects the children s understanding of heteronormative social and cultural rules. Using magic spells and potions represents an imagined level of power, which Richard does not resist as he chooses to remain involved in the play on Alice s terms. Negotiating rules, roles and relationships is, therefore, crucial to maintaining inclusion in play for boys and girls. Callum In Observation 1, Callum is in the beach café, trying to engage Toby in imaginative play by putting on an apron and a visor: I am looking cool. A teaching assistant asks for a child to come and read to her, but Callum successfully resists her interruption, and stays in the play: 6.5 A: Someone has to come and read. Callum A: Not me. Cg A: Callum. Callum A: No definitely not me. Callum Cb: See you next time Louis. The rough and tumble play continues with Callum taking the lead in maintaining the momentum, transforming a carrot into a light sabre, inviting another boy into his space ship, and negotiating roles: Callum Cb: Do you want to be a baddy? Cb Callum: No one can hurt me. This boy wants to be included in the rough and tumble play but is establishing the rules: either he does not want to be hurt, or he is sufficiently tough and rugged to play on Callum s terms. In Observation 2 Callum is playing in Hogwarts, with three boys. This energetic, noisy episode shows high levels of engagement and some rough and tumble play (making magic potions and spells, killing snakes and each other). Callum shows resistance to adults, and contestation of classroom power dynamics. Two teachers are talking outside the role play area. Callum waves a pipette behind their backs and whispers to Cb I hate it when they talk. Callum refers to adults as trolls whenever they come near the play. (In the Harry Potter stories the trolls are very big and powerful, but not very intelligent, and easily outsmarted by the young characters.) Callum s disdain for adults reflects his preference for energetic play, which is typically constrained or banned, and his desire to maintain privacy. The boys continue to negotiate roles and ideas: Callum + Cb SG: We frightened someone away with our magic spells. Callum Cb: I ll turn you into a girl. Being changed into a girl may allow a boy to explore play from another gender perspective. However, it may also be used to diminish peers by placing them in less powerful positions. In Episode 3, Callum continues the Hogwarts play, helping to sustain the pretence and involving others: 3.0: Callum Cb: Let s go the Chamber of Secrets at Hogwarts. Cb Callum: The battery s inside the yoghurt pot. Callum Cb: You know if they blow you up they ll be a massive explosion and you ll die. 4.0 Callum Cbs: We re Harry Potter. Ally ally osa I can do another spell Let s hide. The walls are closing. Get in. Now we re trapped in the horrible bit. The spiders kill us. There follows a disagreement with two girls who try to change the play to their own agenda (painting the walls). Callum plays dead, and the girls want to take him to Educational & Child Psychology Vol. 26 No. 2 23

24 Elizabeth Wood & Joanna Cook hospital. He re-directs the play by telling the girls to put a spell on him, and he wakes up as a zombie. He tries to give one of the girls a plastic snake, but they resist Callum s attempt to put a spell on them: Minute 9.5 Callum Cgs: You re playing with the snake outside and we re not watching. Cg Callum: There s special blood in the wand you know. We re sort of fairies with our magic wands. Again, the children use spells and potions to change power dynamics in play. But the girls are happier with fairies and magic wands than they are with zombies and snakes, revealing gender differences in their use of resources and symbolic transformations. In Observation 4, Callum is leading rough and tumble play by being a bad doggy ; he scares a girl, who runs under the bench to hide and remains there for the rest of the episode, playing with a doll. The episode continues with Callum in superhero mode, looking for sharks, using a plastic asparagus stick and then a magic teapot as weapons to kill the sharks so that he can save everyone. The children are running and jumping on to a bench to escape the sharks: Callum SG: Swipe, swipe. I m still looking for sharks There s some sharks down there. Callum picks up a board duster and runs around, shouting: Callum-SG: I ll use my dusters then they ll go. Run. You nearly got blown up by that thing. Callum is articulate, imaginative, and able to initiate and develop role play. His co-players (mostly boys) go with the flow of his ideas and suggestions, even though they are not consistently engaged in maintaining the pretence. Callum s resistance to authority (from girls and adults) is demonstrated in each episode, often through adopting a superhero narrative. In Episode 2, using magic spells to turn a boy into a girl appears to be a way of diminishing his power and status. Similarly in Episode 3 he resists the attempts of two girls to redirect his play. Girls play at the margins of these boisterous episodes, and Callum is more concerned at directing the play of boys than girls. This appears to be a strategy for maintaining his dominance and control in the group, thereby reflecting both gender work and identity work. Lucy Lucy lacks confidence and finds it difficult to engage with other children in role play, to resolve disputes and negotiate with her peers. She is wary of boys and has as little to do with them as possible. Her lack of social skills prevents her from entering into role play, and she prefers repetitive domestic themes. In Observation 1 Lucy dresses up in high-heeled shoes and a dress, and plays alongside another girl. Most of her utterances are descriptive and explanatory: 1.5 Lucy Cg: We re going to work in the shop. I m going to work in that shop I m dressing up Do you want these on Alice? At minute 2.0. Lucy watches two boys, one of whom was pretending to be a robot. Lucy Cb: What are you? The boy does not reply. At minute 5.0 Lucy opens the till, and a boy tries to prevent her from taking money from it. Lucy refers to the classroom assistant (A) for help: Lucy A: Can I have some money? A Lucy: Why don t you look in the till? Cb Lucy: No you can t have my money. A Cb: Let her have some Robin. Robin walked away and did not attempt any negotiations, perhaps because an adult was present. In Observation 2, Lucy is more social and animated in her play, and begins by interacting with a boy in Hogwarts as they explore the resources. Lucy uses a magnet to attract paper clips. 24 Educational & Child Psychology Vol. 26 No. 2

25 Gendered discourses and practices in role play activities Lucy Cb: I wasn t even touching it. Look Jack. It moved on its own. Jack Lucy: Lucy where did you get that from? Lucy walks away and Jack goes off to look for a magnet. She observes the boys playing, and does not get involved even when invited by a boy: Cb Lucy: You could be Hermione. Lucy Cb: No. At minute 5 Lucy shows more confidence interacting with two girls in domestic play themes (making a picnic, dressing up, making a cup of tea, making dinner). Meanwhile, some boys are playing noisily in Hogwarts: Lucy Cg: We can t go into Hogwarts. It s got boys in it. Cg Lucy: Are there any boys outside? They revert to domestic play. Lucy Cg: Who are you having to your party Katy? Cg Lucy: Robert and Jacob. Lucy Cg: We ve got the best friends. Because of Lucy s inability to interact with boys, she excludes herself from play opportunities, or perhaps feels excluded where rough and tumble play occurs. By Observation 4, Lucy is beginning to overcome this, but continues domestic play themes. She takes a baby doll into the Noah s Ark role play area. A boy enters in role as a monkey, but Lucy tries unsuccessfully to change him into the Dad as she and another girl are cooking. Lucy reverts to solitary play. At minute 5, she attempts to engage another girl who is making the dinner, then interacts with two boys: Lucy: David what d you want? Red, yellow, green or blue for your pancake? The boys do not respond and leave the role play area. Another boy enters and approaches Lucy: Cb Lucy: What you making? Lucy Cb: Pancakes. Lucy Cb: There s your pancake Paul. Lucy Cg: Put the chocolate in. Mash it up and stir it around. Although Lucy makes some progress in overcoming her reluctance to play with boys, their vigorous play is a marked contrast to her preferences for play (also shared by Alice), which centres on family relationships and domestic events. She seems more comfortable interacting with boys when they tune into her play. John In each of John s observations, there are high levels of pretend play, dialogue and social interactions. John plays mainly with boys, who spend much of their time negotiating themes, roles and power dynamics, as shown in Observation 1: Minute 5: John SG: I wanna do something. I m getting the fire out. Cg John: Come and get my money. John Cg: Anyway we don t need any money we re firemen. John Cg: There s no fire any more. John Cb: Let s throw the water on People are dead. John SG: The people are dead. We re here to put the fire out. Cb John: I know but I need to spray the girls. John SG: We re not here for the money we re here for the fire. John tries to impose some coherence on the play through his danger-rescue-superhero narrative. The boy-girl power struggle continues as one boy needs to spray the girls and John steals money from them. He expresses his identity as a strong, powerful boy when he leaves the café and bangs his head (minute 9): John Adult (JC): I ve banged my arm not my head. Firemen don t cry. Educational & Child Psychology Vol. 26 No. 2 25

26 Elizabeth Wood & Joanna Cook Observation 2 details a lively, noisy episode of play in the café, with John using the scales as a catapult, and throwing money around. Although the play is free flow there is little coherence or development of a theme. A teaching assistant intervenes at minute 5 to check his behaviour, and again at minute 9 when John is play-fighting and chasing a boy around the classroom. Observation 3, in the café, sees John returning to these themes and activities: Minute 4 Cb John: What s the tent for? John Cb: We can jump in it. John Cb: That s the sea robber get up John Cb: I m surfing. I m on a surfboard. Cb: Surfing surfing. John Cb: Stay down stay down There are sharks in there. Run. This boisterous episode develops into fighting and ducking each other into the sea, surfing and escaping from sharks. Although the play is rough and physical, John steps in and out of the play to direct the activity. However, they are interrupted four times when an adult attempts to calm the play and reduce the noise levels. At minute 10, the teacher tells the boys to Go and sit by my chair until you have both calmed down. Observation 4 takes place in Hogwarts, with John returning to play fighting and rough and tumble with boys, which the adult helper stops at minute 2. The children find it difficult to get back into role, and John wanders around looking at resources. Play is re-energised at minute 6 when John refers to the adult as the troll which is a theme from Callum s play: John Cb: Quick the troll. We re all dead. Cb John: I m dead. John Cb: The womping willow gonna get us. John maintains his power and identity through rough and tumble, superhero play and resisting adult control. In role play he is a confident child who initiates ideas and uses language, props and symbols in imaginative ways. In more formal contexts with adults, John lacks confidence and is quick to say when he feels he cannot do a task. Discussion Whilst this small-scale case study cannot be used to make any generalisations about gendered play activities, this reflexive reviewing of the data reveals the ways in which role play provides flexible and dynamic contexts for these four children to explore gender identities and relationships, and the social competences and power dynamics that are used to sustain or disrupt play. Interpreting these activities through a poststructural lens enables some connections to be made with contemporary trends towards understanding complexity and diversity in children s play. It must be remembered that the imaginative and pretend qualities of role play afford opportunities for children to experiment with fluid identities, and engage in exaggerated performances. Therefore, interpreting and understanding play from the perspective of gender needs to take into account the message this is play. Children s play should always be juxtaposed with their wider repertoires of activity and participation. The children and adults were engaged in gender work and identity work in role play activities. Gender differences were apparent in the boys boisterous and noisy activities in rough and tumble play, and in the girls preferences for quiet, repetitive domestic play themes. The spontaneous rough and tumble play of John and Callum was adventurous and exciting, with imagined threats and dangers, which had to be controlled through exercising their power. They revealed contrasting ways in which they established agency: they were willing to share power with peers in order to revel in the relative freedom afforded by role play. However, they did not identify a controlling or powerful adult in their play because their rules helped to sustain the roles and pretence. They were also performing hegemonic masculinities as they displayed strength, bravery, and ability 26 Educational & Child Psychology Vol. 26 No. 2

27 Gendered discourses and practices in role play activities to withstand pain. At the same time they want to appear cool to both boys and girls, showing concern for social affiliation and approval. Family and domestic play provided opportunities for the girls to exercise female power. As the female protagonist, Alice controlled the space, events, rules and the roles of the players. She reproduced a social world of regulation and conformity in which boys are positioned as naughty and disruptive. Because Alice s mother is a primary school teacher, it is possible that she had internalized a naughty boys discourse from her home and school experiences. Both girls maintained domestic play activities in the same way that the boys preferred rough and tumble play. Thus the children s play preferences were arguably oppositional as they sought to use the same space in different ways and for different purposes. The girls tried to change and regulate boys play for two reasons, first to ensure conformity to classroom rules and second to maintain their own play themes and spaces. Successful mixed gender play happened when girls did not try to domesticate boys play, but when their ideas and activities were reciprocal. Such reciprocity represents the paradoxical nature of play: naughty animals challenge the established order, but can be accommodated within domestic play when they are controlled. At a micro level, boys and girls explored and maintained gender positions, with contrasting ways of constructing power and agency. Alice and Lucy articulated and maintained their needs and interests, which is a key characteristic of free play and free choice. Alice, more than Lucy, was prepared to negotiate gendered power relations, but her terms included dominance of the group and control of the play. Her teacherly repertoire of behaviours showed how she reproduced approved classroom rules, and exercised female power. In contrast, the boys sustained their play by occupying most of the space through rough and tumble and chasing. These play modes and strategies showed the boys means of exercising male power, which was done in transformative and transgressive ways, by challenging social order (spraying the girls, acting as naughty animals, referring to the adults as trolls ). Interestingly, adults intervened when the boys play became noisy and disruptive, or when children asked for help or guidance. They did not intervene in the quiet, repetitive domestic play of the girls, or challenge stereotypical female behaviour (cleaning, preparing food, caring for babies). The children used different strategies for establishing control and direction of the play. Lucy lacked confidence and was quite tentative in her interactions with girls and, subsequently, boys. Alice gave direct instructions or commands in assigning roles, establishing rules, and developing the flow of the play activity. There was little scope for negotiation, to the extent that her peers use a range of strategies to resist or ignore her, challenge her dominance, or exclude her from the play. Callum sustained play by offering suggestions and imaginative ideas which his peers were free to take up or ignore. Even where the latter happened, Callum remained in the play because he enjoyed play activities with peers. John and Callum revealed more vibrant and energetic play than the girls, with play episodes often intensifying in pace and action. Contesting the free play/free choice ideology This re-viewing raises dilemmas regarding the gender fairness of allowing free choice and free play activities, and the role of adults in play. First, free play/choice is never truly free, but is always constrained by the contexts in which it occurs in education settings (Wood & Attfield, 2005). Regulation of children s play occurs at macro levels, by adults, and at micro levels by children, thus reinforcing the notion that both groups may be engaged in gender work. The issue of war games, superhero play and rough and tumble remains contentious, but with evidence of a shifting discourse. Educational & Child Psychology Vol. 26 No. 2 27

28 Elizabeth Wood & Joanna Cook Educators often ban these forms of play for a number of reasons, not least because they might encourage aggressive, anti-social behaviour (Holland, 2003). But this creates an imbalance of power between children s and adults constructions of free play and free choice: freedom is permitted only where play conforms to adult notions of classroom and playground order. However, these forms of play help children to develop language and symbolic skills, imagination, pretence, peer affiliation and social organisation (Broadhead, 2004; Holland, 2003; Jarvis, 2007). Therefore, the dilemma is that limiting (or banning) such opportunities may inhibit children s (particularly boys ) social participation, whilst permitting such play allows them to perform masculinist superhero discourses. This dilemma also calls into question whose, and what needs and interests can be enacted. It would be erroneous to interpret these play episodes solely in terms of gender stereotypical behaviours and identities. Children s play shows enormous fluidity and flexibility according to the contexts for play, and the identities, social skills and affiliatons of the players. However, role play should be seen not just as the child s world, but as a site of political engagement and activity. The paradoxical nature of play requires that children position themselves in particular ways and in particular narratives: they suspend rules that are imposed from outside, and create their own internal rules in order to sustain pretence. Inevitably, some children express dominant choices, whilst others may accept their assigned positions because of the pleasure of inclusion in the play, or affiliation with skilled players. However, when considering the dimensions of diversity, some children may be excluded or disadvantaged by the power effects of free play choices. This reflexive re-viewing also raised questions about how educators can change their practice in relation to gender equity. MacNaughton (2000) argues that adults should have a pro-active role in expanding girls and boys discursive repertoires, challenging violence and sexual harassment, and supporting differences in masculinities and femininities. However, transforming knowledge and practice is likely to provoke contestations to the efficacy of free choice, and the traditional commitment to non-intervention in children s play. Ryan (2005) proposes that instead of choice being conceptualised as freedom from adult authority, adults interactions should focus on helping children to understand the choices offered by different classroom discourses, and the power effects of such choices. This is a particularly challenging concept in the culture and ideology of early childhood education. Because much play in educational settings takes place beyond the gaze of adults, it is unlikely that they will observe and understand the subtleties and complexities of play. Moreover, where an educational gaze dominates practice, educators may be more concerned with tracking children s learning and development against curriculum goals, than with deconstructing gendered discourses and practices. Finding pedagogical solutions to these dilemmas is not straightforward. As a result of this reflexive re-viewing, we raised a number of questions: Should boys be allowed to sustain samesex groupings in order to build complex sequences of role play? Should teachers engineer mixed-sex groupings in order to encourage equitable practices? Should teachers find a middle way mixing boys and girls on occasions, but also allowing time for boys to sort out their differences, and to benefit from the effects of peer tutoring? Bearing in mind the importance of peer tutoring in play, should more consideration be given to which players might help each other to develop play skills? Should adults contest stereotypical behaviours of children in their free play/free choice activities? 28 Educational & Child Psychology Vol. 26 No. 2

29 Gendered discourses and practices in role play activities What other models and discourses might be available to children and adults to expand play themes and roles in ways that contest gender stereotyping? These questions reflect poststructural perspectives on the ways in which multiple and competing discourses shape pedagogy, and require educators to engage with different interpretations of children s activities, create responses that are consistent with dimensions of diversity, and critique the ideology of free play and free choice. The Authors Elizabeth Wood & Joanna Cook Correspondence Dr Elizabeth Wood University of Exeter School of Education and Lifelong Learning, St Luke s Campus, Exeter EX1 2LU. Tel: +44 (0) Conclusion If early childhood educators are to make progress in developing equitable approaches they need a much more sophisticated understanding of gendered discourses and practices. Poststructural theories demand that children are perceived and understood as individuals, whose gender is part of their unique identities, rather than a defining or oppositional marker. Boys and girls are not passive victims of their biological or hormonal make up, or of wider gender socialisation processes. They do their own gender and identity work in role play activities which may reproduce or contest power relationships. It is argued here that educators need to look beyond the regulating gaze of developmental theory and curriculum goals in order to understand the complexities of children s role play activities. A continuing challenge for the early childhood community is to engage critically with the free play/free choice ideology in relation to contemporary concerns with diversity and equity. Educational & Child Psychology Vol. 26 No. 2 29

30 Elizabeth Wood & Joanna Cook References Blaise, M. (2005). Playing it Straight: Uncovering gender discourses in early childhood classrooms. London: Routledge. Broadhead, P. (1997). Promoting sociability and cooperation in nursery settings. British Educational Research Journal, 23(4), Broadhead, P. (2004). Early years play and learning: Developing social skills and co-operation. London: RoutledgeFalmer. Brooker, L. (2002). Starting school young children learning cultures. Buckingham: Open University Press. Browne, N, (2004). Gender equity in the early years. Maidenhead: Open University Press. Cook, J. (2003). Progression and continuity in role play in the Foundation Stage. Unpublished dissertation for the degree of MEd, University of Exeter. Cook, J. & Wood, E. (2006). Progression and continuity in play. Paper presented to the British Educational Research Association Annual Conference, University of Warwick, September. Department for Education and Skills (DfES) (2007). Gender and Education the evidence on pupils in England. Nottingham: DfES publications, BKT-EN. Holland, P. (2003). We don t play with guns here: War, weapon and superhero play in the early years. Maidenhead: Open University Press. Jarvis, P. (2007). Dangerous activities within an invisible playground: A study of emergent male football play and teachers perspectives of outdoor free play in the early years of primary school. International Journal Early Years Education, 15(3), Jarvis, P. (2008). The biocultural roots of play behaviour and its links with social development. Paper presented to the Colloquium on Play, Leeds Metropolitan University, 8 10 April. Kimura, D. (2000). Sex and cognition. Massachusetts: MIT Press. MacNaughton, G. (2000). Rethinking gender in early childhood education. Buckingham: Open University Press. MacNaughton, G. (2008). Exploring critical constructivist perspectives on children s learning. In A. Anning, J. Cullen & M. Fleer (Eds.), Early childhood education: Society and culture (2nd ed.). London: Sage. Reay, D. (2001). Spice girls, nice girls, girlies, and tomboys : Gender discourses, girls cultures and femininities in the primary classroom. Gender and Education, 13(2), Rogoff, B. (2003). The cultural nature of human development. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Ryan, S. (2005). Freedom to choose: Examining children s experiences in choice time. In N. Yelland (Ed.), Critical issues in early childhood (pp ). Maidenhead: Open University Press. Ryan, S. & Grieshaber, S. (2005). Shifting from developmental to postmodern practices in early childhood teacher education. Journal of Teacher Education, 56(1), January/February, Sutton-Smith, B. (1997). The ambiguity of play. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Tietz, J. & Shine, S. (2001). The interaction of gender and play style in the development of gender segregation. In S. Reifel (Ed.), Theory in context and out, play and culture studies, Vol. 3 (pp ). Westport, CT: Ablex Publishing. Wood, E. (2009). Conceptualising a pedagogy of play: International perspectives from theory, policy and practice. In D. Kuschner (Ed.), From children to red hatters: Play and culture studies, Vol. 8. Maryland: University Press of America. Wood, E. & Attfield, J. (2005). Play, learning and the early childhood curriculum (2nd ed.). London: Paul Chapman. 30 Educational & Child Psychology Vol. 26 No. 2

