Play in early childhood education: an examination of teacher roles during free playtime

Gülhan, Meryem
The aim of the study was to examine teacher roles during free playtime and the views on play in early childhood classrooms. In the study, qualitative method was used. The sample of the study is six preschool teachers who work in Public Schools in Kırıkkale. In the current study, data was collected from interview questions, vignettes and observation during free playtime in their classrooms. Five vignettes were read to the teachers to analyze what they would do in a situation like in the example. Teachers’ reasons of behaviors were also asked at the end of the interviews. In order to investigate teacher roles during free playtime, each teacher was observed eight times in two months during free playtime. During the observations, teacher behaviors were recorded in terms of role descriptions categorized by Johnson, Christie and Yawkey in 1999, which are uninvolved, onlooker, co-player, stage manager, play leader and director / redirector. The findings of the study revealed that teachers valued the play in early childhood education because of its contributions to children and teachers as well. According to teachers, play improves children’s psychological wellbeing, cognitive and physical development of children. Moreover, using play in classrooms also make teaching activities easier by preparing children to the school environment. In the current study, teachers implied the importance of observation during playtime to understand children’s inner world and know them better. Even though teachers’ responses to the vignettes demonstrated that teachers would have various role types in classrooms, it was observed that teachers mostly presented some characteristics of precarious roles, which are uninvolved role and director / redirector role during the free playtime. On the other hand, although teachers believe the importance of observing children during playtime, any systematic observation was not conducted by teachers in practice.