Untangling Teacher-Child Play Interactions: Do Teacher Education and Experience Influence “Good-Fit” Responses to Children's Play?

Apr. 15, 2010

Source: Journal of Early Childhood Teacher Education, Volume 31, Issue 2
(April 2010), pages 106 – 128.

The goal of this study was to determine if levels of teacher education and experience would influence how teachers respond to children's play needs in a preschool classroom.

Eight teachers participated in the study; three of whom were categorized as high education/high experience, three as low education/high experience, and two as low education/low experience.

The interactions of the teachers were videotaped and analyzed over a 6-month period. Specific levels of child play need and teacher guidance were first coded.

The degree to which there was a good fit between the amount of child need and teacher support was examined. Differences in these good- (and poor-)fit interactions across the three groups of teachers were studied. Four interviews with adult participants were conducted to elucidate quantitative findings.

Findings show that teachers with high levels of education and experience were more likely to perform good-fit play interactions. In interviews, teachers from this group identified specific elements of teacher education that enhanced their classroom experiences and, consequently, their ability to match their interactions to children's play needs.

In contrast, low/high teachers were more likely to provide poor-fit responses to play, often giving direct support when none was needed. Teachers of the low/low group were unpredictable in their responses to children's play, often failing to interact at all when opportunities arose for meaningful play intervention.
Interviews with these two groups revealed reasons for these poor-fit interactions, including a lack of knowledge about play and an inability to reflect on child outcomes.

Implications of these findings for teacher education are considered.

Updated: Sep. 05, 2010