31 Behavioural differences exhibited by children when practising a task under formal and playful conditions Karen McInnes, Justine Howard, Gareth E. Miles & Kevin Crowley Play is viewed as central to learning in the early years despite a lack of empirical evidence to support this. Most research has concentrated on adult definitions of play which fail to capture the intrinsic quality of playfulness. To achieve this it is necessary to elicit children s definitions of play. The research discussed in this paper utilises children s definitions of play to create formal and playful practice conditions to demonstrate the links between playfulness and learning. In addition, analysis of videotaped observations indicates behavioural differences according to whether children participate in playful or formal practice conditions. These findings support a behavioural threshold and fluency theory of play. Children in the playful condition exhibited more fluent and purposeful problem solving behaviours than children in the formal condition. Implications for practitioners in educational settings are outlined. WITHIN EARLY YEARS EDUCA- TION play is viewed as essential for learning and development (Bergen, 1988; Bruner, Jolly & Sylva, 1976). As well as generally facilitating learning and development, many claims are made for play promoting different aspects of learning: social and emotional development (Singer, 2006; Smilansky & Shefatya, 1990); social development and language (Garvey, 1991; Sachs, 1980); creativity (Dansky, 1980; Lieberman, 1977); problem solving (Sylva, Bruner & Genova, 1976) and attitude to learning (Hyland, 1984; Moyles, 1989). As a result, play has been seen as the main mode of education for young children and has underpinned early childhood programmes since the initial kindergarten developed by Froebel ( , cited in Wood & Attfield, 2005). Play is firmly embedded within current curricula initiatives for young children across the UK. The Foundation Stage provides a framework for early years practitioners working with children from birth to 5 years in England, and the Foundation Phase serves children from birth to 7 years in Wales. These frameworks provide advice and information on all aspects of practice across the curriculum for practitioners to support children s learning and clearly advocate play as a principal mode of action. (Department for Education and Skills, 2007a, 2007b; Welsh Assembly Government, 2003). Play has proven difficult to define. Category (e.g. Piaget, 1951; Smilansky, 1968), criteria (e.g. Rubin, Fein & Vandenberg, 1983) and continuum (e.g. Pellegrini, 1991) approaches all have limitations (Howard, 2002) and it has been argued that the complexity of play will always defy definition (Garvey, 1991; Moyles, 1989). A lack of an agreed definition of play has implications for research that has attempted to demonstrate the impact of play on learning and has led to dichotomous views in relation to its developmental potential. Whilst there are those who state that play is essential for learning there are others who believe it is not (Christie & Johnson, 1983; Fein, 1985; Meadows & Cashdan, 1988; Smith, 1986) and the evidence base to support claims that play aids development is limited (BERA, 2003). The failure to pinpoint exactly what we mean by play also potentially limits our ability to develop theoretical accounts of the phenomenon. Educational & Child Psychology Vol. 26 No The British Psychological Society, 2009

32 Karen McInnes, Justine Howard, Gareth E. Miles & Kevin Crowley In order to provide empirical support for the relationship between play and learning many experimental studies have focused on play and problem solving, including both convergent and divergent tasks (Dansky & Silverman, 1973, 1975; Pepler & Ross, 1981; Simon & Smith, 1983; Sylva et al., 1976). However, these studies have suffered from methodological weaknesses, for instance isolating play as the causal determinant in improved performance and experimenter effects (Smith & Simon, 1984; Smith & Whitney, 1987). To demonstrate learning through play, research needs to capture and measure the impact of the internal, affective quality of play; playfulness, rather than the role of exploration. Playfulness is argued to be an attitude of mind which indicates the approach taken to an activity (Dewey, 1933; Lieberman, 1977; Moyles, 1989; Schwartzman, 1982). Previous definitions of play have focused on adult interpretations of the observed act of play and may not have identified the unique quality of playfulness. Play means different things, to different people, in different contexts (Howard, 2002). Whilst two activities might look the same to an outside observer, the way they will be experienced by a individual will depend on their own views of that particular activity. Saracho (1991) uses the example of a professional carpenter versus a hobbyist. To understand why an activity is approached with a playful state of mind we must ask the players themselves about their experiences. We need to focus on children s own views of their play activity and the cues they use to determine play as their mode of action (Goncu & Gaskins, 2007; Howard, 2002; Sutton-Smith, 1997; Takhvar, 1988). Children s views of play the Contextual Apperception Procedure There has been surprisingly little research on gaining the views of young children and how they might define play, indeed it has been a long held view that children do not distinguish between play and work (Department for Education and Employment, 2000; Manning & Sharp, 1977; Isaacs, cited in Smith, 1988). Only a limited number of studies on children s understanding of play have been conducted although scholars are internationally representative (Howard, 2002; Howard, Jenvey & Hill, 2006; Karrby, 1989; Keating et al., 2000; King, 1979; Parker, 2007; Robson, 1993; Rothlein & Brett, 1987; Wing, 1995). The majority of these studies have employed either observation or interview methodologies both of which can be problematic with young children. Observations may be open to subjective interpretation. Participant observation may result in the observer influencing the play situation. Using structured observation schedules may result in only the selected behaviours being observed and other important behaviours being ignored (Rolfe, 2001; Tudge & Hogan, 2005). Interviewing may be problematic due to young children s limited linguistic abilities. It involves sustained concentration and high cognitive load for children to interpret questions, recall activities and talk about them. There may be issues concerned with power relations between young children and adults. Group interviews may overcome this but may lead to other issues relating to the most vocal children influencing the group (Brooker, 2001; Westcott & Littleton, 2005). A photographic categorisation method has been employed in three studies the Contextual Apperception Procedure (Howard, 2002; Howard et al., 2006; Parker, 2007). This is a two-part procedure. The first part requires children to sort photographs into those that represent play and those that represent work. The second part supports the sorting activity by asking children to justify their choices for a smaller number of photographs. The photographs utilise different cues within the environment to reflect play and work situations. The method is based on the idea that perception is determined by the categorisation of cues from the environment and that environmental cues may affect children s perceptions of play 32 Educational & Child Psychology Vol. 26 No. 2

33 Behavioural differences exhibited by children (Bruner, Goodnow & Austin, 1956; Pellegrini, 1985). The method is quick to use, involves minimum cognitive load and does not necessitate a certain level of linguistic ability. Photographs are used rather than pictures as for young children these capture reality and require less hypothetical thought (Kose, Beilin & O Connor, 1983) and the game like procedure is attractive to a young participant sample (Sturgess & Ziviani, 1996). Furthermore, assessment of reliability is possible through repetition of the activity (Parker, 2007). As with previous studies (e.g. King, 1979), findings from Howard (2002) revealed that children clearly distinguish between play and work activities in their classroom environment. Play activities may be: outside, construction, sand or involve role play whilst work activities involve writing, reading and using paper. Some activities seem to be ambiguous such as painting and drawing. This was also found by Keating et al. (2002) and Wing (1995). Children determine whether an activity is play or not depending upon the cues present and these can be separated into emotional and environmental cues (Howard, Bellin & Rees, 2003). Emotional cues involve the amount of choice a child has, whether an activity is voluntary and whether it is under the child s control and self-directed. Environmental cues include: adult presence, where the activity takes place and the nature of the activity. Activities deemed as play are, therefore, freely chosen, voluntary, controlled and directed by the child, have little or no adult involvement and do not take place at a table. Howard et al. (2006) also found that peers being present was an indication of play although this was not replicated by Parker (2007). Utilising children s cues to impact on learning The cues used by children for defining play highlight the child being in control and selfdirected. These accord with the internal affective qualities of play identified by Dewey (1933) and Moyles (1989) which determine the attitude or approach a child takes towards an activity whether it is playful or not. This has important implications for researchers attempting to demonstrate the impact of play on learning. By utilising children s cues to define play, research can potentially capture and measure this internal affective quality of play or playfulness. Thomas, Howard and Miles (2006) conducted a study to compare children s problem solving and learning in a playful and formal practice condition using the cues identified by children. In this study the problem solving task was time taken to complete a jigsaw puzzle, a familiar activity to children thereby separating out play from exploration. The sample consisted of 30 children aged 3 to 5 years of age in two primary schools. The procedure was in four stages. A pre-test task was conducted and children were timed completing a puzzle. They were then assigned to either a playful or formal eight-minute practice condition where they completed puzzles. After the practice phase they were re-timed for completion of the test. This was repeated one week later to isolate learning from practice effects. Standardised instructions were used throughout the procedure. Effectiveness was measured by comparing pre-test and post-test times. The cues manipulated in the experimental conditions were the voluntary nature of the task (children were invited or told to participate), where the practice took place (floor or table) and adult presence (present or not). Results showed that there were no significant differences between the children s pretest scores in the different conditions. However, comparison of scores between the playful and formal practice conditions at first post-test showed a differential improvement in children s performance. Children in the playful condition improved by a mean score of seconds, whereas children in the formal condition improved by a mean score of seconds. This significant improvement was also found for the delayed post-test Educational & Child Psychology Vol. 26 No. 2 33

34 Karen McInnes, Justine Howard, Gareth E. Miles & Kevin Crowley in favour of the playful practice condition. Improvement in the playful practice condition was seconds and in the formal condition 28.2 seconds. Similar results have also been found for other areas of learning. Radcliffe (2007) used the same procedure with a mathematical activity threading beads. Results again showed no difference between the children s pre-test scores. However, comparison with post-test scores showed that children who had been in the playful practice condition improved on their pre-test time whilst children in the formal practice condition took significantly longer to complete the task. These empirical data tell us that playfulness has potential to help children learn. However, it is important to understand why playful practice is so much more effective than formal practice in these experiments. The next section reports an observational study based on the methodology of Thomas et al. that was designed to yield qualitative data that might help inform theoretical accounts of these empirical data. An observational study of behaviour exhibited during playful and formal practice conditions The study replicated the procedure used by Thomas et al. (2006) as described above, but incorporated videotaped observations of children s behaviour during the procedure. This extension of the original procedure was designed to further develop an understanding of how playfulness may help children to learn more effectively. The sample consisted of 32 children aged between 3 to 5 years of age in three early years settings. Again, jigsaw puzzles were used to isolate play from exploration and practitioner, parental and child consent was gained to video each child during the procedure to enable further fine grain analysis of behaviour. In addition, an experimenter blind to the pre- and post-test phases of the procedure conducted the delayed post-test in order to eliminate experimenter effects. As with the previous studies children in the playful practice condition performed significantly faster in the post-test and delayed post-test phases (t(16)=3.15 p<0.05 and t(14)=3.24 p<0.05). The Leuven Involvement Scale (LIS; Laevers et al., 1994) was employed to measure children s level of concentration during a selected part of the practice phase (under both playful and formal conditions). Involvement is concerned with a child s concentration and persistence with a task and there is evidence to indicate that a deeper level of involvement results in a greater learning experience (Csikszentmihalyi, 1979; Laevers et al., 1994). For each child, the LIS was applied to one threeminute segment of the videotaped observation of each child. This segment commenced two minutes into the practice phase in order to give the child time to settle into the activity. An unrelated t-test showed a significant difference in involvement scores between children in the playful and formal practice conditions with children in the playful practice condition scoring higher t(28)=3.47 p<0.05. Detailed analysis of the children s behaviour was being carried out using the Observer Video-Pro package (Noldus Information Technology, 2003). The following categories for analysing the behaviours were defined: gaze behaviour, facial expressions, vocalisations, language used, hand movements, posture, whole body movements, hand movements, puzzle solving strategies, help given, completion (practice only) and choice (practice only). Using these categories enabled a detailed description of behaviours during the pre-test, practice, post-test phases of the procedure for each child. Analysis of delayed post-test behaviour was only possible in two of the three settings (N=18 children). Comparison of behaviours exhibited by children in the pre-test phase of the procedure showed a range of behaviours between the different practice conditions with no obvious patterns. This is probably a reflec- 34 Educational & Child Psychology Vol. 26 No. 2

35 Behavioural differences exhibited by children tion of individual styles and ability to do jigsaw puzzles. Analysis of behaviours during the different practice conditions showed considerable differences. In the playful practice condition all the children were moving constantly, either fidgeting or changing position, for example, sitting, kneeling and lying. In the formal practice condition children showed little movement and stayed sitting down. In terms of problem solving behaviours, again there were differences between children in the two conditions. Children in the playful practice condition engaged in less off-task talking and more purposeful problem-solving and decision-making. This was determined by purposeful sequences of behaviour such as look-rotate-correct placement or look-rotate-undo incorrect placement or lookrotate-pick up-not place. Children in the formal practice condition were more distracted, spending more time engaged in off-task talking, focusing away from the task and engaging in less purposeful decision-making utilising behaviour sequences such as lookrotate-look or search-look-rotate. They also engaged in more instances of persevering behaviour such as persevering with incorrect placements. Overall, there was less fluidity in problem solving behaviours and decisionmaking by the children in the formal practice condition. This was also reflected in their affective behaviour. Children in the formal practice condition exhibited more negative affective behaviour such as frowning and sighing. Children in the playful practice condition demonstrated positive affect with more smiling, positive vocalisations and cheering. (See Figure 1, overleaf, for an example of coded behaviours observed in the playful and formal practice phases.) In the post-test phase there was a continuation of the behaviours evidenced during the practice phase. Children in the playful condition were more focused, less talkative and more purposeful with increased correct problem-solving than the children in the formal practice condition. The main difference between the practice and post-test behaviour of children in the playful practice condition was that in the post-test phase the children displayed less whole body movements as they became focused on solving the task quickly. Discussion and conclusion The findings discussed in this paper indicate that the observable act of play can be distinguished from the internal, affective qualities inherent in adopting a playful mode of action. These affective qualities can be understood by identifying the cues children themselves use to define playful activity, The experimental conditions employed here, manipulate these cues to create formal and playful practice conditions and findings suggest that a playful mode of action has the potential to impact on learning. This, in turn, has implications for practitioners working with children in educational settings, particularly in relation to their role as co-operative play partners. It would appear that there are differences between the way in which children and adults view play and there is considerable value in utilising children s views of play. This is in keeping with current policy based on the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and is embedded within Every Child Matters (HM Government, 2003). It also enables researchers to identify the internal affective quality of play, namely playfulness, rather than just the observable act of play itself and to isolate playfulness as a variable in experimental studies. Children who have practised tasks under playful rather than formal conditions have demonstrated significantly greater improvement in performance across a range of activities. Behavioural differences have also been exhibited by children in the different practice conditions which indicate greater ontask behaviour, deeper involvement in the activity and therefore a greater learning experience. In addition, during playful practice children try out a range of purposeful behaviours, whereas in more formal condi- Educational & Child Psychology Vol. 26 No. 2 35

36 Karen McInnes, Justine Howard, Gareth E. Miles & Kevin Crowley Figure 1: Examples of behaviour of children in the formal and practice conditions. Child A: Playful practice condition Pre-test time: 141 seconds, Post-test time: 107 seconds Practice phase (sitting, constantly fidgeting) : talk about puzzle, to self, help : no talking : rotate piece : search for a piece : rotate piece : correct placement : look at piece : correct placement : pat puzzle, positive : search for a piece : pick up, not place : search for a piece : look at piece : correct placement Post-test phase (fidgeting and still) 28.48: search for a piece 30.24: look at piece 31.84: rotate piece 33.76: correct placement 36.20: look at piece 38.84: rotate piece 40.96: correct placement 42.44: look at piece 43.52: correct placement Child B: Formal practice condition Pre-test time: 228 seconds, Post-test time: 315 seconds Practice condition (sitting still) : look at piece : no talking : rotate piece : persevere with incorrect placement : talk about something else to adult, distraction : focus on adult : focus on puzzle : focus on adult : persevere with incorrect placement : focus on puzzle : rotate piece : rotate piece : rotate piece : no talking Post-test phase (still) : talk about something else to adult, distraction : correct placement : look at piece : persevere with incorrect placement : undo incorrect placement : no talking : look at piece : correct placement tions they use fewer purposeful strategies and repeat behaviours even if they are unsuccessful. These findings provide support for a behavioural threshold and fluency theory of play. Building on the work of Bruner (1974) and Sutton-Smith (1997) it has been proposed by Howard and Miles (2008) that playful practice leads to superior performance as it affords children the confidence and motivation to practice a range of behaviours without the fear of getting it wrong. They propose that if an activity is perceived as play, behavioural thresholds are lowered and as a result more actions become potential candidates for execution. A playful mode of action results in an increased behavioural repertoire. These findings have implications for play practice in educational settings. Using children s perceptions of play enables practitioners to create playful environments (Howard & Westcott, 2007). It also enables practitioners to view activities differently in that they need not necessarily be seen as play or not play but rather, adapted to enable children to approach them playfully. It also has implications for the role of the adult in play and practitioners could develop their 36 Educational & Child Psychology Vol. 26 No. 2

37 Behavioural differences exhibited by children own playfulness when working with children (Ceglowski, 1997). Children s acceptance of adults as co-operative play partners may be essential if current curricula initiatives that centralise play are to be successful. Support for the relationship between playful practice and performance allows practitioners to be confident in utilising play. In particular, findings show that allowing children the time to be playful, to complete activities in different areas of classroom and to have time by themselves can be productive and produce positive learning outcomes. The Authors Karen McInnes University of Glamorgan. Justine Howard Swansea University. Gareth E. Miles University of Glamorgan. Kevin Crowley University of Glamorgan. Correspondence Justine Howard Centre for Child Research, Swansea University, Swansea SA2 8PP. References BERA (2003). Early Years Research: Pedagogy, Curriculum and Adult Roles, Training and Professionalism [Electronic Version]. Retrieved 8 April, 2008, from: 31May03_pdf Bergen, D. (1988). Using a schema for play and learning. In D. Bergen (Ed.), Play as a medium for learning and development (pp ). Portsmouth: Heinemann Educational Books Ltd. Brooker, L. (2001). Interviewing children. In G. MacNaughton, S.A. Rolfe & I. Siraj-Blatchford (Eds.), Doing early childhood research. International perspectives on theory and practices (pp ). Buckingham: Open University Press. Bruner, J.S. (1974). Child s play. New Scientist, Bruner, J.S., Goodnow, J.J. & Austin, G.A. (1956). A study of thinking. New York: John Wiley & Sons Inc. Bruner, J.S., Jolly, A. & Sylva, K. (Eds.). (1976). Play: It s role in development and evolution. New York: Basic Books, Inc. Ceglowski, D. (1997). Understanding and building upon children s perceptions of play activities in early childhood programmes. Early Childhood Education Journal, 25(2), Christie, J.F. & Johnson, E.P. (1983). The role of play in socio-intellectual development. Review of Educational Research, 53(1), Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1979). The concept of flow. In B. Sutton-Smith (Ed.), Play and learning. New York: Gardner Press Inc. Dansky, J.L. (1980). Make-believe: A mediator of the relationship between play and associative fluency. Child Development, 52, Dansky, J.L. & Silverman, I.W. (1973). Effects of play on associative fluency in pre-school-aged children. Developmental Psychology, 9(1), Dansky, J.L. & Silverman, I.W. (1975). Play: A general facilitator of associative fluency. Developmental Psychology, 11(1), 104. Department for Education and Employment (2000). Curriculum guidance for the Foundation Stage. London: Qualifications and Curriculum Authority. Department for Education and Skills (2007a). The Early Years Foundation Stage. Nottingham: DfES Publications. Department for Education and Skills (2007b). The Early Years Foundation Stage. Effective Practice: Play and Exploration [Electronic Version]. Retrieved 1 May, 2007, from: play%20and%20exploration.pdf Dewey, J. (1933). How we think. Boston: D.C. Heath and Company. Fein, G.G. (1985). Learning in play: Surfaces of thinking and feeling. In J.L. Frost & S.S. Sunderlin (Eds.), When children play (pp.45 53). Wheaton, MD: Association for Childhood Education International. Garvey, C. (1991). Play (2nd ed.). London: Fontana Press. Goncu, A. & Gaskins, S. (Eds.) (2007). Play and development: Evolutionary, sociocultural and functional perspectives. Philadelphia: Psychology Press (formerly Lawrence Erlbaum Associates). Educational & Child Psychology Vol. 26 No. 2 37

