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'The playing-exploring child': Reconceptualizing the relationship between play and learning in early childhood education
Jönköping University.ORCID iD: 0000-0001-9547-2892
City University of New York, New York, USA.
Jönköping University.ORCID iD: 0000-0003-3353-6170
2018 (English)In: Contemporary Issues in Early Childhood, ISSN 1463-9491, E-ISSN 1463-9491, Vol. 19, no 3, p. 231-245Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

In this article, the authors problematize the dichotomization of play and learning that often shapes the agenda of early childhood education research and practice. This dichotomization is driven in part by the tendency to define learning in terms of formal learning (i.e. learning as an outcome of direct instruction and school-based approaches that focus on teacher-led, goal-directed activities and declarative knowledge). The authors argue for a reconceptualization of early childhood education that understands learning and development not as an outcome, primarily, of instruction and teaching, but as an outcome of play and exploration. They develop this argument by drawing on Vygotsky's theories of play, imagination, realistic thinking and creativity. These theories challenge another dichotomy - that between imagination and reality - by arguing that imagination is implicated in the meaning-making of both play and exploration. Instead of relating play to learning where play is characterized by imagination and learning by reality, the authors' reconceptualization relates play to exploration and proposes that learning, defined as leading to human development, is an outcome of both of these activities. The authors further develop their argument by presenting ethnographic material from a qualitative research project implemented in three Swedish preschools whose practices are influenced by the Reggio Emilia pedagogical approach. The research conducted in this study contributes to new perspectives on the relationship between play and learning by introducing exploration as a counterpart to play, and this new perspective has implications for the design and practice of early childhood education, as well as for early childhood education research.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Sage Publications, 2018. Vol. 19, no 3, p. 231-245
National Category
Educational Sciences
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:sh:diva-38864DOI: 10.1177/1463949117710800ISI: 000445225400003Scopus ID: 2-s2.0-8505380044OAI: oai:DiVA.org:sh-38864DiVA, id: diva2:1347874
Available from: 2019-09-02 Created: 2019-09-02 Last updated: 2019-09-02Bibliographically approved

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Nilsson, Monica

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