Pedagogy and play

Edwards and Nuttall draw our attention to the connection between notions of pedagogy and notions of ‘learning as play’ in early childhood.

“As Siraj-Blatchford et al. (2002) indicate, the notion of pedagogy in early childhood education is caught up in historical and philosophical beliefs about the relationship between children, childhood, learning, development, and play. In early childhood education, learning has often been simply equated with the provision of play and learning environments, and notions of direct ‘teaching’ or interaction with children in order to foster engagement with curriculum content have been explicitly rejected.

Historically, play has been viewed as a kind of vehicle for processes that characterise much of the learning that occurs in early childhood classrooms. In this respect, the provision of play itself has, over time, come to represent a distinctive pedagogical form in early childhood education. … In recent times, the notion that play is synonymous with pedagogy in early childhood education has come under scrutiny, with some researchers sugggesting that the exact form of play and its use in educating young children is not necessarily well understood (Kessler & Hauser, 2000).” (35)

The ideas surrounding play/learning in early childhood, Edwards and Nuttall explain, has influenced both EC educators’ ideas about their own potential for influence, and also the general public’s conception of Early Childhood Education as a profession. They cite Meade (2000):

“The positioning of teachers in passivity [i.e. creating the environment for learning and providing appropriate resources, then standing back from interference in children’s play] has had at least two major consequences for children’s learning, and one for ECE teachers’ status. The first consequence is that teachers don’t feel they can do anything about differences in competenceies and achievement even where such differences are clearly associated with belonging to particular social groups … The second set of consequences for children because of teachers’ passivity is that teachers often act on the basis of a set of linked assumptions:

* that learning only happens by doing (not by being told);

* that learning follows development;

* that teachers’ interventions should be in the provision of context, i.e. in structuring the physical environment …

The last consequence of teachers focusing on the context is for teachers themselves… I believe that early childhood teachers’ status suffers because the general public and politicians perceive the teachers’ role to be simply arranging the environment and watching children play! (Meade, p.17)”” (cited p. 36 of Edwards and Nuttall)

Edwards and Nuttall add: “Our discussion so far of the notion of pedagogy suggests that we need to move away from positioning educators as largely passive with respect to young children’s learning. Instead, we view early childhood educators as powerful mediators or interpreters between children and their families, curriculum frameworks, day-to-day curriculum construction, and children’s learning.” (35)


This leads Edwards and Nuttall to prompt: “what do you say when someone asks you about how children learn through play?” (36)

Ref: Suzy Edwards and Joce Nuttall (2005) ‘Getting beyond the ‘what’ and the ‘how’: Problematising pedagogy in early childhood education’ Early Childhood Folio 9, pp.34-38

Reference is made to: Kessler, S. & Hauser, M. (2000) Critical pedagogy and the politics of play. In L. Soto (Ed.), The Politics of early childhood education (pp. 59-71). New York: Peter Lang.

Meade, A. (2000) If you say it three tiume, is it true? Critical use of research in early childhood education. International Journal of Early Years Education 8(1), 15-26

Siraj-Blatchford, I., et al. (2002) Researching effective pedagogy in the early years. Research report RR356. London: Institute of Education, University of London.


About backyardbooks

This blog is a kind of electronic storage locker for ideas and quotes that inform my research... literary research into fiction for young adults (with a special focus on New Zealand fiction). Kiwis are producing amazing literature for younger readers, but it isn't getting the academic appreciation it deserves. I hope readers of this blog can make use of the material I gather and share by way of promoting our fiction. Cheers!
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