38 Karen McInnes, Justine Howard, Gareth E. Miles & Kevin Crowley HM Government (2003). Every Child Matters. Norwich: The Stationery Office. Howard, J. (2002). Eliciting young children s perceptions of play, work and learning using the activity apperception story procedure. Early Child Development and Care, 172, Howard, J., Bellin, W. & Rees, V. (2003). Eliciting children s perceptions of play and exploiting playfulness to maximise learning in the early years classroom [Electronic Version]. Educationline, 1 9. Retrieved 1 March, 2007, from: htm Howard, J., Jenvey, V. & Hill, C. (2006). Children s categorisation of play and learning based on social context. Early Child Development and Care, 176(3 & 4), Howard, J.L. & Miles, G.E. (2008). A behavioural threshold and fluency theory of play. Forthcoming. Howard, J. & Westcott, M. (2007). Research into practice. Creating a playful classroom environment. Psychology of Education Review, 31(1). Hyland, D.A. (1984). The question of play. Lanham: University Press of America. Karrby, G. (1989). Children s conceptions of their own play. International Journal of Early Childhood Education, 21(2), Keating, I., Fabian, H., Jordan, P., Mavers, D. & Roberts, J. (2000). Well, I ve not done any work today. I don t know why I came to school. Perceptions of play in the reception class. Educational Studies, 26(4), King, N.R. (1979). Play: The kindergartners perspective. The Elementary School Journal, 80(2), Kose, G., Beilin, H. & O Connor, J.M. (1983). Children s comprehension of actions depicted in photographs. Developmental Psychology, 19(4), Laevers, F., Vandenbussche, E., Kog, M. & Depondt, L. (1994). A process-oriented child monitoring system for young children. Belgium: Centre for Experiental Education. Document Number.) Lieberman, J.N. (1977). Playfulness. It s relationship to imagination and creativity. New York: Academic Press Inc. Manning, K. & Sharp, A. (1977). Structuring play in the early years at school. East Grinstead: Schools Council Publications. Meadows, S. & Cashdan, A. (1988). Helping children learn. London: David Fulton Publishers. Moyles, J.R. (1989). Just playing? Buckingham: Open University Press. Noldus Information Technology (2003). The Observer Video-Pro (Version 5). Wageningen: Noldus Information Technology bv. Parker, C.J. (2007). Children s perceptions of a playful environment: Contextual, social and environmental differences. Unpublished BSc Dissertation. University of Glamorgan. Pellegrini, A.D. (1985). Social-cognitive aspects of children s play: The effects of age, gender, and activity centres. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 6, Pellegrini, A.D. (1991). Applied child study (2nd ed.). New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc. Pepler, D.J. & Ross, H.S. (1981). The effects of play on convergent and divergent problem solving. Child Development, 52(4), Piaget, J. (1951). Play, dreams and imitation in childhood. London: William Heinmann Ltd. Radcliffe, E. (2007). Mathematical development and playful practice. Unpublished BSc Dissertation. University of Glamorgan. Robson, S. (1993). Best of all I like choosing time. Talking with children about play and work. Early Child Development and Care, 92, Rolfe, S.A. (2001). Direct observation. In G. MacNaughton, S.A. Rolfe & I. Siraj-Blatchford (Eds.), Early childhood research. International perspectives on theory and practices (pp ). Buckingham: Open University Press. Rothlein, L. & Brett, A. (1987). Children s, teachers and parents perceptions of play. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 2, Rubin, K.H., Fein, G.G. & Vandenberg, B. (1983). Play. In P.H. Mussen (Ed.), Handbook of child psychology, Vol. IV, Socialisation, personality and social development (pp ). New York: John Wiley & Sons. Sachs, J. (1980). The role of adult child play in language development. In K.H. Rubin (Ed.), Children s play. New directions for child development (Vol. 9, pp.33 48). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Inc, Publishers. Saracho, O. (1991). Educational play in early childhood. Early Child Development and Care, 66, Schwartzman, H.B. (1982). Play as mode. The Behavioural and Brain Sciences, 5, 168. Simon, T. & Smith, P.K. (1983). The study of play and problem solving in pre-school children: Have experimenter effects been responsible for previous results? The Journal of Developmental Psychology, 1, Singer, J.L. (2006). Epilogue: Learning to play and learning through play. In D.G. Singer, R.M. Golinkoff & K. Hirsh-Pasek (Eds.), Play=Learning. How play motivates and enhances children s cognitive and social-emotional growth (pp ). Oxford: Oxford University Press. Smilansky, S. (1968). The effects of sociodramatic play on disadvantaged pre-school children. New York: John Wiley & Sons Ltd. 38 Educational & Child Psychology Vol. 26 No. 2

39 Behavioural differences exhibited by children Smilansky, S. & Shefatya, L. (1990). Facilitating play: A medium for promoting cognitive, socio-emotional and academic development in young children. Gaithersburg: Psychosocial and Educational Publications. Smith, P.K. (1986). Play research and it s applications: A current perspective. In P.K. Smith (Ed.), Children s play: Research, developments and practical applications (pp.1 13). London: Gordon and Breach Science Publishers. Smith, P.K. (1988). Children s play and it s role in early development: A re-evaluation of the play ethos. In A.D. Pellegrini (Ed.), Psychological basis for early education. Chichester: John Wiley & Sons. Smith, P.K. & Simon, T. (1984). Object play, problemsolving and creativity in children. In P.K. Smith (Ed.), Play in animals and humans (pp ). Oxford: Basil Blackwell Ltd. Smith, P.K. & Whitney, S. (1987). Play and associative fluency: Experimenter effects may be responsible for previous positive findings. Developmental Psychology, 23(1), Sturgess, J. & Ziviani, J. (1996). A self-report play skills questionnaire: Technical development. Australian Occupational Therapy Journal, 43, Sutton-Smith, B. (1997). The ambiguity of play. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Sylva, K., Bruner, J.S. & Genova, P. (1976). The role of play in the problem-solving of children 3- to 5-years-old. In J.S. Bruner, A. Jolly & K. Sylva (Eds.), Play it s role in development and evolution (pp ). Middlesex: Penguin Books Ltd. Takhvar, M. (1988). Play and theories of play: A review of the literature. Early Child Development and Care, 39, Thomas, L., Howard, J. & Miles, G. (2006). The effectiveness of playful practice for learning in the early years. The Psychology of Education Review, 30(1), Tudge, J. & Hogan, D. (2005). An ecological approach to observations of children s everyday lives. In S. Greene & D. Hogan (Eds.), Researching children s experience. Approaches and methods (pp ). London: Sage Publications Ltd. Welsh Assembly Government (2003). The Learning Country: The Foundation Phase 3 to 7 years. Cardiff: Welsh Assembly Government. Westcott, H.L. & Littleton, K.S. (2005). Exploring meaning in interviews with children. In S. Greene & D. Hogan (Eds.), Researching children s experience: Approaches and methods (pp ). London: Sage Publications Ltd. Wing, L. (1995). Play is not the work of the child: Young children s perceptions of work and play. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 10, Wood, E. & Attfield, J. (2005). Play, learning and the early childhood curriculum (2nd ed.). London: Paul Chapman Publishing. Educational & Child Psychology Vol. 26 No. 2 39

40 Play, Cognition and Self-Regulation: What exactly are children learning when they learn through play? David Whitebread, Penny Coltman, Helen Jameson & Rachel Lander This paper explores the particular aspects of learning which might be supported through playful activity and reviews research and theory which link children s play, and particularly pretence or symbolic play, to the development of metacognitive and self-regulatory skills. Three studies are reported, one observational and two experimental, which have explored this relationship. The observational study involved the video-recording of 582 metacognitive or self-regulatory events within Foundation Stage settings. The two experimental studies replicated in different learning domains the classic study of Sylva, Bruner and Genova (1976), which contrasted the problem-solving performance of 3- to 5-year-old children who had experienced a taught and play condition. Evidence from the present studies reported and other studies supports the view that play, and particularly pretence or symbolic play, which might be with objects or other children, is particularly significant in its contribution to the development of children as metacognitively skilful, self-regulated learners. Evidence from the observational study indicated that child-initiated playful activities, in small groups without adult supervision, supported the greatest proportion of self-regulatory behaviours. The experimental studies suggested that the experience of the play condition was particularly effective in preparing the children for effortful, problem-solving or creative tasks which require a high level of metacognitive and self-regulatory skill. Metacognitive and self-regulatory development is crucially important in the development of academic skills which involve intentional learning, problem-solving and creativity. An understanding of the relationship between pretend or symbolic play and self-regulation is also helpful in providing clear guidelines for adults working with young children as regards their role in supporting and encouraging play in educational contexts. Background: Theory and Research IT IS ALMOST universally accepted within the world of early years education that children learn through play. However, establishing the psychological processes involved, and the precise nature of the learning involved, has proved to be difficult. Play is an extremely difficult phenomenon to define and, perhaps because of its essential spontaneity and unpredictability, has presented significant challenges to researchers. Opinions within the academic research community vary between those who assert that learning in all aspects of development occurs most powerfully through play, and those (see Smith, 1990) who assert that the evidence is rather equivocal, and that learning occurs through many kinds of activities, within which play may have a more limited role. At the same time, while there is widespread commitment to the value of play for children s learning within the early years educational community, there is also evidence that practitioners often find it difficult to realise the educational potential of play in practice (see, for example, the study of Reception class teachers by Bennett, Wood & Rogers, 1997). In large part, this appears to relate to their understandable lack of clarity about the essential attributes of play and the nature of children s learning 40 Educational & Child Psychology Vol. 26 No. 2 The British Psychological Society, 2009

41 Play, Cognition and Self-Regulation which emerges from it. In particular, there are long-standing confusions about structured versus unstructured play, and about the relative merits of child-initiation and adult involvement (Manning & Sharp, 1977; Smith, 1990). The purpose of the present paper is to present evidence which suggests that play, particularly pretend or symbolic play, contributes to learning by supporting children s development of metacognitive or self-regulatory skills, which are in turn crucial in the development of problemsolving and creativity. The apparent failure in much of the literature to establish clear links between play and learning has been, we would argue, a consequence of inadequate analysis of the nature of the learning to which play might make a contribution. Many of the studies reviewed by Smith (1990), for example, attempted to relate play to relatively short-term gains in intelligence or academic skills. More recent research related to learning within developmental psychology, however, has moved away from traditional conceptions of learning as conditioned responses, or as the acquisition of knowledge and skills, and has established the overwhelming significance, for children as learners, of their cognitive and emotional self-regulation (Hacker, Dunlosky & Graesser, 1998; Bronson, 2000; Baumeister & Vohs, 2004). In this paper we aim to review the theory and research, including three studies we have carried out ourselves, which suggest that it is in this aspect of learning that children s play makes a significant contribution to their development of as learners, and that this has implications for the quality of their thinking, problemsolving and creativity. This perspective, we shall also argue, provides constructive practical guidelines for early years practitioners when they are considering the organisation of playful experiences for the children in their classes. The consequences of young children developing early metacognitive or self-regulatory abilities have been shown to be profound, but also relatively long-term. Veenman and Spaans (2005) have shown that, as children grow older, metacognitive skills make an increasingly independent contribution to learning outcomes over and above that of measured intelligence, and Schneider and Weinert (1989) have similarly demonstrated that the relationship between children s metamemory knowledge and their memory performance increases with age. Blair and Razza s (2007) recent study of 3- to 5-year-olds from low-income homes in the US showed that aspects of self-regulation accounted for unique variance, independent of general intelligence, in early maths and reading measured approximately a year later. Over a much greater time-scale, Schweinhart and Weikart (1998) followed a group of disadvantaged children who were randomly allocated to attend one of three pre-school programmes, one of which, High/Scope, encouraged children to follow a pattern of plan-do-review, which crucially supports children in planning, taking responsibility for, and evaluating their own learning. Initially, all three groups showed an increase in IQ. However, a follow-up study when the subjects had reached the age of 23 showed that the High/Scope group were performing to a significantly higher level on a range of real-life measures (e.g. rates of arrest, emotional problems, home ownership, and salary). In order to understand why self-regulatory abilities might impact so significantly on learning over the long term, it is worth considering the nature of the cognitive processes involved. In this regard there are two important relevant distinctions between different kinds of learning. First, there is the distinction between what might be termed incidental learning and deliberate or intentional learning. We all effortlessly learn and remember an enormous amount of information incidentally in our everyday lives, but to learn and remember something intentionally requires effort and involves us in a range of metacognitive activities such as planning, selecting cognitive strategies Educational & Child Psychology Vol. 26 No. 2 41

42 David Whitebread, Penny Coltman, Helen Jameson & Rachel Lander and evaluating our own learning. Work in the area of metacognition originally stems from the pioneering work of Flavell (1979) and colleagues concerned with young children s developing abilities to deliberately remember lists of items, a set of cognitive processes he termed metamemory. He found that young children under the age of around 7 years suffered from what he termed a production deficit in that they were perfectly capable of carrying out a rehearsal strategy when directed to do so, and this enabled them to remember the items as effectively as older children. However, they could not spontaneously and independently rehearse when it was appropriate to do so. The second relevant distinction is that between cognitive activities carried out which are practiced and well understood (and which, consequently, are increasingly automaticised) and those required when the task involves problem-solving and being creative. In his very influential triarchic theory of human intelligence, Sternberg (1985) distinguished between three kinds of cognitive processes: knowledge acquisition components through which we initially acquire information, skills and strategies, performance components which enable us to implement learnt cognitive procedures and strategies, and metacomponents, higher-order processes used to select and coordinate the activities of the other two components appropriately in relation to the task in hand and to plan, monitor and evaluate task performance. Consideration of these two distinctions in relation to different types or aspects of learning makes it clear that metacognitive or self-regulatory processes are likely to be particularly significant when cognitive tasks involve effortful attempts to intentionally learn, and when they require us to solve problems or to be creative. As Bruner (1972) argued in his classic paper Nature and uses of immaturity it is precisely these higherorder cognitive skills, which he referred to as flexibility of thought, which are uniquely human and which, he argued, are supported by the extended period of human immaturity or childhood, and by the overwhelmingly playful activities in which children engage during this period. In fact, there has been a recent resurgence in interest in play amongst developmental psychologists and the evidence for a close relationship between play and various aspects of development and learning is now overwhelming. Bornstein (2006), for example, has reviewed the extensive evidence of the inter-relationships between the complexity and sophistication of children s play, particularly their symbolic or pretend play, and their emotional well-being. The significance of symbolic play has been called into question by some commentators, mostly on the grounds of cultural variations. However, following an extensive review of the considerable current anthropological and psychological literature on culture and play, Bornstein concludes that pretend play (including role play and sociodramatic play) appears to be universal but that it typically expresses concerns that are culture specific (p.115). So, for example, Gaskins (2000) found no evidence of fantasy play amongst Mayan children, as this kind of pretense would be considered to be untruthful, but did find extensive evidence of children enacting role play scenarios of everyday Mayan adult life. The relationships between play and cognition have been equally well established. Tamis-LeMonda and Bornstein (1989), for example, demonstrated that infant habituation (an established measure of speed of processing) predicted the amount of symbolic play later engaged in by individuals as young children. The impact in turn of play on cognition has been mostly researched using variants of Sylva, Bruner and Genova s (1976) classic study of children s problem-solving abilities. Typically in these experiments, one group of children was given the opportunity to play with the objects involved, while the other group was taught how to use the objects in ways which 42 Educational & Child Psychology Vol. 26 No. 2

43 Play, Cognition and Self-Regulation would help solve the problem. Consistently, the two groups subsequently performed at a similar level, in terms of numbers of children completing the task with total success, when they were individually asked to tackle the problem. However, in the taught group there tended to be an all or nothing pattern of responses, with the children either succeeding immediately by accurately recalling and following their instructions, or giving up following an initial failure. By contrast, the children who had the experience of playing with the materials were more inventive in devising strategies to solve the problem and persevered longer if their initial attempts did not work. The same proportion of children as in the taught group solved the problem almost immediately, but many of those who didn t solved the problem at a second or third attempt, or came close to solving the problem, by trying out different possibilities. As Smith (2006) reviews, these original studies were subject to some methodological criticism. However, subsequent work by Pellegrini and Gustafson (2005), in which observational data was collected of 3- to 5-year-olds over an entire school year, demonstrated that the amount of playful exploration, construction and tool use in which children engaged predicted their subsequent performance on a lure retrieval problem solving task very similar to that used by Sylva et al. (1976). Much of the recent work concerned with children s play, and particularly that related to educational contexts, however, has been inspired by the enormously influential theoretical ideas developed by Vygotsky (1978). These contain two further insights about the cognitive mechanisms by which play might contribute to effortful, intentional learning, problem-solving and creativity. First, he specifically relates play to children s developing sense of control and self-regulation of their own learning. During play, he argued, children create their own zone of proximal development, i.e. they set their own level of challenge, and so what they are doing is always developmentally appropriate (to a degree which tasks set by adults will never be). This also involves the notion that play is spontaneous and initiated by the children themselves; in other words, during play children are in control of their own learning. Guha (1987) has presented a range of evidence that this control element of self-regulation is particularly significant in learning. For example, she cites experiments concerned with visual learning in which subjects are required to wear goggles which make everything look upside down. They are then required to sit in a wheelchair and learn to move safely through an environment. The results of such experiments show that subjects moving themselves around the environment (and having a lot of initial crashes ) learn to do this much more quickly than those who are wheeled safely about by an adult helper. The parallels here, with Sylva et al. (1976) play and taught groups is striking. Specifically neo-vygotskian work has also explored the development of cognitive selfregulation and control relating to particular types of play. Karpov (2005) has provided a useful review of this work, within which he notes that Vygotsky s contention that sociodramatic play has a significant role in the development of self-regulation has been supported by a range of research mostly focusing on attentional and emotional selfregulation (Elias & Berk, 2002; Berk, Mann & Ogan, 2006). Intriguingly, when looking at the specific mechanisms of learning development, Vygotsky also argued that children s use of verbal tools to regulate the behaviour of others was a significant factor in their development of self-regulation. A study of 3- to 7-year-old children standing sentry by Manuilenko (1948) illustrated how this might work. Children standing sentry in a room containing playmates managed to stand motionless for significantly longer than when they were on their own. This appeared to be a consequence of the playmates monitoring the sentry s performance. Second, Vygotsky argues that play makes a crucial contribution to the development of Educational & Child Psychology Vol. 26 No. 2 43

44 David Whitebread, Penny Coltman, Helen Jameson & Rachel Lander symbolic representation. Human thought, culture and communication, he argues, are all founded on the unique human aptitude for using various forms of symbolic representation, which would include drawing and other forms of visual art, visual imagination, and language in all its various forms, mathematical symbol systems, musical notation, dance and drama. Play is recognised in this analysis as the first medium through which children explore the use of symbol systems, most obviously through pretence. Play becomes, in this view, a transition from the purely situational constraints of early childhood to the adult capability for abstract thought. So, as an adult, when you have had an interesting experience, upon which you wish to reflect, or a problem to solve, or a story to write, you have the intellectual tools to do this in your mind. Lacking these tools, the argument follows, children require the support of real situations and objects with which the ideas are worked out through play. The significant link here with later research concerned with children s thinking, problem-solving and creativity is the widespread finding of the significance of representational processes in these areas of development. Bruner s (1964) model of enactive, iconic and symbolic forms of representation and Karmiloff-Smith s (1992) model of representational redescription (RR theory) have been perhaps the most significant contributions in this area. Further empirical support for Vygotsky s argument regarding the link between pretend play and the development of symbolic representational abilities in children has come from a study by Berk et al.(2006), who reported a series of observational studies of 2- to 6-year-old children in which they recorded the incidence of private speech. In Vygotskian theory young children s tendency to talk to themselves, or self-commentate, while they are undertaking a task, is of great significance and forms an important link between the notions of selfregulation and symbolic representation. It is certainly a very prevalent phenomenon, reportedly accounting for between 20 and 60 per cent of pre-school children s utterances. Vygotsky argues that such speech is an important step in the processes by which children learn to represent ideas to themselves in language and learn to use language to selfregulate their activities. It is an intriguing notion and one that is perhaps supported by the common observation among adults that they find themselves engaging in the same kind of behaviour when attempting to think through a challenging problem or set of ideas. In the studies reviewed by Berk et al. (2006), significantly, they found particularly high levels of private speech among 2- to 6-year-old children during make-believe or pretend play. The present studies Our own research in this area has been of two complementary kinds. Within the Cambridgeshire Independent Learning in the Foundation Stage (C.Ind.Le) project (Whitebread et al., 2005; Whitebread et al., 2007; Whitebread, 2007) 582 metacognitive or self-regulatory events were identified from video-recorded data of activities in Foundation Stage classrooms. Many of the events showing the richest evidence of selfregulatory behaviour were playful, but also involved children in collaborative problemsolving which required them to reflect and talk about their own thinking or activity. In two other studies (Whitebread & Jameson, 2005; Lander, 2007) a more experimental approach was adopted. Here, the original classic experiment of Sylva et al. (1976) was adapted to examine the consequences of a play and a taught condition. The results were consistent with views that play impacts upon self-regulation and metacognitive processes, and as a consequence its effects emerge most clearly in tasks and aspects of development which involve problem-solving and creativity, rather than simpler recall and non-strategic learning. 44 Educational & Child Psychology Vol. 26 No. 2

45 Play, Cognition and Self-Regulation The C.Ind.Le Project This was a two-year project which involved 32 Foundation Stage practitioners and their nursery or Reception classes. The practitioners, who were invited to be involved in the project based on their excellent practice and openness to pedagogical innovation, developed playful activities or opportunities which were constructed, based on existing literature, to provoke metacognitive or selfregulatory behaviours. These activities, therefore, normally required the children to solve a problem or be creative, with children working individually or in collaborative groups; some activities were constructed to involve peer tutoring; some activities included adult participation. A guiding principle was that all activities were negotiated and all child initiatives were encouraged. Often activities or opportunities were taken by the children in quite different directions to those envisaged by the practitioner. While video-recording these activities, spontaneous, entirely child-initiated activities were also recorded; as is often the case, these activities usually involved the children in setting themselves goals or problems. Events were recorded both inside classrooms, and in outside play areas; across all areas of the Foundation Stage curriculum; and involving a wide range of different play types, including construction, object-play, pretence, role-play and so on. In order to code the behaviours observed within the recorded events, an analytical model of self-regulation, developed originally by Pino Pasternak (2006), was used and further developed within the project. This model involved the three main aspects of metacognition or self-regulation identified in the literature: Metacognitive knowledge (Flavell, 1987): the individual s knowledge about personal, task and strategy variables affecting their cognitive performance. Metacognitive regulation (Brown, 1987): processes taking place during ongoing activities involving planning, monitoring, control and evaluation. Emotional and motivational regulation (Boekaerts, 1999; Zimmerman, 2000; Corno, 2001): the learner s ongoing monitoring and control of emotions and motivational states during learning tasks. As reported previously (Whitebread et al., 2007), the data derived from this coding was analysed at three levels of increasing depth and, at each stage, care was taken to establish acceptable levels of inter-coder reliability. The levels achieved, based on double coding of between 10 per cent and 20 per cent of the data set at different levels, ranged from 74.8 per cent to 96.1 per cent. A first general analysis of the 582 events which were clearly identified as containing at least some of these aspects of self-regulation 376 (64.6 per cent) were child-initiated, while only 114 (19.6 per cent) were adultinitiated and 92 (15.8 per cent) were jointly initiated. Further, while only 21 (3.6 per cent) involved a whole class working together, and 116 (19.9 per cent) involved individual children working on their own, an impressive 445 events (76.5 per cent) involved children working in pairs or in small groups. Finally, these 582 events were analysed for the degrees of both collaboration and talk, according to whether there was none, it was intermittent or extensive. Figures for the numbers of events showing no collaboration and talk were 155 (26.6 per cent) and 44 (7.6 per cent) respectively; for intermittent levels the figures were 148 (25.4 per cent) and 144 (24.7 per cent); and for extensive levels they were 279 (47.9 per cent) and 394 (67.7 per cent). Taken together, this initial data suggested that, within the 3- to 5-year-old range, we were finding extensive evidence of metacognitive or self-regulatory behaviours which most frequently occurred during learning activities which were initiated by the children, involved them in working in pairs or small groups, and which involved extensive collaboration and talk. However, as the figures above show, around one-in-five of the recorded events involved children working alone, and within these there were many examples of private Educational & Child Psychology Vol. 26 No. 2 45

46 David Whitebread, Penny Coltman, Helen Jameson & Rachel Lander speech. Figure 1 reports a simple, but very clear, example of a child, Ruby, using private speech to help herself carry out the task of placing the correct number of candles on a pretend birthday cake for her sister. As has been reported elsewhere in the literature, we did, however, find that the adult practitioners, who had been selected to be part of the project because of their generally excellent practice, struggled to participate effectively in the children s play. Figure 2 reports an analysis of the prevalence of behaviours showing evidence of the three aspects of self-regulation according to the level of adult involvement in events. As this reveals, as the level of adult involvement increased, the rate of behaviours showing evidence of metacognitive knowledge increased slightly (usually in response to adult questioning), but the rate of behaviours showing children regulating the cognitive or emotional/motivational aspects of the activity markedly decreased. There were, however, some excellent examples of practitioners who managed to participate in, or support, the children s playful activities without completely taking over the regulatory role. In one event, for example, a practitioner supported a young 3-year-old boy attempting to put on a fireman s jacket. The child s friend had already donned a policeman s jacket and helmet, and was waiting to play, so he was keen to put on the jacket as quickly as possible, but was having difficulty. This is clearly a situation in which he could easily have become frustrated, angry and upset. It would have been very easy for the nursery teacher to have quickly put the jacket on him to avoid this potentially distressful situation. If she had done this, however, she would have removed the problem for the child and the opportunity for the child to regulate his own emotions so that he could complete the task for himself successfully. All together, from the child s initial attempt to the point where he finally succeeded in putting on the jacket correctly, with it the right way around and both arms through the correct sleeves, the event lasted well over three minutes. During all this time, at no point did the nursery teacher touch the jacket. What she did do, however, was provide attention (talking to him about the problem and focusing her attention on him throughout), provide emotional support (smiling throughout, laughing positively and playfully when the jacket fell to the floor, encouraging him enthusiastically and expressing delight at each successful move) and provide clear visual guidance (demonstrating putting your arm in like this ) which enabled the boy, after around three minutes of struggle and perseverance (a very long time for a 3-year-old), to finally put the jacket on entirely by himself. The delight on the boy s face and his obvious sense of achievement made it clear that this simple little everyday event had been transformed by a piece of excellent practice into a very powerful piece of learning in self-regulation. It is no surprise to hear that every day, for the next two weeks, the first thing that this boy wanted to do when he arrived at the nursery was to put on the fireman s jacket. The lessons that this little boy had learnt from this incident in terms of perseverance, emotional control and self-efficacy are self-evident. The Experimental Tasks Alongside this observational study, we have also carried out two experimental studies based upon and developing the classic Sylva et al. (1976) study. Space does not allow more than a general overview of these studies in this paper. However, details of the experimental procedures may be found in previous reports (Whitebread & Jameson, 2005; Lander, 2007). The focus in both studies was to investigate the kind of learning that the experience of playful activities would support. So, in both studies, children experienced a taught and play condition, but the impact of these experiences were explored in relation to creative or problem-solving tasks likely to draw upon self-regulatory and metacognitive processes rather than simple recall or non-strategic tasks. 46 Educational & Child Psychology Vol. 26 No. 2

47 Figure 1: Birthday candles. Play, Cognition and Self-Regulation Ruby has placed a large lump of play dough in the top of a plastic mug. She explains to two other children, who are engaged in their own dough-related activities at the same table, that she is making a birthday cake. She has stuck three drinking straw candles in the top of the dough cake. Observed Activity Ruby: Pointing to each drinking straw candle in turn, matching one candle to one counting word. 1, 2, 3 candles. Ruby now adds further drinking straw candles, one at a time. At each addition she says the next number word in the counting sequence. 4 candles, 5 candles, 6 candles, 7 candles, 8 candles, 9 candles After adding the ninth candle Ruby holds her hands either side of the completed cake in a cradling gesture. She smiles broadly. There! This is for my sister And she ll love it! Ruby starts to pick up the dough cake by gripping the straw candles. Almost immediately she puts the cake down again and changes her grip, placing her had around the plastic mug in which it is has been constructed. In this manner she carries the cake away from the table. Analysis In this observation a familiar strategy, counting, is applied to a new situation. The cognitive process is supported by the nonverbal gesture of pointing. Control and regulation: Applies a previously learned strategy to a new situation, in this case supported using a non-verbal gesture. There is no evidence to suggest that these utterances are directed at any other member of the group and so may be interpreted as a selfcommentary, in which the verbalisation is related to the degree to which performance is progressing towards a goal. Monitoring: Self-commentates. The pleasure in having completed the cake is evident in the tone of this utterance, an interpretation supported by the use of facial expression. Emotional/motivational monitoring: Expresses awareness of positive emotional experience of a task. The second element to the utterance also indicates that the outcome of the task has been evaluated in relation to the intended goal, and has been deemed to be successful. Reflection and evaluation: Evaluating the quality of performance. The activities observed here suggest that through cognitive monitoring an initial, ineffective strategy is changed to a more successful one. Control and regulation: Changes strategy as a result of monitoring. Educational & Child Psychology Vol. 26 No. 2 47

48 David Whitebread, Penny Coltman, Helen Jameson & Rachel Lander Figure 2: Self-regulation and adult involvement. Adult involvment: 0=none; 2/3=intermittent/passive/guided by children; 4=adult guided. Mean Rates of Metacognitive Behaviour (Number per minute) Adult involvement 0 Adult involvement 2/3 Adult involvement 4 Level of Adult Involvement Metacognitive Knowledge Regulation Emotion/Motivation In the first study (Whitebread & Jameson, 2005), rather than practical problem-solving, we were interested to see if the same kind of pattern observed between play and taught conditions would emerge in relation to the rather different area of children s oral and written storytelling. We also deliberately chose a sample of able and slightly older children partly to counter the common misconception that play is mostly beneficial to younger or less able children. This sample consisted of 35 Year 1 and Year 2 children (aged 5 to 7 years) in an independent school with an average IQ (as measured by Ravens Progressive Standard Matrices IQ Test) of 131, which is within the top two per cent of the population as a whole. Every child in the group had a reading age at least six months above his/her chronological age. Following the general structure of the original Sylva et al. (1976) study the children were asked to produce oral and written stories after they had been read a story and had experience of story props under play, taught and control conditions. The children were read three different stories in groups of 10 to 15, using a picture book version. In the play condition, the group was then allowed 10 minutes to play with the story props in groups of five without any intervention from the teacher. In the taught condition, the teacher then worked with the group for 10 minutes discussing and modeling with the story props other possible stories, but did not allow the children to handle the props. In the control condition, the children were shown photocopied sheets of the story characters with their names, but no further help or guidance was offered. All the groups were then asked to write their own stories containing one or more of the characters in the story they had just heard. It was emphasized that this should be different from the original story. Later in the day, after each condition, the children were also given the opportunity to record an oral story using the same story characters. The written stories were analyzed according to the time taken to write them, the number of words they contained, their National Curriculum level, using national government guidelines (QCA, 2001), and the number of points of information, beginnings, conflicts and resolutions which were the same or different from that in the original story. Their oral stories were assessed for the time taken to tell them, the number of prompts needed and the confidence with which they were told. 48 Educational & Child Psychology Vol. 26 No. 2

49 Play, Cognition and Self-Regulation The results of the analysis of the children s written stories arising from the three conditions showed that in the taught condition, although the children included more conflicts and resolutions in their written stories than the control group, they spent less time writing their stories than in the other two conditions, and they included more same points in relation to the original story than the play condition and fewer different points than either of the other two conditions. They also included more same resolutions than either of the other two conditions. In the play condition the children also included more conflicts and resolutions than the control group. However, more of these conflicts and resolutions were different from those in the original story than in either of the other two conditions and their stories were of higher quality (as measured by NC levels) than in the taught condition. The analysis of the children s oral storytelling showed that in the play condition the children showed more confidence than in either of the other two conditions. This difference appears to have been mostly attributable to a greater number of children lacking confidence after the taught condition. After the play condition the children also showed more confidence in the oral storytelling activity than their teachers had observed in their regular classroom activities. It is important to note that this was a repeated measures design, and so these results are for the same 35 children experiencing different pedagogical practices. In the second study (Lander, 2007) a repeated measures design was also used with a sample of 16 nursery school children aged 3- to 4-years-old. This study aimed to examine the impact of play and taught conditions again, but this time with a spatial task involving a magnetic shapes game and, following an interesting study by Pepler and Ross (1981), involving a closed or convergent task with only one correct solution and an open, divergent, more creative task with an infinite number of possible different solutions. The closed task involved the child in completing a pattern from which there were missing shapes, and the open task involved using the shapes to make a picture of the child s free choice, having been shown an example picture of a man constructed by the researcher. In the play condition the children were given just five minutes to play with the magnetic shapes before they completed either the closed and open tasks, and in the taught condition, which also lasted five minutes, they practised with the researcher, either matching shapes and colours prior to the closed task or making a copy of the picture of a man prior to the open task. The measurements used for the closed task were time taken, number of pieces entered and number of pieces correct and for the open task the time taken to complete the picture, originality (measured in two ways: uniqueness based on verbal description and percentage of shapes used differently from the man picture) and fluency (number of pieces used). The level of the children s involvement in each of the conditions and tasks was also assessed using the Leuven Involvement Scale for Young Children (LIS- YC) developed by Laevers (1994). The results showed a significant difference between the times the children persevered on the tasks depending on the preceding condition. They persevered significantly longer on the open task when the play condition preceded and on the closed task when the taught condition preceded. There was no significant difference between the number of pieces used in either task dependent on the preceding condition. However, in the closed task, the children placed significantly more pieces correctly if the preceding condition was taught. There was a significantly greater level of originality on the open task (on both measures) when a play condition preceded the task compared to a taught condition. While the level of involvement of the children in the taught/open and play/closed conditions decreased from the condition to the task, and remained the same in the taught/closed Educational & Child Psychology Vol. 26 No. 2 49

50 David Whitebread, Penny Coltman, Helen Jameson & Rachel Lander condition, it significantly increased in the play/open condition. While this is a small study the results clearly support the position that playful experience is particularly effective in preparing children for effortful, problem-solving or creative tasks which require a clearly higher level of metacognitive and self-regulatory performance. Conclusions and implications for play in educational settings Despite the difficulties of research in this area, there is now a considerable body of evidence within the psychological literature supporting the role of play, and particularly pretend or symbolic play, which might involve objects or other children, in particular kinds of learning. Further, as we have argued in this paper, this research is of particular significance for play within educational settings, as it appears to have its most significant impact in relation to effortful, intentional learning involved in the development of problem-solving and creativity skills. This paper has reviewed some of this evidence and related theory and has presented some of the authors own studies focusing on the involvement of play in supporting the development of metacognitive and self-regulatory skills, including representational abilities, which are particularly significant in intentional learning. These studies have, in the case of the observational work, been located in Foundation Stage classrooms, or, as in the case of the more experimental studies, been located in educationally relevant domains (writing and visual art). As we stated at the outset of this paper, we believe this to be an important perspective, both in the way it advances our understandings about the relationships between play and learning, and because it provides clear guidelines for practitioners in their attempts to provoke and support play in their classrooms in ways which are likely to be most productive for children s learning. Some of the present authors and others have written elsewhere concerning the implications of supporting children s self-regulated learning for the classroom environment, for learning activities and for teacher-child interactions (Bronson, 2000; Featherstone & Bayley, 2001; Perry et al., 2002; Whitebread 2007; Whitebread & Coltman, 2007). The procedures and practices which these authors have promoted generally apply equally and perhaps particularly, to the support and encouragement of playful activity in educational contexts. The four principles derived from Whitebread and colleagues C.Ind.Le study, for example, of emotional warmth and security, children s initiation and feelings of control, cognitive challenge through problem-solving and creativity, and talk about learning (including private speech and collaborative talk), all clearly apply and are highly relevant to the organisation and support of productive play. In our experience, also, the notion of self-regulation, properly understood, has proved to be of enormous help to practitioners when they are considering their own role in children s play. We have cited one particular example from the C.Ind.Le project of some excellent practice in supporting a child to progress in his ability to self-regulate his emotions, but there were many other examples of adults involving themselves in children s play in ways which moved the play on, increased the cognitive challenge, facilitated representations by providing new ideas and vocabulary, but did not take over the regulatory role. This requires skill and sensitivity, but a clear understanding of the importance of selfregulation in children s learning significantly helps teachers of young children to interact more productively in playful contexts. 50 Educational & Child Psychology Vol. 26 No. 2

51 Play, Cognition and Self-Regulation The Authors David Whitebread, Penny Coltman, Helen Jameson & Rachel Lander, Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge. References Baumeister, R.F. & Vohs, K.D. (Eds.) (2004). Handbook of self-regulation: Research, theory and applications. New York: The Guilford Press. Bennett, N., Wood, L. & Rogers, S. (1997). Teaching through play. Buckingham: Open University Press. Berk, L.E., Mann, T.D. & Ogan, A.T. (2006). Makebelieve play: Wellspring for development of selfregulation. In D.G. Singer, R.M. Golinkoff & K. Hirsh-Pasek (Eds.), Play=Learning: How play motivates and enhances children s cognitive and socialemotional growth (pp ). Oxford: Oxford University Press. Blair, C. & Razza, R.P. (2007). Relating effortful control, executive function, and false belief understanding to emerging math and literacy abilities in kindergarten. Child Development, 78, Boekaerts, M. (1999). Self-regulated learning: Where we are today. International Journal of Educational Research, 31, Bornstein, M.H. (2006) On the significance of social relationships in the development of children s earliest symbolic play: An ecological perspective. In A. Göncü & S. Gaskins (Eds.), Play and development: Evolutionary, sociocultural and functional perspectives (pp ) Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum. Bronson, M.B. (2000). Self-regulation in early childhood. New York: The Guilford Press. Brown, A.L. (1987). Metacognition, executive control, self-regulation and other more mysterious mechanisms. In F.E. Weinert & R.H. Kluwe (Eds.), Metacognition, motivation and understanding (pp ), Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum. Bruner, J.S. (1964). The course of cognitive growth. American Psychologist, 19, Bruner, J.S. (1972). Nature and uses of immaturity. American Psychologist, 27, Corno, L. (2001). Volitional aspects of self-regulated learning. In B.J. Zimmerman & D.J. Schunk (Eds.), Self-regulated learning and academic achievement: Theoretical perspectives (2nd ed., pp ) Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum. Correspondence Dr David Whitebread Senior Lecturer in Psychology & Education, Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge, 184 Hills Road, Cambridge CB2 8PQ. Tel: Fax: Elias, C.L. & Berk, L.E. (2002). Self-regulation in young children: Is there a role for sociodramatic play? Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 17, Flavell, J.H. (1979). Metacognition and cognitive monitoring: A new area of cognitive developmental inquiry. American Psychologist, 34, Flavell, J.H. (1987). Speculations about the nature and development of metacognition. In F.E.Weinert & R.H. Kluwe (Eds.), Metacognition, motivation and understanding (pp.21 29). London: Lawrence Erlbaum. Featherstone, S. & Bayley, R. (2001). Foundations of independence. Featherstone Education. Gaskins, S. (2000). Children s daily activities in a Mayan village: A culturally grounded description, Journal of Cross-Cultural Research, 34, Guha, M. (1987). Play in school. In G.M. Blenkin & A.V. Kelly (Eds.), Early childhood education (pp.61 79). London: Paul Chapman. Hacker, D.J., Dunlosky, J. & Graesser, A.C. (Eds.) (1998). Metacognition in educational theory and practice. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum. Karmiloff-Smith, A. (1992). Beyond modularity: A developmental perspective on cognitive science. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Karpov, Y.V. (2005). Three- to Six-year-olds: Sociodramatic play as the leading activity during the period of early childhood. In The Neo- Vygotskian approach to child development (pp ). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Laevers, F. (Ed.) (1994). Defining and assessing quality in early childhood education. Studia Paedagogica, 16. Leuven, Belgium: Leuven University Press. Lander, R. (2007). Investigating the effects of play on children s problem solving and creativity. Unpublished MPhil thesis, University of Cambridge. Educational & Child Psychology Vol. 26 No. 2 51

52 David Whitebread, Penny Coltman, Helen Jameson & Rachel Lander Manning, K. & Sharp, A. (1977). Structuring Play in the early years at school. Cardiff: Ward Lock Educational. Manuilenko, Z.V. (1948). The development of voluntary behaviour in pre-schoolers. Izvestiya APN RSFSR, 14, Pellegrini, A.D. & Gustafson, K. (2005). Boys and girls uses of objects for exploration, play and tools in early childhood. In A.D. Pellegrini & P.K. Smith (Eds.), The nature of play: Great apes and humans (pp ). New York: Guilford Press. Pepler, D.J. & Ross, H.S. (1981). The effects of play on convergent and divergent problem solving. Child Development, 52(4), Perry, N.E., VandeKamp, K.J.O., Mercer, L.K. & Nordby, C.J (2002). Investigating teacher-student interactions that foster self-regulated learning. Educational Psychologist, 37(1), Pino Pasternak, D. (2006). Analysing parent-child interactions during study-related activities and their impact on children s self-regulated learning. Paper presented at the Second Meeting of the EARLI SIG 16: Metacognition. University of Cambridge. QCA (2001). English Tasks Teacher s Handbook. QCA/DfES. Schneider, W. & Weinert, F.E. (1989). Universal trends and individual differences in memory development. In A. De Ribaupierre (Ed.), Transition mechanisms in child development: The longitudinal perspective (pp ). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press Schweinhart, L.J. & Weikart, D.P. (1998). Why curriculum matters in early childhood education. Educational Leadership, 55(6), Smith, P.K. (1990). The role of play in the nursery and primary school curriculum. In C. Rogers & P. Kutnick (Eds.), The social psychology of the primary school (pp ). London: Routledge. Smith, P.K. (2006). Evolutionary foundations and functions of play: An overview. In A. Göncü & S. Gaskins (Eds.), Play and development: Evolutionary, sociocultural and functional perspectives (pp.21 49). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum. Sternberg, R.S. (1985). Beyond IQ: A triarchic theory of human intelligence. New York: Cambridge University Press. Sylva, K., Bruner, J.S & Genova, P. (1976). The role of play in the problem-solving of children 3- to 5-years-old. In J.S. Bruner, A. Jolly & K. Sylva (Eds.), Play: It s role in development and evolution (pp.55 67). Harmondsworth: Penguin. Tamis-LeMonda, C.S. & Bornstein, M.H. (1989). Habituation and maternal encouragement of attention in infancy as predictors of toddler language, play and representational competence. Child Development, 60, Veenman, M.V.J. & Spaans, M.A. (2005). Relation between intellectual and metacognitive skills: Age and task differences, Learning and Individual Differences, 15, Vygotsky, L.S. (1978). The role of play in development. In Mind in Society (pp ). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Whitebread, D. (2007). Developing independence in learning. In J. Moyles (Ed.), Early years foundations: Meeting the challenge (pp ). Maidenhead: Open University Press. Whitebread, D., Anderson, H., Coltman, P., Page, C., Pino Pasternak, D. & Mehta, S (2005). Developing independent learning in the early years. Education 3 13, 33, Whitebread, D., Bingham, S., Grau, V., Pino Pasternak, D. & Sangster, C. (2007). Development of metacognition and self-regulated learning in young children: The role of collaborative and peer-assisted learning. Journal of Cognitive Education and Psychology, 3, Whitebread, D. & Coltman, P. (2007). Developing young children as self-regulated learners. In J. Moyles (Ed.), Beginning teaching beginning learning (3rd ed., pp ). Maidenhead: Open University Press. Whitebread, D. & Jameson, H. (2005). Play, storytelling and creative writing. In J. Moyles (Ed.), The excellence of play (2nd ed., pp.59 71). Maidenhead: Open University Press. Zimmerman, B.J. (2000). Attaining self-regulation: A social cognitive perspective. In P. Pintrich, M. Boekaerts & M. Zeidner (Eds.), Handbook of self-regulation (pp.13 39). Orlando, FL: Academic Press. 52 Educational & Child Psychology Vol. 26 No. 2

53 Observed classroom interaction processes between pre-school teachers and children: Results of a video study during free-play time in German pre-schools Anke König This paper presents research results from a video study on play and structured activities in German preschools. The research provides an analysis of how individual teachers interact with children, both alone and in groups. This video study is orientated on social constructivist theories and rooted in empirical research results. The focus lies on constructs of quality in preschools using teacher-pupil interaction as a starting point for conceptualising a stimulating learning environment. Video data of teachers (N=61) was gathered in this field study. Each teacher was filmed for 60 minutes. The complex teacher-pupil interactions captured on film were subsequently analysed using microanalysis techniques. The study shows that the aims of social constructivist approaches were rarely observed in German pre-school activities (N=149). The results suggest that the pre-school teachers have a poorly developed understanding of how children can be engaged in a stimulating educational setting. The findings also show how play and structured activities are offered to the children in pre-school. Further research may examine how intervention programmes might lead to more sophisticated and meaningful interaction processes between a pre-school teacher and the children. Therefore, we have to analyse how children engage in interaction processes and how they use initiations from teachers for their development. THE PRESENT STUDY is based on a social-constructivist perspective and aims to investigate the significance of interaction between teachers and children as well as identification of types of interactions that characterise play and structured activities during free-play time in German preschools. Various international studies on pre-school education have demonstrated that the quality of the educational experience is shaped by the pedagogical provision in educational settings (Barnett, Young & Schweinhart, 1998; Howes, Phillipsen & Peisner-Feinberg, 2000). These findings constitute the starting point of the present study. In social constructivist approaches, learning depends on opportunities of coconstruction with the social environment. Interaction is the key to co-construction and the starting point for processes referring to SST (Sustained Shared Thinking). In the English EPPE longitudinal study (Sylva et al., 2003), forms of adult-child interaction that support the learning processes of children in particularly effective ways were identified. These were called Sustained Shared Thinking (SST) defined as a form of interaction characterised by the principle of coconstruction. The co-constructive guidance of learning processes can thus be viewed as a possibility for supporting the learning and educational processes of children in a deliberate manner. SST was defined as an effective pedagogic interaction, where two or more individuals work together in a intellectual way to solve a problem, clarify a concept, evaluate activities, or extend a narrative (Siraj-Blatchford et al., 2002). A great deal of current discussion on an international level in the field of early childhood pedagogy concerns social-constructivist learning and educational theories (Bertram & Pascal, 2002). Social-constructivist theories contend that the acquisition of Educational & Child Psychology Vol. 26 No The British Psychological Society, 2009

54 Anke König knowledge is not actuated through simple processes of transfer from the external world to the individual; rather, the individual s existing experiential structures are of particular importance in knowledge acquisition (Berger & Luckmann, 1970). In social constructivism a central role is ascribed to the experiences children have in their social interaction with peers and adults (Youniss, 1994; Wood, Bruner & Ross, 1976). In the constructivist view of learning the individual is assigned an active role. Learning is understood as a construction of knowledge that the individual interprets with reference to his or her personal experiences. When new insights can be obtained, this knowledge can lead to the reformulation of existing concepts and perceptions concerning reality (Hasselhorn & Gold, 2006). Pedagogical action which is informed by social-constructivist theories aims at generating so-called transitional phases and/or re-constructive processes. The individual is then coconstructively supported in the development of his or her competencies. The interaction between the teacher and child is, therefore, a key component within the quality of the educational experience. This fact is underscored by international studies (cf. Fthenakis, 2003; Kontos & Dunn 1993; Kontos & Wilcox-Herzog, 2002; Howes et al., 2008). SST could be acknowledged as an effective form of interaction. To understand the quality of interaction processes in detail it is also relevant to know what supports SST. In this study we refer to early parent-child and peer interaction studies which offers key conditions for a stimulating learning environment in early years. Research into early parent-child interaction shows that sensitivity (cf. Lohaus, Ball & Lißmann, 2004; Oerter & Montada, 2002; Holmes, 2002; Brazelton et al., 1974) and responsive behaviour (Lohaus et al., 2004; Schmücker & Buchheim 2002; Simó, Rauh, & Ziegenhain 2000; Papousek & Papousek 1978) are core variables for the development of interpersonal relationships and also form the basis for all social interaction. These core variables are considered to be constitutive for the establishment of optimal learning environments which perceive the child as a competent individual and encourage his or her self-efficacy. With sensitivity and empathy, adults can raise the attention of the child to establish an interactive relation (Papousek & Papousek, 1978). Various studies have underscored the following criteria as characteristic of good teacher-child interaction in that they build a connection with the learning and educational processes of children in a sensitive manner: The emotional relationship between the teacher and child (Tausch et al., 1973; Brandt & Wolf, 1985; 1987; Pianta & Nimetz, 1991; Howes et al., 1992; Eliker & Fortner-Wood, 1995; Kugelmass & Ross-Bernstein, 2000; Hamre & Pianta, 2005) The involvement of teachers in their interaction with children (Wilcox-Herzog & Ward, 2004; Howes & Smith, 1995) An effort to lead the child to processes involved in the solution of problems and/or the exploration of thought processes (Mauritzson & Säljö, 2001; Hugh & Donaldson, 1979; Pramling 1990; 1996) Specific forms of interaction, such as specific ways of posing questions (Kontos & Dunn, 1993; McCartney, 1984; Van der Aalsvoort, 2003; Renninger, 1998; Wood 1992; Wilcox-Herzog & Ward, 2004) Negotiative processes between the teacher and child (Makin, 2004; Rogoff, 1990; Sylva et al., 2003) Beside a social-emotional relationship, these criteria highlight in particular the reciprocity of the interactive relationship as a basis for a stimulating learning process. These research results link to co-constructive learning theories or social constructivist approaches. The negotiative processes between the teacher and child harbour the potential for significantly supporting the cognitive development of the child (Rogoff, 1990). In this 54 Educational & Child Psychology Vol. 26 No. 2

55 Observed classroom interaction processes between preschool teachers and children connection, it is of key importance that negotiative processes lead to a process of shared thinking between the interacting agents. These negotiative processes are described by Rogoff as a supportive basis (or scaffolding, in her terms) to assist the child in learning processes (through so-called guided participation ). Findings in the fields of instructional and didactic theory also corroborate the importance of the reciprocal relation between the educator and educated (Weinert, 1996a, 1996b), as well as the importance of the specific forms of interaction used by the teacher in the negotiative process (LoCasale-Crouch et al., 2007). The specific forms of interaction influence the instructional quality of interactive processes and also establish to greater or lesser extent the opportunity structure for the children to connect to the interactive process with their experiences. The current body of research reviewed above underscores the opportunity for the targeted improvement of pre-school learning environments through an effort to establish adult interactions with children in a sensitive manner. The chances for realising this are particularly good when interaction is also used as a source of instructive momentum that leads to the expansion of thinking processes by means of SST. These forms of interaction offer the possibility for instructional resources for the children to connect with their own experiences. This form of interaction is viewed as an ideal for enabling intersubjectivity between the educator and educated. Starting Strong II (OECD, 2004), identifies key areas for further development of the quality of pre-schools. According to the report, it is necessary in the future to develop a greater understanding for child developmental processes and learning strategies in Germany. With this goal in mind, the present study seeks to investigate the interactive space of pre-school. Method This study examined the interaction between teachers and children, a criterion in evaluating the quality of educational processes that is currently considered to have the greatest impact on child learning. Tietze (1998) showed that children in German pre-schools spend the greatest amount of the day in free-play time. Drawing on this finding, the present study was carried out in free-play time that includes play and structured activities (see Table 2). Free-play time is a high heterogeneous situation and includes role-play activities as well as art, block play, board games, etc. Free-play is a period in the preschool day where the children could play their favourite games or could choose structured activities. This time period generally includes indoor activities. Each teacher was filmed for 60 minutes (no break) during the core period of the day between 9 and 11 o clock in the morning. An accompanying questionnaire asked the preschool teachers about the educational theories that had a special meaning for their pedagogical work. This enabled the study to look at links between theory and practice in relation to each teacher Next, a differentiated analysis of the interactive space of the pre-school was conducted based on the criteria isolated in the foregoing empirical identification of key conditions for a stimulating learning environment. Research questions 1 What type of atmosphere defines the everyday environment of the pre-school? In the first analysis the social-emotional atmosphere of the pre-schools were evaluated by the Caregiver Interaction Scale (CIS) of Arnett. The results gave information as to whether a positive social-emotional atmosphere was provided in the observed pre-school classrooms. Educational & Child Psychology Vol. 26 No. 2 55

56 Anke König 2 Do the pre-school teachers sustain their interactions with the children? The second analysis was a time/event sampling based upon one minute intervals. It showed whether the preschool teacher sustained the interaction processes and if so, for what period the topic was sustained with the children. These results revealed the extent to which interaction between teachers and children were seen as an important part of pre-school life in Germany. 3 What forms of interaction were teachers commonly engaged in? The third analysis referred to the sustained interaction ( 3 minutes) in detail. This analysis was carried out with a differentiated self-constructed observation instrument referring to the key conditions for a stimulating learning environment. It aimed to reveal which forms of interaction were common and which were lacking. 4 Can the forms of interaction observed in the pre-schools be understood as constituting an interactional-constructivist learning environment? This element of the third area of analysis also aimed at answering this key question. The observation instrument allowed identification of sustained shared thinking and interaction processes which refer to the child as active learner and co-construction. Sample Video material for the study was gathered from 61 teachers in 17 pre-schools. All of the teachers were female, The data was collected in two federal states of Germany: Baden- Württemberg and North Rhine-Westphalia. The teachers had a mean age of 34.8 years. Results The findings are based upon the levels of analyses as discussed above. First level of analysis In the first level of analysis the video footage was evaluated based on the Caregiver Interaction Scale (CIS, Arnett, 1989). The Caregiver Interaction Scale allows conclusions to be drawn (Cronbach s alpha: ) concerning the social and emotional atmosphere in pre-school groups based on three different subscales that were rated as: 1=not true at all; 2=somewhat true; 3=quite a bit true; and 4=very much true). Table 1 shows the results of the analysis. Table 1: Caregiver Interaction Scale (Mean). CIS subscales Mean SD Treats the child warmly and respectfully Rejects the child Emphasises obedience and control The results suggest that play and structured activities in this study were dominated by an atmosphere of warmth and respect (whole sample: mean=2.59, sd=0.6) towards the child. These are good conditions for a positive social-emotional atmosphere and also a good base to support learning processes. Second level of analysis In the second stage of analysis a time/event sampling was undertaken. The footage was analysed in one-minute intervals based on following: if the teacher and child are in a state of interaction through a common activity or verbal exchange (interaction/topic) or the teacher leaves the room or speaks with adults; interaction between the teacher (disengagement) and child is no longer possible or neither interaction nor disengagement; e.g. the teacher sorts materials, looks around, etc. The use of time/event sampling enabled a distinction between interactions which were of a brief or sustained nature ( 3 min). Sustained interactions should not be 56 Educational & Child Psychology Vol. 26 No. 2

57 Observed classroom interaction processes between preschool teachers and children confused with those forms of interaction described by Sylva et al. (2003) as sustained shared thinking. The term sustained interaction refers exclusively to the duration of social contact. This categorisation was determined based upon the data and gathered as the optimal unit of coherence; in comparable studies this metric for measuring interaction was also selected (cf. Sylva et al., 2003; Siraj-Blatchford et al., 2002). A total of 170 sustained interactions were identified; however, only 149 of those were subjected to more detailed analysis. Criteria for exclusion: deficient footage sound quality; songs and group games. Here mutual interaction is present, but these activities cannot be viewed as self-constructive interactive processes. Specific types of interaction were identified using cluster analysis (see Figures 1 3). Three different types of actions were identified. Type A: Marked by little variance in the topic of focus and multiple sustained interactions ( 3 min). This type of interaction was ascribed to 60.6 per cent of the teachers (Figure 1). Type B: Marked by a great deal of variance in the topic of focus and few sustained interactions (34.4 per cent) (Figure 2). Type C: Displays little interaction with the children (3.3 per cent) (Figure 3). Third level of analysis All sustained interactions were transcribed for the third level of analysis. The interactions (N=149) taken into consideration at this stage had a total volume of Σ=67607 words. All the Settings (N=149) were sorted to special activities. Table 2 shows in which activities the pre-school teacher and the children are involved during interaction. Art is the most often observed activity form where pre-school teacher and children are involved in sustained interactions ( 3 minutes). Most of these activities are spontaneous (89.9 per cent). Only 10.1 per cent are planned in detailed form the preschool teacher for this time period. Table 2: Activities frequencies. Activities Frequency % Role play Construction Technical Art Snack/lunch Board game Sports Books Computer Chat Care Others Totals The data sets were evaluated with MAXqda, a data analysis programme. Termfrequency analysis allowed insight into the teachers preferential use of certain words. Based on the frequent use of the word du (the second person singular familiar for you ), Table 3 reveals that these teachers preferred to establish a direct interaction with children in the pre-school settings. In this level of analysis, sustained interactions ( 3min) were evaluated with regard to special forms of interaction. The results in Figure 4 are based on empirical conditions for good learning circumstances (see Section 1.2 on interaction-quality criteria) and implemented to evaluate the video footage (Bos & Tanari, 1999). Figure 4 includes categories that are orientated on a didactic process of interaction. It shows in steps from action to sustained shared thinking how an involved interaction process could evolve. Each category is rated with different subcategories. In total 33 items (subcategories) were used to rate the N=149 sustained interaction in a three-minute time period. Category A is action and means acting without verbal impulse. It reflects a minimum level of interaction. Category B refers to initiate an interaction process and follow up impulses of the Educational & Child Psychology Vol. 26 No. 2 57

58 Anke König Figure 1: Interaction type A. Figure 2: Interaction type B. Figure 3: Interaction type C. 58 Educational & Child Psychology Vol. 26 No. 2

59 Observed classroom interaction processes between preschool teachers and children Table 3: Word frequencies within activities including percentage and ranking. Word Frequency % Rank du (2nd person singular familiar for you ) jetzt ( now ) wir ( we ) hier ( here ) hast (2nd person singular familiar for have ) kannst (2nd person singular familiar for can ) musst (2nd person singular familiar for must ) children. Category C links to motivation for a special activity. Category D rates wait means give time to the children to react and listen to the children. Category E focuses on the reaction of the teacher if children have given an impulse. This category includes sub-categories like feedback in a positive manner as well as instructions and references to rules. Category F is important in relation to learning processes. Here expand of knowledge is in the focus of interest. Category G ( delegate ) refers to how often pre-school teachers refer to the competences of the children, e.g. the preschool teacher asked the children, how they will manage something or the pre-school teacher give the management to the children. Category H links to sustained shared thinking. The interaction process shows reciprocity and shared thinking referring to one topic. Figure 4 shows that the observed teachers proceeded in a highly adaptive and sensitive manner when establishing an interaction. The categories follow-up (B) the impulse of the children and wait and listen (D) to children are used in each interaction process. These results were comparable with the findings from the first stage of analysis. In the category expand/differentiate (F) the results were quite different, however. The category was observed infrequently in the everyday pre-school environment in comparison to the categories follow-up and wait/listen. The category of Delegate/ challenge the children s abilities was also observed with great infrequency. These observations diverge from the subjective selfevaluations offered by the teachers in the accompanying questionnaire. In the questionnaire the majority (78.7 per cent) of the teachers agreed with the statement that the child is the key actor. Figure 4: Third stage of analysis: Means of categories. A B C D E F G H action / without verbal impuls initiate / follow up motivation wait and listing reaction expand/differentiate delegate sustained shared thinking A B C D E F G H Educational & Child Psychology Vol. 26 No. 2 59

60 Anke König Table 4: Rank of subcategories. Category Sub-category/item % 1 E React The teacher provides feedback or comments on something D Wait/listen The teacher listens while maintaining eye contact 9.92 with the child. 3 E React The teacher provides instruction on how to proceed F Expand/differentiate The teacher explains how or why something exists as it does A rank was also assigned to each individual sub-category in the analysis. Table 4 reveals the findings. Column two refers to the categories and column three shows the associated sub-categories. The table provides an insight into the most often rated subcategories. These sub-categories influence each interaction process between pre-school teacher and children in detail. For this it is from relevance to look behind these subcategories to get more information what determines the interaction process. With regard to the length of the article in the following only one sub-category was considered in detail. Fourth level of analysis In this level of analysis the sub-category The teacher explains how or why something exists as it does is evaluated in detail. One pre-supposition of the present study is that this sub-category harbours potential for children to expand their abilities. The sub-category of Explanations was defined in greater detail. To this end, a grid developed by Passmore (1962) was used ( Varieties of explanations ). The grid from Passmore makes it possible to see what the category explanation in detail could mean. Therefore, Passmore differentiates this category in four sub-categories: Causal explanation of events or facts, explanation of the meaning of a word/interpretation of a text/definition, differing analysis or classification of a situation/corrective reinterpretation, justification or rationale for a specific action or behaviour. The sub-categories have different relevance referring to expand knowledge of the children. In order to underscore the high adaptivity of the category system developed by Passmore, the original quotes have been used here. The numbers in parentheses identify the ID of the teacher and the associated sustained interaction. The categories were applied to the video data. Table 5 shows the high adaptivity of the grid in the sub-category of Explanations (Categorie F: expand/ differentiate) in everyday pre-school environments. Table 6 contains findings which could be obtained based on Passmore s (1962) grid of categories. According to Table 6, Justification and statements comprises the largest portion of the Explanations subcategory. The results show that not causal or complex explanations determine the interaction process. Justification and statements are not strictly logically. The findings lead to the conclusion that the children do not get a deeper understanding of a fact with the Explanations of the pre-school teachers. Explanation means in this case justification of acts. Conclusions and discussion This study aimed to provide insight into the free-play time of pre-school children in Germany. The findings show how play and structured activities are offered to the children in pre-school. It has shown that only a few activities are planned in detail (10.1 per cent), most interaction processes between the pre-school teachers and the children are spontaneous activities. Free-play time is a main time period, where the children could engage in the activities of their choice. In German pre-schools freeplay time claims the largest time amount of a pre-school day hence the importance of knowing how learning processes are 60 Educational & Child Psychology Vol. 26 No. 2

61 Observed classroom interaction processes between preschool teachers and children Table 5: Passmore s Varieties of explanation. Varieties of explanations Examples Causal explanation of events or facts two eyes so that he can see well (64/1) I m going to turn the light on it s far too dark back there (50/3) Explanation of the meaning of a What is the locomotive? The locomotive word/interpretation of a text/definition provides power to move the train (64/3) That is the street and those are the rails. The car can drive on the street and the train can travel on the rails (47/1) Differing analysis or classification of a That doesn t belong to anyone. We can all play situation/corrective reinterpretation with that (51/1) For Rose I would have said R-o-s-e. But this time I said N for Nose (27/1) Justification or statements for a specific Did you all hear that? We have to go to the action or behaviour zoo again; there is a baby giraffe there (54/2) I ll be happy when I ve gotten rid of this pumpkin. It s really obstinate (58/1) Table 6: Frequencies, Varieties of explanation. Explanations Justification/ Definition Instructions of Causal Complex Re- Statements a constructive interpretation nature Σ=404 Σ=157 Σ=135 Σ=122 Σ=66 Σ=51 being/might be supported through teacherpupil interactions during that period. The research questions are individually addressed in the following discussion. The first question was: What type of atmosphere defines the everyday environment of the pre-school? The results show that the atmosphere in individual classrooms was marked by the warm and respectful treatment of each child. The prevalence of this basic attitude was corroborated by the third stage of analysis. Here, the category of wait/listen had a particularly important role in the everyday environment of the preschool. In addition, the sub-category of The teacher listens while maintaining eye contact with the child was identified as the second most frequent form of interaction in pre-school settings. In this way, the atmosphere within individual pre-school classrooms can be assessed as a good learning environment from a social and emotional perspective. According to various authors, a good social and emotional atmosphere is the starting basis for encouraging the learning and educational processes of children (Tausch et al., 1973; Brandt & Wolf, 1985, 1987; Pianta & Nimetz, 1991; Howes et al., 1992; Eliker & Fortner-Wood, 1995; Kugelmass, 2000; Hamre & Pianta, 2005). Educational & Child Psychology Vol. 26 No. 2 61

62 Anke König The second question was whether different forms of interaction could be identified in the pre-school. Several types of interaction were isolated with time and event sampling. Based on this analysis, the interactive space of the pre-school is described as highly complex. This is due to the fact that classroom activities in pre-schools are largely shaped by voluntary participation and individual interest. Consequently, children can be involved in totally different projects simultaneously. This type of classroom environment can constitute a great source of stress for teachers, particularly when they attempt to be available and responsive to every child at the same time. Open learning environments require a great deal of structure to allow intensive phases of interaction to take place. The observed frequency of interaction type B which is characterised by frequent changes in the addressed topic and form of interaction, with few sustained interactions indicates that not all pre-school teachers emphasise a structured learning environment to the same degree. Interaction type A which is characterised by few changes in the addressed topic and multiple sustained interactions ( 3 min.) were found in more than half of all teachers in the sample (61 per cent). This type of interaction harbours the possibility for the establishment of dialogically developing interactions with children. Teachable moments (Hyun & Marshall, 2003) can be fostered in this interactive context and used as a point of departure for supporting the child in the process of scaffolding (Rogoff, 1990). The third question relates to the forms of interaction in which teachers were commonly engaged. The results show that the categories Initiate/follow-up, Wait/listen as well as React were often used by teachers. With reference to interactional-constructivist theories of learning, however, it is surprising that the categories of Motivate and Expand and differentiate were rarely witnessed. The key question refers to the social constructivist approach: Can the forms of interaction observed in the pre-schools be understood as constituting an interactionalconstructivist learning environment? Based on the findings of this study, the learning environment of the German pre-school cannot yet be assessed as interactionalconstructivist in nature. At the same time, however, propitious initial conditions are offered for the future orientation of learning environments in accordance with interactional-constructivist educational theory. As direct interaction was employed infrequently in these German pre-schools as a means of supporting and expanding learning processes, it is necessary to focus future efforts on developing a model of didactic action tailored to the pre-school environment. Such efforts are of critical importance considering the high expectations currently placed on teachers for the education of children in specific academic domains. The approaches taken to learning and educational processes thus play a key role in the field of early years education. Against expectation, the interaction processes observed between the pre-school teachers and children during free-play time in these German pre-schools was poorly influenced by play. This is surprising because the interaction processes are not influenced by formal education so that the pre-school teachers and the children have opportunities to construct the interaction and be adaptive to projects and ideas. The interactions lack involved, intensive and stimulating play situations where each partner could expand their knowledge and where play processes could be developed further as a consequence. Different authors refer to play and its associated high levels of involvement and engagement. Vygotsky describes his concept of Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) referring to play situations (Oerter, 1999). According to the ZPD, play holds the potential for co-construction where each partner is involved and could expand knowledge with the help of more capable peers or adults by interaction. These central aspects of high concentration and reciprocal interaction could be used as starting points to under- 62 Educational & Child Psychology Vol. 26 No. 2

63 Observed classroom interaction processes between preschool teachers and children stand how stimulating learning environments have to look for young children. These key elements of play are classified in social constructivist learning theories as central aspects of good conditions for learning. Involvement and co-construction are integral features of interaction within SST. These quality aspects of play as far as the knowledge we have from early parent-child interaction and instruction theories (see above) could lead us to enhance early childhood education in an adaptive manner. The present paper provides a look at the results of the study Interaktion von ErzieherIn und Kindern ( Interaction between teachers and children ). The first part of the study which features detailed findings on teacher activities can be found in König (2007, 2008, 2009). A further study will be undertaken based upon additional analysis to allow discussions on the domains of language, mathematics, and natural science. Moreover, the actual construction of the interactive process in a reciprocal relationship (teacherchild) will be investigated. Correspondence Anke König, Dr.phil. Juniorprofessorin für Frühpädagogik, Hochschule Vechta, Driverstr. 22, Vechta, Germany. Educational & Child Psychology Vol. 26 No. 2 63

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66 Play, narrative and learning in education: A biocultural perspective Pam Jarvis A substantial body of research suggests that both teachers and students frequently find teaching and learning within the confines of the English National Curriculum a frustrating and alienating experience (Wood, 2004). Interviews were undertaken in five English secondary schools to explore aspects of both teacher and student constructions of the teaching and learning process. The resulting thematically analysed data supported Wood s (2004, p.371) proposals of impoverished learning. It is subsequently proposed that if we view human beings as storying animals (Lyle, 2000, p.55) making sense of their world through cohesive narratives within Wittgensteinian language games (Wittgenstein, 1953) via collaborative play and discovery activities, we can more readily define problems emerging from heavy reliance upon transmission teaching practices resulting from the demands of the English National Curriculum. It is proposed that such a pedagogy does not adequately recognise human primate styles of learning, in particular the need for to-be-learned material to be embedded within cohesive narratives. Introduction: Play, narrative and language games in education THE EDUCATION REFORM ACT (1988) introduced a content-driven National Curriculum which came into force to offer the same education for all children in England (Brock, 2008, p.80). Wood (2004, p.361) proposed that subsequently, successive English governments used this imposed curriculum to operate a radical modernising agenda which introduced notions of central government command and control to induce learner performativity. Over the past 20 years, similar curriculua have also been imposed elsewhere in the Western, and notably, English-speaking world; for example, Henley et al. (2007, p.56) referred to US educators squeezing every minute of the school day to meet the mandates of the No Child Left Behind Act. Increasing numbers of education researchers have subsequently reflected upon increasing alienation amongst learners, and a consequent need to create authentic learning communities (Larrivee, 2000, p.293). This paper takes a biocultural perspective to reflect upon this topic, raising the specific possibility that current English education practices may be poorly matched to human primate styles of learning; in particular that contemporary English modes of teaching may not adequately recognise the need for to-be-learned material to be presented within narratives that make cohesive sense to the learner. The author initially developed the developmental biocultural perspective in an extended piece of research carried out to investigate the learning that children accomplish in outdoor free play activities (Jarvis 2007a, 2007b). Within this longitudinal, ethnographic study it was found that children aged between 4 and 6 co-created a variety of narratives to script their free play within their school playground, and in so doing, engaged in a rich learning experience involving simultaneous competition and collaboration, developing complex gendered interaction skills. The activities the children undertook mirrored many of the physical play styles of earlier primate species, but they used cohesive, culturally relevant narratives to make uniquely human sense of the activities in which they engaged. The biocultural perspective synthesises aspects of evolved human primate biopsychology with the products of human language and culture in its endeavours to understand human behaviour and cognition; [the] biocultural 66 Educational & Child Psychology Vol. 26 No. 2 The British Psychological Society, 2009

67 Play, narrative and learning in education model reflects a confluence between innate and learned influences (Mallon & Stich, 2000, p.143). Harré and Tissaw (2005) outlined the psychological relevance of Wittgensteinian philosophy, which posits an intriguing model of the highly linguistic human being in the assertion that language is, at root, a type of human extension behaviour. As such, Wittgenstein (1953) proposed, human beings express their internal states through language games initially learned over the developmental period and refined throughout the lifespan. This hugely extends human modes of communication beyond the cries, grunts, postures and facial expressions used by non-human animals. Wittgenstein suggests that language gets a footing in the subjective domain of individual experiences by the substitution [of cries and grunts] by which we display how it is with us in public (Harré & Tissaw, 2005, p.186). Clearly, deeply symbolic human language is a far richer form of expression than the grunts and cries of non-human animals, and as such, is one of the principal defining qualities of human beings as a species. Bruner (1990, p.69) proposed that human beings are creatures who evolved to critically rely upon sharing symbolic meanings to operate within their world, proposing that symbolic meaning depends upon the human capacity to internalise language and use its system of signs such a social meaning readiness is a product of our evolutionary past. The role of human language, its emergent property of narrative and the consequently complex ways in which people understand their world have been a source of fascination for many researchers. Hervern (2003, p.1) referred to human beings dealing with every aspect of their experience through the construction of shared stories (or narratives ) and Klein (2000, p.480) stressed that the principal emphasis in any study of human beings should be upon our species-specific ability of abstract thinking, combining symbols in both internal and shared narratives. Bruner (1986) considered the way that human beings understand many, sometimes overtly similar aspects of their world very differently, depending on the narratives that they attach to them. Isn t it strange how this castle (Kronberg) changes as soon as one imagines Hamlet lived here? (Bruner, 1986, p.45). He considered this as an example, reflecting on possible castles, highlighting the ways that human beings create products of the mind and build them into a corpus of a culture, concluding: it is far more important for appreciating the human condition to understand the ways human beings construct their worlds (and their castles) than it is to establish the ontological status of the products of these processes (Bruner, 1986, pp.45 46). Harré (2002) made a similar point, comparing Snow White s magic mirror and Maui s magic fish-hook to the magic credit card he carries around in his pocket, and the bank note that is really a valueless piece of paper containing a written promise. Material things have magic powers only in the contexts of which they are embedded (Harré, 2002, p.25). In the same vein as Bruner, Harré evoked the concept of a bridge and considered how this might change in the mind, depending on whether, for example, it is a bridge over the Seine or the bridge over the River Kwai: if material things become social objects in so far as they are embedded in narratives, then the question of whether this is the same or a different social object depends on whether or how this is the same or a different story (Harré, 2002, p.30). The ultimate proposal that the construction of narrative is the only way that human beings can give true meaning to the objects and events in their world was outlined by Polkinghorne (1988); Hutt et al. (1989) proposed that such meaning created by children within their ludic or creative play is the key to deeper levels of cognition, thence learning; narrative, meaning making and play are inter-connected. A developmental thread, investigating the role of narrative in human maturation and learning has been created by several researchers, principally Bruner, who empha- Educational & Child Psychology Vol. 26 No. 2 67

68 Pam Jarvis sised the central role that narrative comprehension plays in human experience in his postulation that it is among the earliest powers of mind to appear in the young child and among the most widely used forms of organising human experience (Bruner, 1991, p.9). Lyle (2000, p.45) proposed narrative understanding is a concept of growing importance in discussion of how children learn. She described human beings as a storying animal, making sense of thoughts and events via stories and narratives, meaning that human beings live in a largely story-shaped world (Lyle, 2000, p.55). As Friedman Hansen (1982, p.190) proposed, for such a storying animal, learning cannot be understood in isolation from the dense network of cultural information in which it is embedded. It can, therefore, be proposed that a human being is unlikely to make sense of a concept or idea unless s/he is able to make sense of the narrative in which it is presented. Wittgenstein (1977) posited the example of the impossibility of someone with normal colour vision trying to explain the concepts of red and green to a colour-blind person: the colour-blind seem to be playing a different language game, or cannot participate fully in our language game (Harré & Tisaw, 2005, p.272). The biocultural nature of such a situation is clear it is biology that has created the difference in visual calibration, but the communication problems for the individuals concerned arise within the language game that is immersed in culture and shared narrative. While there is no permanent underlying biological difference between human beings from different generations, the narrative matching process that occurs when an adult attempts to transmit an idea to a much younger person will be inevitably fraught with potential problems based both on the difference in life experience and knowledge of the world, and, in a postmodern technological society, generational differences. The childhood of the present is immersed in a very different technological environment to the childhood of the past; this has a huge impact upon how the individual concerned perceives his/ her everyday modes of living, particularly with regard to communication. Prensky (2001), referring to the huge steps made in information technology over the past 30 years, consequently referred to the generation born post-1990 as digital natives and adults born pre-1980 as digital immigrants. Asymmetrical interactions based on solely linguistic transmission from adult to child can consequently be viewed as potentially at risk of creating a situation that mirrors the one described between the colour blind and colour seeing individual above, where the narrative may ultimately not be effectively shared, and the meaning largely lost due to the differences between the narrative worlds inhabited, hence the language games used by the interaction partners. Narratives that are built between peers in independent interaction, however, are far more likely to naturally involve language games that emerge from existing narratives that both contributors more effectively share, and consequently find relevant, hence potentially interesting and enjoyable. For children, such interactions largely occur within collaborative play events, which can be pedagogically harnessed by teachers in the technique of discovery learning, an approach to instruction through which students interact with their environment by exploring and manipulating objects, wrestling with questions and controversies, or performing experiments (Ormrod, 1995, p.442). Adult teachers thus have a difficult role to play, in that if new to-be-learned material is not effectively brought inside a language game that can be readily accessed by the learner, it is unlikely to be effectively inculcated. The most that could be achieved within such a mismatch would be for the learner to learn some aspects of the material in a rote fashion, which is soon lost from the thinking processes of a creature evolved to think and learn in cohesive narratives: Lyle s (2000) storying animal. A teacher s ongoing role is, therefore, largely: 68 Educational & Child Psychology Vol. 26 No. 2

69 Play, narrative and learning in education to think about not only the child and his or her current activities, but also about the child s history of previous experiences, the cultural backdrop and meaning that such activities have for the child, the social context in which that particular activity occurs in the classroom, the structure of the larger classroom context and the opportunities afforded by the available tools and cultural artifacts to be found there. (Winsler, 2003, p.253) Within this analysis, it is clearly crucial to the learning process to provide learners with opportunities to practice and play with to-belearned concepts and ideas with peers, who most closely share an individual s language games and narratives. Claxton (1997) proposed in his book Hare Brain, Tortoise Mind that adults also produce more original and insightful solutions to work-based problems when they are encouraged to play creatively with ideas, particularly in groups. Claxton reflected: The slow ways of knowing will not deliver their delicate produce when the mind is in a hurry people need to know how to make use of slow knowing this must surely be the true function of education (pp ). But does the current English education process allow children sufficient experience of such play within discovery learning activities? The problematic nature of the English National Curriculum Santer, Griffiths and Goodsall s (2007) review of the literature relating to children s play opportunities in England proposed that the time consumed by direct curriculum delivery within the formal education process left little time, either outside or inside the classroom, for children to develop original, independent and peer co-constructed cognitions. A specific classroom practice concern was raised by Reay and Williams (1999), who proposed that the emphasis on testing individual performance against narrowly defined targets at 7, 11 and 14 years of age had the cumulative result that many creative and collaborative activities that had previously been part of day-to-day classroom practice in English schools were quashed in favour of spoon feeding an individually learned, individual outcome-focused curriculum, in order for children to perform at the maximum possible level in predictable questions within key stage tests; as Bishop and Curtis (2001, p.34) reflected, children nowadays live in a landscape where clearly defined paths of development, laid down by adults carve up the terrain. So what is the impact of such policies upon the culture of the English classroom? McNess, Broadfoot and Osborn (2003) carried out a comparison of teacher reflections on education policy in England, France and Denmark. They found that while the French and Danish teachers worked reasonably comfortably within the culture of education in their respective nations, the English teachers felt that there was a clear disjunction between English education policy and what they perceived as best practice. These authors concluded that within English education a growing policy emphasis on accountability, and the need to raise school standards [resulted in] a performance oriented, transmission model of learning [being] given preference over a sociocultural model which recognised and included the emotional and social aspect (pp ). It is very disappointing that English education practices have ventured so far along this road, given that over 20 years ago, anthropologists were already discussing the need for an anthropological approach [within education], that emphasizes the socially organized nature of learning (Lave, 1982, p.187). Singer (1999) proposed that modern social policy construction may be carried out with a far too narrow frame of reference, political philosophers working out what human beings should be like on the basis of abstract politico-ideological principles, becoming puzzled and angry when applications prove problematic. Singer s proposed solution is that attempts to reshape Educational & Child Psychology Vol. 26 No. 2 69

70 Pam Jarvis any aspect of society would be much better undertaken with a basic plan of the natural psychology and evolved behaviour of human beings modifying political ideology accordingly, rather than vice versa, which, he reflected, tends to be our current way of creating social policy. This paper suggests that it is time for policy makers to grasp the biocultural model of the human being as a creature whose evolved capacity for understanding is encompassed within culturally-mediated narratives and communicated by language games. Play and discovery-based interactions involving narrative co-construction with peers are, therefore, crucially important for the inculcation of such understanding, particularly within the developmental period. The cumulative results of insufficient time allocated for such interactions are illustrated by the student and teacher interview data presented below, which explored the views of young people who had already completed at least six years of education under the English National Curriculum, and the reflections of some of their teachers. The research: Education without play and narrative? Introduction The research was undertaken within a range of student and teacher voice research initiatives within five English secondary schools carried out between 2005 and Researcher focus upon student voice within education has emerged within a democratising agenda (Fielding & Ruddick, 2002). The research outlined within this paper additionally considered teachers orientations to their teaching practice within an externally imposed curriculum; this aspect of the investigation was, therefore, undertaken within a similarly democratic perspective. While the core focus of these research initiatives was not specifically the role of play and narrative in learning, many of the responses from both teachers and students touched upon this, and this paper brings these threads together in the analysis below. In all, 28 teachers were interviewed about aspects of the reflective practice that they undertook with regard to their teaching. The sample was professionally diverse, ranging from trainees in initial teacher training to department heads with 20+ years experience. The student sample contained 76 young people of both genders aged between 11 and 15, who had experienced teaching and learning under the regime of the English National Curriculum for at least seven years, including six years of primary education. Both participant groups were from a wide range of ethnic groups and socio-economic backgrounds, although there was a preponderance of those who were White and broadly middle-class, particularly within the teacher sample. The teacher data are drawn principally from individual interviews, and one focus group of 10 trainee teachers in initial teacher training who were asked to reflect upon their practice within their final work placement; the pupil data are drawn from focus group initiatives. There were typically eight students, four of each gender within each of these focus groups. All interviews were recorded on a dictaphone and subsequently transcribed in full. The standard ethical procedures were followed within this research, including the acquisition of parental consent for the sample of young people prior to the commencement of the interview schedule. All the data used within this report have been anonymised so that contributors cannot be identified. The teachers were asked to discuss reflections upon their teaching practice with the researcher, with a view to sharing some of the reflections and analyses that they had undertaken relating to their professional experiences, initially so that the contents of the reflections of experienced teachers (experts) could be compared with reflections undertaken by those in their first two years of teaching (novices). The students were asked to collectively reflect within their focus groups upon their views of what constituted good and not so good school-based 70 Educational & Child Psychology Vol. 26 No. 2

71 Play, narrative and learning in education learning experiences. The data were consequently thematically analysed; in the case of the teachers, the themes were initially collated to consider potential similarities and differences between the reflections of experts and novices. In the case of the students, the themes were initially created on the basis of what aspects of their lessons they perceived as good and not so good. A clear theme relating to narrative, meaning and the role of play activity in learning emerged from many of the teacher interviews and student participant groups. There was no clear difference in this content on the basis of teacher experience (although some novice teachers did appear to undertake shallower reflection than their more experienced colleagues, see below). Desire for narrative-based meaning linked to playoriented experience in learning was a strong theme within the student focus groups, which did not appear to differ substantially with regard to the age/attainment level of the students. The contents of this play, narrative and learning theme have been summarised below. The student interviews The overwhelming content of the student voice was a general perception that schoolbased activities were essentially artificial and alienating, particularly those set in preparation for tests, which took up a lot of teaching time, and, in the words of one participant, were pointless and repetitive. Even when students were set short collective tasks in groupwork, the culture of the contemporary classroom appeared to dictate that the entire goal was perceived by the students concerned as to individually reach a particular set answer, target or standard. The consequent result was outlined by one student, that the not so clever [relied] on the brainy person to do it for them ; in this sense, transposing the brainy person with the teacher, rather than joining together within a collective discovery experience. There appeared to be no culture of attempting to play with ideas, and in so doing, construct original and/or exploratory shared narratives. Homework or tests set on topics where the answers had not been previously directly communicated by the teacher in the classroom were unanimously perceived as extremely unfair by a focus group of 11-yearolds. When the researcher asked aren t you sometimes asked to read something, think about it and come to your own point of view on what you have read?, one student doggedly insisted: if the teacher hasn t taught it, it shouldn t be on the test, an opinion that was clearly shared by others within this group. These findings give a key insight into the way that concepts of teaching and learning were represented within the language game of the participants concerned- principally as the transmission of disembedded knowledge for use in a superficial memorisation exercise, which, it can be proposed, does not only reflect the culture of the secondary schools that they were currently attending, but the primary schools in which the language games used within formal teaching and learning interactions had initially been inculcated. The main purpose of writing was seen across the board by 11- and 12-year-old participants as to revise for your tests, and many participants went on to reflect that writing and fun were polar opposites in their estimation, mirroring Harris and Hadyn s (2006, p.325) finding that the most frequently mentioned least popular activities were written work. One participant summed up the typical orientation by proposing that she preferred fun lessons, not just doing written work. While many of the participants proposed that the reading that they were required to do at school was dull, difficult and boring, they also reported prolific outof-school engagement with social multimedia activities requiring competency in literacy-based communication skills, particularly MSN conferencing and texting. Many of the sample were also keen readers of magazines, comics and horror novels. One 14-year-old girl smiled at the researcher s question about how school reading could Educational & Child Psychology Vol. 26 No. 2 71

72 Pam Jarvis be made more interesting and softly commented but really, it s just education in the end, isn t it? This gives a very worrying illustration of a chasm between the language games used by the school and those used by its students. It is suggested that students unwillingness to engage in schoolbased reading and writing activities i.e. to engage with those artefacts that directly carry the narratives of the educator is an indication of student alienation from the process of learning. Participants from all year groups reported enjoying learning games, particularly those accessed through Smartboard technology, endorsed by one 13-year-old participant as a fun, fun way to learn. This particular focus group were very keen to use information technology more frequently in lessons, although they realised that access was sometimes limited due to availability. Reflecting Prensky s (2001) point about generational digital natives and digital immigrants, they were scornful about their school s cyber-sitter, proposing that this was easy to circumnavigate, reflecting that they had sometimes shown teachers how to do this. One participant proposed that sometimes teachers could limit students uses of IT even when equipment was freely available because some of them don t want to leave their comfort zone, which triggered general laughter amongst the group. There were some indications of innovative individual teacher attempts to engage with the narratives of their students, particularly where remedial intervention was provided. One 14-year-old, whose main leisure activities revolved around War Hammer comics and games, commented that while he generally had a problem retaining the content of the material he read at school it don t stay in, he remembered a remedial teaching and learning strategy that was like a board game within a book, where the reader rolled a die and, depending on the number scored, the characters in the book, which was based on a science fantasy world adventure, moved on to different outcomes. He proposed that this had greatly improved his overall literacy and meaning-retention skills, as he became intrigued with the narrative of the story through his engagement with the game. It could be asked why such an attempt to connect with this learner s narratives had only been attempted within a remedial context; however, the points made about the experience of delivering the National Curriculum in the teacher interviews (below) can shed some light on this question. Qualities of liked and disliked teachers could also be seen to relate to the level to which they were able to share their learners language games, with a 14-year-old participant proposing that disliked teachers focus upon what they are interested in rather than what they think the pupils might be interested in. This is a good point at which to turn to the teacher interviews, which raise the question of whether it is likely that individual teachers freely choose to present concepts on the basis of what they are interested in, thereby failing to work within the language games of the learners, or whether this situation is driven to a great extent by the culture of the National Curriculum and its associated testing and inspection regime. If (as this paper proposes) the latter is the case, it must be noted that a considerable amount of experience, expertise and confidence will be required on the part of the teacher to effectively negotiate the complexity of the necessary three-way mediation between the language games of such a monolithic curriculum, those of the teacher him/ herself and those of the young learner. The teacher interviews I think there is far more concern with the skills that are required to do well in SATs (Standard Assessment Tasks), which is nothing to do with reading for pleasure, and English teaching has changed hugely I hate it; I think it is absolutely awful, I think it is one of the worst things that has happened to English teaching since I have been a teacher Pleasure in literature just 72 Educational & Child Psychology Vol. 26 No. 2

73 Play, narrative and learning in education being completely discounted with very detrimental effects on the love of reading. (English teacher with 20+ years of teaching experience) Within these few lines, this teacher outlines many of the key challenges that the majority of the teacher participants described within their contemporary teaching experiences, attempting to communicate a set of technical skills to their learners, at a pace that did not allow for sufficient development of a surrounding cohesive narrative, in which both teachers and students negotiate meanings through a range of play-based discovery activities. Other researchers have made similar findings: A recent column in The Guardian illustrate[s] the impact of a school system focused on the attainment of targets rather than the development of thinking: a history teacher, in an apparently excellent state school finished teaching his 14-yearolds about the first world war on a Tuesday. The following Thursday the class began studying the rise of Nazi Germany, After 20 minutes one child put her hand up to ask what had happened between 1918 and We really don t have the time to go into that now, the teacher said. So they never did. Since its introduction in 1988 the English National Curriculum has robbed secondary schools of the time and space, and threatened the profession s capacity, to engage and develop learners appetites for questioning the why of things. Rayment (2008, p.1) Fisher (2007, p.109) describes one of her teacher participants complaining about a similar learn it, forget it culture in sixth-form education, and another proposing that one result of this is one of the drawbacks is the reading. Students don t, can t read anymore. While this is also abundantly clear from my own interview data gathered with slightly younger students, a response to this point, from a biocultural perspective is that as storying animals, why would any of these young people choose to engage with literacybased education processes, if the reading they are set does not communicate cohesive narratives- as demonstrated by the example of the history curriculum cited above? Within the interviews carried out by the author, similar reflections were raised by teachers at all stages of their career, some demonstrating their implicit understanding of the need to share meaningful narratives with their learners against National Curriculum odds, through relevant, playbased activities: Football chanting, movement, doing stuff rather than sitting on a chair listening and writing and copying off the board whatever it is you can t do it all the time, because they just get bored. (Modern Foreign Languages teacher with 20+ years of experience) I just think at the end of the day you have got to know your groups and tailor things as much as you can towards them. (Trainee English teacher at the end of her initial teacher training year) However, many also voiced the associated problems in managing to develop cohesive narratives through play and discovery-based activities within a treadmill of continual fact transmission: We re so tied to the syllabus we don t have a lot of time to explore different approaches A lot of it is, sort of, they need to know this, they need to know that, they need to know the other and it s we re on a sort of treadmill really I think that I think, that there is perhaps too much of a straight-jacket at the moment with the National Curriculum, and I m always thinking ahead with the kind of children that we want in society, you know, i.e. that they are independent learners, they can do things for themselves. (History teacher with 20+ years of experience) Some of the trainee teachers found it difficult to find their feet in such an environment. Several participants within the trainee Educational & Child Psychology Vol. 26 No. 2 73

74 Pam Jarvis teacher focus group had lighted upon the pace related idea that, rather than being given time to explore meaning within cohesive and meaningful narratives relating to the subject and topic concerned, children needed to be continually active in order to deflect poor behaviour: I ve tried very much to try and get it going, you know even to the point of you know, setting them a task before I do the register, or, you know, they come straight in and they are straight down, we don t give them the chance just to become detached from what you are trying to do As soon as they stop, you know, it only takes 30 seconds because you will then start drifting off Don t give them the two minutes breathing space that the register takes. (Trainee Science teacher at the end of his initial teacher training year) It is interesting to reflect that this participant referred to his students becoming detached from what you (not they) are trying to do, and the problem of you (not them) drifting off, which gives a clear indication of whose narrative is perceived as the primary concern within this teaching and learning relationship. It is suggested that this orientation is underpinned by the disregard of the role of cohesive narrative, play and discovery in learning within the fact transmission culture of the relevant curriculum, and the resulting problematic community of practice (Wenger, 1998) that has consequently arisen. Conclusion: Towards more relevant practice? It is proposed that the natural mode of human learning is through shared narratives, expressed in language games that make cultural sense to the learner, given our evolutionary background as essentially a storying animal. As such, powerful learning events occur for learners of all ages within collaborative play and discovery activities where they can explore the to-be-learned material within language games shared with the peers who most closely share their cultural world, most effectively enmeshing the concepts within each learner s existing narrative-based cognition. However, this mode of learning is poorly supported by English education practices within the current National Curriculum-driven framework. As Singer (1999) suggested, rather than responding to issues arising by continually imposing politically-driven targets, the contemporary English government should first seek a basic plan of natural human psychology and evolved behaviour to underpin a core pedagogical ideology. Human beings have evolved to be creatures that are distinguished from the rest of the animal kingdom by our ability to solve novel problems within highly collaborative social environments, using a huge individual and collective capacity for shared symbolic meaning and cognitive flexibility. We are also able to pass on such knowledge from generation to generation via complex symbolic mechanisms used in both spoken and written language, allowing the sum of human achievement to become cumulative across generations; in the classical quote that derives from Greek and Latin scholars, to stand upon the shoulders of giants. When it is considered that some human cultures now attempt to school their young in education regimes which reify the transmission of disjointed chunks of knowledge towards performativity in highly artificial, predictable test situations, it can be suggested that too much emphasis has been given to disjointed, rote communication of stored bodies of knowledge, and, in agreement with Wood (2004), that such educational policies do not derive from pedagogical knowledge, but from a politically driven agenda; one that does not properly recognise flexible problem solving experiences and associated peer interaction as vital complimentary factors underpinning the full development of human beings evolved human cognition capacities. Bruner (1976, p.56) proposed that development which is separated from a natural 74 Educational & Child Psychology Vol. 26 No. 2

75 Play, narrative and learning in education social environment provides no guide, only knowledge These are the conditions for alienation and confusion. This paper proposes that this is currently a key problem within contemporary English pedagogy, where the central role of play, narrative and relevant language games in learning are not recognised within the design of statutory curriculua. It is suggested that English education policy-makers now engage with Friedman Hansen s (1982) challenge to resolve the transmission/decoding problem in earnest, in a considered attempt to develop a more balanced teaching and learning environment for the developing storying animal. References Bishop, J. & Curtis, M. (2001). Play today in the primary school playground. Buckingham: Open University Press. Brock, A. (2008). Curriculum and pedagogy of play: A multitude of perspectives. In A. Brock, S. Dodds, P. Jarvis & Y. Olusoga (Eds.), Perspectives on play (pp.67 93). Harrow: Pearson Education. Bruner, J. (1976). Nature and uses of immaturity. In J.S. Bruner, A. Jolly & K. Sylva (Eds.), Play: It s role in development and evolution (pp.28 64). New York: Basic Books. Bruner, J. (1986). Actual minds, possible worlds. Cambridge, MA: Harvard. Bruner, J. (1990). Acts of meaning. Cambridge, MA: Harvard. Bruner, J. (1991). The narrative construction of reality. Critical Enquiry 18, Claxton, G. (1997). Hare Brain, Tortoise Mind. London: Fourth Estate. Fielding, M. & Rudduck, J. (2002). The transformative potential of student voice: Confronting the power issues. Proceedings of the Annual Conference of the British Educational Research Association September. University of Exeter. Fisher, L. (2007). Pedagogy and the Curriculum 2000 reforms at post-16: The learn it, forget it culture? Curriculum Journal, 18(1), Friedman Hansen, J. (1982). From background to foreground: Toward an anthropology of learning. Anthropology & Education Quarterly, 13(2), Harré, R. (2002). Material objects in social worlds. Theory, Culture and Society, 19(5/6), Harré, R. & Tissaw, M. (2005). Wittgenstein and psychology: A practical guide. Aldershot: Ashgate. Correspondence Dr Pam Jarvis Early Years Professional Status Academic Programme Co-ordinator, Early Years and Children s Agenda, Teaching, Health and Care Sector, Bradford College, Room A44, McMillan Building, Trinity Road, Bradford, West Yorkshire BD5 0JE. Tel: Harris, R. & Hadyn, T. (2006). Pupils enjoyment of history: What lessons can teachers learn from their pupils? The Curriculum Journal, 17(4), Hervern, V. (2003). Narrative psychology: Internet and resource guide. Retrieved on 25 January, 2003, from: Henley, J., McBride, J., Milligan, J. & Nichols, J. (2007). Robbing elementary students of their childhood: The perils of no child left behind. Education, 128(1), Hutt, J., Tyler, S., Hutt, C. & Christopherson, H. (1989). Play, exploration and learning: A natural history of the pre-school. London: Routledge. Jarvis, P. (2007a). Monsters, magic and Mr. Psycho: Rough and tumble play in the early years of primary school; a biocultural approach. Early Years, An International Journal of Research and Development, 27(2), Jarvis, P. (2007b). Dangerous activities within an invisible playground: A study of emergent male football play and teachers perspectives of outdoor free play in the early years of primary school. International Journal of Early Years Education, 15(3), Klein, Z. (2000). The ethological approach to the study of human behaviour. Neuroendicrinology Letters, 21, Larrivee, B. (2000). Transforming teaching practice: Becoming the critically reflective teacher. Reflective Practice, 1(3), Lave, J. (1982). A comparative approach to educational forms and learning. Anthropology & Education Quarterly, 13(2), Educational & Child Psychology Vol. 26 No. 2 75

76 Pam Jarvis Lyle, S. (2000). Narrative understanding: Developing a theoretical context for understanding how children make meaning in classroom settings. Journal of Curriculum Studies, 32(1), Mallon, R. & Stitch, S. (2000). The odd couple: The compatibility of social constructionism and evolutionary psychology. Philosophy of Science, 67, McNess, E., Broadfoot, P. & Osborn, M. (2003). Is the effective compromising the affective? British Education Research Journal, 29(2), Ormrod, J. (1995). Educational psychology: Principles and applications. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice- Hall. Polkinghorne, D. (1988). Narrative knowing and the human sciences. New York: State University of New York. Prensky, M (2001). Digital natives, digital immigrants. On the Horizon, 5, 1 2. Retrieved on 27 July, 2008, from: 20-%20Digital%20Natives,%20Digital% 20Immigrants%20-%20Part1.pdf Rayment, N. (2008). Enjoyment as a basis for learning: The new secondary National Curriculum and the Specialised Diplomas. Retrieved on 28 July, 2008, from: a fcf/dea_thinkpiece_rayment.pdf Reay, D. & Williams, D (1999). I ll be a nothing: Structure, agency and the construction of identity through construction. British Education Research Journal, 25(3), Santer, J., Griffiths, C. & Goodsall, D. (2007). Free play in early childhood. London: National Children s Bureau. Singer, P. (1999). A Darwinian left. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson. Wenger, E. (1998). Communities of practice: Learning, meaning and identity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Winsler, A. (2003). Vygotskian perspectives in early childhood education: Translating ideas into classroom practice. Early Education & Development, 14(3), Wittgenstein, L. (1953). Philosophical investigations (Translated by G.E.M. Anscombe). Oxford: Blackwell. Wittgenstein, L. (1977). Remarks on colour (Translated by G.E.M. Anscombe (Ed.), L.L. McAlister & M. Schättle.) Berkeley and Los Angeles, CA: University of California Press. Wood, E. (2004). A new paradigm war? The impact of National Curriculum Policies on early childhood teachers thinking and classroom practice. Teaching and Teacher Education, 20, Educational & Child Psychology Vol. 26 No. 2

77 Conceptualising progression in the pedagogy of Play and Sustained Shared Thinking in early childhood education: A Vygotskian perspective Iram Siraj-Blatchford This paper is concerned specifically with the pedagogies applied in supporting learning through children s play, and it is framed outside mainstream discourses on the nature of play. The development of the paper also represents one stage in a continuing effort to develop a better understanding of sustained shared thinking in early childhood education. The paper also focuses on the educational potential of shared playful activities. However, given the overwhelming consensus regarding the importance of play in early childhood development, even a diehard educational pragmatist must begin by addressing subjects that are most commonly considered by psychologists. The paper begins with an account of sustained shared thinking, a pedagogical concept that was first identified in a mixed method, but essentially educational effectiveness study. Then a consideration of the nature and processes of learning and development is offered. It is argued that popular accounts of a fundamental difference in the perspectives of Piaget and Vygotsky have distracted educational attention from the most important legacy that they have left to early childhood education; the notion of emergent development. Pedagogic progression in the early years is then identified as an educational response to, and an engagement with, the most commonly observed, evidence based developmental trajectories of young children as they learn through play. Sustained Shared Thinking TO UNDERSTAND Sustained Shared Thinking (SST) it is important to recognise firstly that it emerged as an analytic node or condensation symbol in the process of qualitative research. These data were collected in the intensive case study analysis of 12 effective pre-school drawn from the 141 settings involved in the Effective Provision of Pre-School Education (EPPE) longitudinal study. The term came to be defined as SST because research respondents and observers specifically referred to the sharing of thinking, and to the particularly sustained nature of some of the interactions identified in effective (in terms of child outcomes) pre-school settings. What is novel and important about SST is its evidential basis in group settings, and as a useful concept for pedagogy. Arguably, many other researchers have adopted similar terms and have described similar pedagogic practices. In reviewing the literature for this paper, the strongest theoretical resonances were found with Vygotsky (1978) who described a process where an educator supports children s learning within their zone of proximal development. But interactions of this sort have also been described as distributed cognitions (Salomon, 1993), in terms of the pedagogy of guided participation (Rogoff et al., 1993), and as scaffolding (Wood, Bruner & Ross, 1976). Similar examples of participation and interaction also characterise dialogic teaching (Alexander, 2004), dialogic enquiry (Wells, 1999), interthinking (Mercer 2000, p.141), and mutualist and dialectical pedagogy (Bruner, 1996, p.57). The research methods applied in the case studies to identify effective pedagogy in the EPPE project have been described fully Educational & Child Psychology Vol. 26 No The British Psychological Society, 2009

78 Iram Siraj-Blatchford elsewhere (Siraj-Blatchford et al., 2006). For the purposes of this paper it will be enough to explain that the research provided a qualitative extension to the 10-year (so far) longitudinal EPPE study which has followed the progress of over 3000 children in England. EPPE controlled for the influence of family and child characteristics and was able to establish the effectiveness of each of the pre-school settings attended by the children in its sample. The qualitative case studies drew upon these findings to construct a stratified random sample of good to excellent settings for further in-depth qualitative data collection and analysis. EPPE was also able to provide data on the quality of each of the settings as measured by the Early Childhood Environment Rating Scale: Revised (ECERS-R: Harms, Clifford & Cryer, 1998) and the Early Childhood Environment Rating Scale: Extended (ECERS-E: Sylva, Siraj-Blatchford & Taggart, 2006). Pedagogy was defined broadly in the qualitative analysis to include all of those processes and provisions that could be considered to initiate or maintain learning processes, and to achieve educational goals. Such a wide definition was considered important so that it would include the common practice of providing resources for exploration and (constructivist) discovery learning environments (e.g. sand and water play). The analytical process was initially grounded, as the process began with induction, and this was only followed later by stages of deduction and verification using the ECERS scores for quality. All of this initial work was also carried out blind in the sense that the researcher was unaware of the particular learning outcomes achieved by the settings and identified by EPPE. In the identification of sustained shared thinking, the pedagogic Instructional techniques were at first coded with a multitude of subcategories that included Questioning, Demonstrating, Telling, and Dialogue. The re-classification of some of the Dialogue as Sustained Shared Thinking (SST) with subcategories of Child initiated SST and Adult Initiated SST initially took place after data such as the following were revealed: CONTEXT: Children engaged in water play. BOY 8 (4:1) (who has been watching various items floating on water), Look at the fir cone. There s bubbles of air coming out. NURSERY OFFICER 1 It s spinning round. BOY 8 (4:1) That s cos it s got air in it. NURSERY OFFICER 1 (picks up the fir cone and shows the CHILDREN how the scales go round the fir cone in a spiral, turning the fir cone round with a winding action), When the air comes out in bubbles it makes the fir cone spin around. GIRL 2E (4:9) (uses a plastic tube to blow into the water), Look bubbles. NURSERY OFFICER 1 What are you putting into the water to make bubbles? What s coming out of the tube? GIRL 2E (4:9) Air. (Dialogue continued ) The analytical process was continued further through theoretical sampling informed by an analysis of the EPPE multi-level outcomes data, and the centre quality ratings of the ECERS-R and ECERS-E environmental rating scales. Various positive correlations were found between child outcomes on e.g. Early Number outcomes with the ECERS-R interaction Sub-scale (r=0.26, p<0.005). Setting 421 (referred to above), for example, was found to have achieved excellent (95 per cent confidence level) practice in terms of the children s developmental progress according to their non-verbal and number concepts assessments. Performance in Language was also found to be good (above 68 per cent confidence level). Further analysis soon revealed a general pattern of high cognitive outcomes associated with sustained adult-child verbal interaction along with a paucity of such interactions in those settings achieving less well. SST thus came to be defined as an effective pedagogic interaction, where two or more individuals work together in an intel- 78 Educational & Child Psychology Vol. 26 No. 2

79 Conceptualising progression in the pedagogy of play lectual way to solve a problem, clarify a concept, evaluate activities, or extend a narrative. This can also be achieved between peers. In the following example a Nursery Officer was observed supporting some SST that was initiated by a child and entirely unrelated to the activity that the adult had planned: 1.20 BOY 3 (3:11) has finished his cake and starts to sing Happy Birthday to NURSERY OFFICER 1. NURSERY OFFICER 1 pretends to blow out the candles. Do I have a present? BOY 3 (3:11) hands her a ball of playdough. NURSERY OFFICER 1 I wonder what s inside? I ll unwrap it. She quickly makes the ball into a thumb pot and holds it out to BOY 3 (3:11), It s empty! BOY 3 (3:11) takes a pinch of playdough and drops it into the thumb pot It s an egg. NURSERY OFFICER 1 picking it out gingerly It s a strange shape. BOY 1 (4:0) tries to take the egg. NURSERY OFFICER 1 Be very, very careful. It s an egg. To BOY 3 (3:11) What s it going to hatch into? BOY 3 (3:11) A lion. NURSERY OFFICER 1 A lion? I can see why it might hatch into a lion, it s got little hairy bits on it. She sends BOY 3 (3:11) to put the egg somewhere safe to hatch. He takes the egg and goes into the bathroom BOY 3 (3:11) returns to the group. NURSERY OFFICER 1 Has the egg hatched? BOY 3 (3:11) Yes. NURSERY OFFICER 1 What was it? BOY 3 (3:11) A bird. NURSERY OFFICER 1 A bird? We ll have to take it outside at playtime and put it in a tree so it can fly away. SST was found to occur most commonly in one-to-one adult/child interactions. An early association was also found between SST and open-ended questioning (Siraj-Blatchford & Manni, 2008). Most of the examples of SST that were identified in the study really were quite extended and readers will need to refer to the technical report (Siraj-Blatchford et al., 2003) for more examples. But these findings have led to a series of engagements with the theoretical literature (Siraj- Blatchford, 2007, 2008), of which this paper may be considered another. Child development and learning It is often observed that Piaget believed that a child s ability to learn depended upon their current stage of development. Educators, therefore, developed their curriculum and pedagogy to suit the child s cognitive capability. Vygotsky (1978) by contrast, considered the relationship between learning and development to be more complicated. As Bodrova and Leong (2007) have put it, Vygotsky argued that: For certain knowledge or content and for certain ages, one step in learning may mean two steps in development. In other cases, learning and development proceed at a more even pace. However, teaching should always be aimed at the child s emerging skills, not at the existing ones. (p.31) But it is simplistic and mistaken to claim (as many do) that the major difference in perspective between the two theorists is one of seeing learning leading development and the other as development leading learning (e.g. Wood & Attfield, 2005, p.91). Both saw the potential for learning grounded in, and essentially limited by, even if not within, the child s current developmental capabilities; for Vygotsky this was the whole point of defining the zone of proximal development as: The distance between the actual developmental level as determined by independent problem solving and the level of potential development as determined through problem solving under adult guidance, or in collaboration with more capable peers. (1978, p.86) But to understand Vygotsky s more complicated relationship between learning and development we need at first to consider the Educational & Child Psychology Vol. 26 No. 2 79

80 Iram Siraj-Blatchford difference between learning the solution to a problem, and the development of capability in solving particular kinds of problems, and then secondly we need to consider the emergent nature of child development. Emergence is actually a philosophical notion that dates back to the very earliest writings in 19th century psychology, and also to classical views of society being considered to act as a living organism (Sawyer, 2003, p.14). In terms of child development, emergence may be considered to involve processes that occur over time that result in the development of higher order structures of the mind. Most significantly in terms of the arguments presented below, these may relate to particular intellectual, social and cultural competencies and capabilities, and they are initially developed in social interaction and following the acquisition of a range of communication and collaboration skills (Siraj-Blatchford, 2007). But it is important to recognise that this involves much more than any simple accumulation of specific skills or understandings. The developmental structures that finally emerge are considered irreducible to their component parts. In fact, from the perspective of emergent development, it is considered impossible to deduce the child s development as a whole from any observations of their previously learnt behaviour or behaviours (Sawyer, 2003). When children s play is considered to support their development, this should be understood in emergent terms, where the first order (and relatively superficial) reproductive (Vygotsky, 2004) or empirical (Piaget, 1950) learning that is involved is contributing towards, but not itself constituting the achievement of, either a series, or a continuous process, of irreducible restructurings of the mind. These developmental achievements are often seen to involve a renaissance or gestalt change in the mind: A child s play is not simply a reproduction of what he has experienced, but a creative reworking of the impressions he has acquired. (Vygotsky, 2004, p.11) While we might observe a child s behaviour and their use of various skills, knowledge, attitudes, etc., these should be recognised as representing only the material conditions required for development. Both Piaget and Vygotsky applied these notions of emergence (Sawyer, 2003), but while Piaget applied in his analysis the heuristic notion of discrete stages, Vygotsky always considered development as a continuous process, and only Vygotsky was concerned, and wrote explicitly, about pedagogy (Moll, 1990, p.15). One of the many insights that we might be at risk of losing by not appreciating this complex relationship between learning and development is the wider relevance of emergent development to the whole curriculum. While literacy is now widely seen as an emergent developmental accomplishment, and this has also been extended in some quarters to Mathematics (Hughes, 1986) and to emergent science (Siraj-Blatchford, 1999, 2006), in other subject areas very little has so far been written. Emergent Literacy was a term first applied by Marie Clay (1966) and Whitehurst and Lonigan (1998) further defined the concept as: the skills, knowledge, and attitudes that are presumed to be developmental precursors to conventional forms of reading and writing, as well as; the environments that support these developments. (op cit, p.849) Clearly this definition may be applied much more widely, with Emergent Curriculum practices and resources being applied to support young children in learning the skills, knowledge and attitudes identified as developmental precursors to a much wider range of curriculum subject areas. Play, pedagogy and the emergent curriculum Play is widely recognised as a leading context for the child s acquisition of communication and collaboration skills. For neo-vygotskians play is also considered to be a leading activity, but it is important to recognise here that this does not mean that play should be considered to predominate in the life of 80 Educational & Child Psychology Vol. 26 No. 2

81 Conceptualising progression in the pedagogy of play young children, that play is the only way that young children learn, or that all kinds of play promote development. But play does provide an important context for learning and development, as Vygotsky (1933) put it: Only theories maintaining that a child does not have to satisfy the basic requirements of life, but can live in search of pleasure, could possibly suggest that a child s world is a play world (p1). But: The child moves forward essentially through play activity. Only in this sense can play be termed a leading activity that determines the child s development. (op cit) In terms of empirical progression we know that play begins with solitary play and the child goes on to develop the capability to share, then to co-operate, and finally to collaborate in their play. We also know that these developments open up much wider opportunities for learning. But solitary play, shared play, co-operative and collaborative play are not discrete stages that the child works through. Even solitary play serves us well at times throughout our learning lives. In most theoretical accounts describing the ways in which these different forms of play open up the possibility of learning, the notion of emergent development is often implicit. For example, when describing play as a leading activity (Leontiev, 1964; Oerter, 1993), it is only being suggested that it should be seen as a driving force in the child s development of new forms of motivation and action. Activities that may all be considered examples of SST (Siraj-Blatchford, 2007) are considered by many neo-vygotskian writers (Karpov, 2005), to mark the transition from learning activities that are characterised by emotional communication with caregivers (Lisina, 1986), then to object-centred joint activity (Elkonin, 1989) where the child begins object substitutions, and then on to Socio-dramatic play (Leontiev, 1964), with finally activities that reflect the child s desire to learn more formally and embrace formal Learning (or schooling) as the dominant learning activity. In Table 1 (overleaf) I have endeavoured to summarise these major developmental phases and identify some of the major features of pedagogic progression. The table follows the example of the English Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) Guidance (DfES, 2007) in referring to some of the most significant, overt and immediate learning that takes place throughout each phase as something for practitioners to Look, listen, and note, and to identify the potential developmental significance of this separately. In place of pedagogy I apply the more common phrase effective practice. The first three developmental phases that are identified broadly correspond with Broadhead s (2001) empirical account of the social play continuum levels for Associative Play, Social Play and Highly Social Play, and Co-operative Play. I have resisted the temptation to include any specification of the ages to which these apply but can see no particular problem with these being defined as broad and overlapping phases (as again applied in the EYFS). But arguably these processes do not end with play, or in school, or even in adult life. There is an essential continuity between the playful collaborations of the nursery and the more formal collaborations between peers, and between teachers and pupils in schools, in working partnerships, in the provision of apprenticeship and tutorial relationships and even professional mentors and collaborators at the academic and professional level. In terms of competence, progression goes from mastering the very informal and strongly improvised sustained and shared interactions to more highly structured and much more formal sustained and shared interactions in adult life. If we now consider how SST develops over time in progressively more sophisticated contexts, as sustained and shared moments of activity (Leontiev, 1978), we can begin by drawing upon George Herbert Mead s account of the processes that are involved in children s early emotional communications with caregivers seeing these as gestural symbols that are at first Educational & Child Psychology Vol. 26 No. 2 81

82 Iram Siraj-Blatchford Playful activity 1. Emotional communication with caregivers 2. Object-centred joint activity 3. Socio-dramatic play 4. Transition to learning activity Table 1: Towards a Model of Pedagogic Progression in Play. Sustained shared thinking Communications with adults and peers involves the exchange of significant gestures. Pretend role play and object substitution become internalised (as imagination) and as inner speech develops. Sharing play symbols and signs in pretend play with partners. Collaborative involvement in improvised play with partners. Collaboration in increasingly structured activities and games with more complex rules. Pedagogy Adult models and leads (Treating all of the child s actions as communicative ). Scaffolding is then progressively reduced. Extensions provided. Object substitution and pretend modelled by adults and/or peers. Scaffolding in the provision of props (e.g. dressing up clothes) and environments progressively reduced. Extension by encouraging more abstract symbolisation and open ended questioning. Modelling by adults and peers. Progressively reduction of scaffolding in the provision of ideas and themes for play. Extend by encouraging play with more capable peers. Introduction of games with more sophisticated rules. Encouragement of extended play (over days) to promote self regulation, planning and memory. Progressively reduction of scaffolding in planning. Scaffolding more disciplined collaborations, e.g. carrying out an investigation. Learning Object permanence. Social smiles and Gestures, signs and symbols are increasingly recognised by the child as communicative acts. Reciprocity in sharing peer relations. Being an (object) other to oneself. Increasingly acknowledging other perspectives. Collaborative skills as sociodramatic play becomes more as partners at first share symbols and then reciprocally negotiate roles. Greater resilience. Reflection upon the relationship between pretend signs and real meanings. Orientation towards more formal learning and school. Learning to learn. Developmental potential Towards the development of a conception of the self. Towards the co-ordination of self to others. Towards a theory of mind and metacognition. Towards learning to learn and the development of learning dispositions. 82 Educational & Child Psychology Vol. 26 No. 2

83 Conceptualising progression in the pedagogy of play recognised by babies as communicative acts. To paraphrase Morris (1962): The significant gesture, itself a part of a social process, internalises and makes available to the [child] the means which have themselves emerged earlier, nonsignificant, stages of gestural communication (op cit, p.xxii). Significant gestures thus provide the means by which a baby is able to at first objectify the behaviour (or role) of the other, and control their own behaviour in response to these roles. It is also in this process that the child first develops a conscious awareness of the self. The interactive contexts for these very early learning experiences usually involve the parent or primary carer playing peek-aboo or other baby games that involve taking turns. But the development of higher mental functions only emerges following a multiplicity of these relatively simple interactions. The pedagogy that might be considered implicit in these interactions follows a sequence where the adult at first repeatedly models a particular action or gesture (an early example may be a big smile following eye contact), the adult then observes the child initially providing rewards when they respond and then, as the child begins to initiate the game themselves, progressively reduce the scaffolding (in this case the adult initiation and rewards). The adult may then extend the game by employing props (e.g. hiding their face behind a book) or by encouraging others to play. More often that not, the adult is entirely unaware of the pedagogy that they are applying. S/he is playing a game with (probably ancient) cultural roots. They may also be considered to be operating within the child s zone of proximal development. This pedagogic sequence of modelling progressive reduction of scaffolding extension may continue to be employed in supporting children s learning in a wide range of play contexts throughout the early years. As children develop, a range of particular (and increasingly unique) cultural, personal and situational factors will make some contexts more significant to the individual child than others, but in the child s first significant gestures, and later in many other communications both positive and negative emotional influences are likely to motivate their learning, with the operation of interests, desires and impulses being applied on the one hand (perhaps dominating in the earliest years), and concerns about what Piaget referred to as disequilibrium, (and cognitive dissonance or conflict) being applied on the other. For Van Oers (1998), the creative processes of learning that are involved can be characterised as a process of progressive continuous re-contextualisation (pcr-c) where it is considered that as soon as the individual recognises the potential of achieving a recalled (and motivating) object (or outcome) they may chose to re-contextualise that object, transforming (or transferring ) their (structure and meaning) of the activity to that end. The developmental significance of these first separations of meaning from objects is enormous: At that critical moment when a stick i.e. an object becomes a pivot for severing the meaning of horse from a real horse, one of the basic psychological structures determining the child s relationship to reality is radically altered. (Vygotsky, 1933, p.1) It is in this context that the power of play and pretence may be seen most clearly. Vygotsky (1933, p.1) argued; in the child s real life, action always dominates over meaning. The evidence suggests that the crucial practice of substituting a real object for a symbol may occur spontaneously in play, but that this is also greatly facilitated in the playful interaction with others. So the role of primary carers may, therefore, be paramount before the age of 2 years, while peer play may be more significant around age 4. As Moran and Steiner (2003) argue, citing Smolucha and Smolucha (1986): Children do perform spontaneous object substitutions as early as 12 months, but most [early] substitutions occur during their second year through pretend play initiated by caregivers. (op cit, p.69) Educational & Child Psychology Vol. 26 No. 2 83

84 Iram Siraj-Blatchford As suggested earlier, this does not just relate to artefacts, the child learns to be an object to themselves, and to objectify others. In play the child is at first able to be another to her/himself, developing the capability of interacting with pretend others (increasingly acknowledging their perspective), and then is able to switch freely between roles (Fein, 1991). Progressively, as the child continues to communicate with adults and other children, the meanings that they are constructing are mediated by all of their previous historical moments of significant activity. Increasingly we can see that the child s socio-dramatic play becomes reciprocal and collaborative. At this point conceptual knowledge and understanding of the other, and of the self, develop further and learning dispositions become more significant (e.g. probably most clearly identified in studies of gender preference). The development of these sophisticated levels of abstraction (and meta-consciousness) commonly referred to as a theory of mind, also facilitate the development of a wider Meta-cognition (the knowledge and awareness that children come to develop of their own cognitive processes). The meta-cognition that is so important in learning-to-learn, also develops as the child finds it necessary to describe, explain and justify their thinking about different aspects of the world to others. Whenever play partners communicate they do so from their own historically constructed perspective, which includes their understanding of the perspective of themselves constructed by the other participant in the communication (or SST). This has important implications for development as: the child s position towards the external world changes and the ability to co-ordinate his point of view with other possible points of view develops (Elkonin, 1978, p.282). Forman and Cazdan s (1998) research suggests that children s problem solving improves in collaboration, as the partners alternately provide scaffolding for each other within the partners zone of proximal development (ZPD). That is, the zone of capability that extends beyond what the partner is capable of doing on their own to include those activities they may successfully do with the support of their peer. Thus, from an early age, young children learn to separate objects and actions from their meaning in the real world and give them new meanings. This provides the basis for early representational thinking and inn more advanced forms of representational thinking these props are no longer required, so that problems may be solved entirely in the head. Co-operation and collaboration provides scaffolding in the development of meta-cognition and learning-to-learn. As Moran and Steiner (2003) suggest, in the context of collaborations later in life: Collaboration is shared creation and discovery of two or more individuals with complementary skills interacting to create a shared understanding that none had previously possessed or could have known on their own (Schrage, 1119, p.40). It is not just an intellectual endeavour; rather, it is like an affair of the mind in which emotions can transform the participants and the work itself is interesting and supportive (p.82). A creative learning mechanism something like Van Oers pcr-c may be considered to operate as much in these more challenging contexts as in the earlier learning. But as children get older: Play is converted to internal processes at school age, going over to internal speech, logical memory, and abstract thought (Vygotsky, 1933, p.1). As an illustration of the ways in which the pcr-c learning processes may be applied in the case of the child s later reasoning and development we can borrow a short dialogue cited by Donaldson (1992) needs adding to refs who uses it to illustrate what she refers to as children s spontaneous wonderings (p.44). The dialogue also illustrates rather well the syncretic motivation to reconcile apparently contradictory experiences or stimulations referred to earlier. Jamie (3 years 11 months) was standing in a lane beside a 84 Educational & Child Psychology Vol. 26 No. 2

85 Conceptualising progression in the pedagogy of play house in the English countryside. It was a warm and dry day, and a car was parked on a concrete drive nearby: Jamie: Why is it [the car] on that metal thing? Adult: It s not metal, it s concrete. Jamie: Why is it on the concrete thing? Adult: Well, when it rains the ground gets soft and muddy, doesn t it? [Jamie nods, bends down and scratches the dry earth.] Adult: So the wheels would sink into the mud. But the concrete s hard, you see. Jamie [excitedly]: But the concrete s soft in the mix! Why is it soft in the mix? (Donaldson; 1992, p.44) A strong clue in understanding what is happening here is in Jamie s use of the word mix. At some point in the past he may have seen concrete being mixed with a shovel or concrete mixer. If so, he will have been left with an apparent contradiction when he was told that this hard floor material was also concrete. He had only ever seen it very soft and fluid. In recontextualising concrete as a hard substance Jamie s conceptual understanding of scientific notion of matter was being challenged, and following further examples will ultimately be transformed to one that accepts the general principle that matter often exists in more than one state. Donaldson tells us that the adult was thrown into some confusion by the child s question and was not able to answer. So there may have been a missed opportunity here, had the adult listened (or reasoned themselves) more carefully they might have been able to explain how concrete, after it is mixed, then sets. Bodrova and Leong (2007) cite Vygotsky and Elkonin in recommending the encouragement of extended play (over several days) to promote self-regulation and planning and memory (op cit, p.143). Case studies conducted by Van Oers (1994, 1996) have shown that symbolic construction can be introduced as an appropriate pedagogic activity for young children from the age of around 5. As Van Oers (1999) has suggested, when children consciously reflect upon the relationship between their pretend signs and real meanings in play, they are engaged in a form of semiotic activity that is a valuable precursor to new learning activities (p.278). In discussing the transition from play to learning as a leading activity Carpay and Van Oers (1993) argued that: learning activity must be fostered as a new special form of play activity. As a new quality emerging from play activity, it can be argued that learning activity has to be conceived as a language game in which negotiation about meanings in a community of learners is the basic strategy for the acquisition of knowledge and abilities. (Cited in Van Oers 1999, p.273, author s emphasis.) As previously suggested, this approach is also implicit in emergent literacy and numeracy practices where educators specifically encourage children to recognise the value of using symbols to represent and quantify artefacts. Educators who know the children in their care, who know their interests, capabilities, and potential quite naturally plan ahead and initiate activities that they know the child will enjoy and benefit from. Such an approach is not curriculum centred, it is child-centred, but it offers the possibility of monitoring the child s activities for breadth and balance. Left to their own devices we know that the play of children often becomes repetitive, and effective educators, therefore, encourage children to take on new challenges and introduce new and extended experiences. Child development progresses as children experience more challenging SST in their play initially with adults, then in reciprocal peer play and later in sophisticated collaborative play. We can support this process in early childhood education (ECE) by providing children with these more challenging forms of SST and by providing more sophisticated and abstract scaffolding props. These transitions to social and cultural competence are very gradual but they are inevitable and it may, therefore, be consid- Educational & Child Psychology Vol. 26 No. 2 85

86 Iram Siraj-Blatchford ered surprising that for many ECE educators there remains an open question about how much, at any point they should be emphasising the individual and immediate rights of a child to childhood, or focusing our attention on any future needs that they may have. But there is really no contradiction between these two, young children realise this themselves very quickly. Pedagogical progression and transition Researchers have always found it useful for the purposes of analysis to identify different developmental stages, phases and/or contexts for learning. Practitioners and policy makers also routinely differentiate between home, nursery, kindergarten and school contexts. But we must accept that one of the central challenges of good practice must be to provide individual children with the lived experience of smooth transition and continuity in their learning across these phases and contexts. As Sanders et al. (2005) have put it: The process of transition may be viewed as one of adaptation. This study has shown that the best adaptation takes place where conditions are similar, communication is encouraged, and the process of change takes place gradually over time (p.9). This research (op cit) identified a number of studies that showed significant discontinuities (Potter & Briggs, 2003, Corsaro & Molinari, 2000, Clarke & Sharpe, 2003) and emphasised the need for teachers of 4- to 6-year-olds to be given more guidance on how to introduce literacy and numeracy activities in ways more suitable for young children. As Sander et al. (2005) found in their study of the effectiveness of the transition from the English Foundation Stage (which applies to children aged birth to 5 years) and Year 1 of school (for children aged 5 to 6): Schools should encourage staff to adopt similar routines, expectations and activities in Reception and Year 1. School managers should allocate resources to enable children in Year 1 to experience some play-based activities that give access to opportunities such as sand and water, role play, construction and outdoor learning. Their findings also suggest that children from minority ethnic groups, those with English as an additional language, and children with special educational needs find transition more difficult (Margetts, 2003). Many of the practitioners interviewed in the EPPE case studies were also concerned that chronological age should not be taken as an indication of a child s level of development and that there should be some differentiation in the pedagogy applied for children (Siraj-Blatchford et al., 2002). While this concept of transition may have often been viewed exclusively in terms of school readiness in the past, it can be seen much more fruitfully in terms of: pedagogical, curricular, and/or disciplinary approaches that transcend, and continue between, [all] programmes (Kagan & Neuman, 1998, p.1). In this paper I have argued that SST, as a high order pedagogical concept, and as a common approach, has the potential to provide just this sort of continuity. Conclusions In this paper SST has been presented as a form of pedagogy in the sense that it is something adults do to support and engage children s learning. But as I have argued more fully elsewhere (Siraj-Blatchford, 2008), it is important to recognise that every learning episode has both pedagogical and curricula content. Learning has content as well as form, and whenever learning takes place we can say that a curriculum is involved (however implicit or hidden it might be). This paper has been concerned to identify pedagogic progression in play and much of this is implicit (never rationalised) in the English curriculum, EYFS Guidance (DfES, 2007). But the EYFS is concerned with more than just the pedagogy to be applied in the early years in England, it prescribes some limited curriculum content as well. Content analysis (Siraj-Blatchford, 2009) suggests that this 86 Educational & Child Psychology Vol. 26 No. 2

87 Conceptualising progression in the pedagogy of play curriculum almost exclusively follows the emergent curriculum model with most of the learning representing the sort of reproductive or empirical learning described earlier. The National Curriculum in England requires conceptual development only at a later stage in schooling. Drawing upon broadly Vygotskian sources the model that I have presented suggests that the adults that children grow up with, progressively introduce them to the cultural tools that they require to integrate fully as contributing members of the society around them. The tools that they begin with are quite modest communicative competences but increasingly they provide access to significant products of cultural achievement, such as the world of literature and texts (Wolf, 2007). The most recent results from the longitudinal EPPE study (Sammons et al., 2007), clearly show the importance of the early years home learning environment (HLE) and identify its influence over and above that of parental education and socioeconomic status. The early HLE was found to remain a powerful predictor of better cognitive attainment at age 11 even after six years in primary school. As Snow, Tabors and Dickinson (2001) have shown, extended discourse and exposure to rich vocabulary in the home is a strong predictor of early elementary language and literacy growth and as I have argued elsewhere (Siraj-Blatchford, 2009), these practices are ubiquitous in middle-class, Western family contexts, but they can t be taken for granted elsewhere. The EPPE research (Siraj-Blatchford & Sylva, 2004) provides only one of the most recent contributions to a growing body of evidence that shows that there are many disadvantaged children in even the wealthiest of countries that deserve our very best pedagogical efforts when they attend pre-school settings. EPPE has shown that a quality pre-school experience can be supportive in terms of children s learning and development in the long term, so that a more conscious awareness of the pedagogic processes that are involved are likely to be extremely valuable in the development of professional early childhood educational practice. Correspondence Iram Siraj-Blatchford Department of Early Childhood and Primary Education, Institute of Education, University of London, Room 101, 15 Woburn Square, London WC1H 0NS. Tel: +44 (0) Fax: +44 (0) Educational & Child Psychology Vol. 26 No. 2 87

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