Explicating the Place of Play: Resolving Dilemmas of Research-to-Practice

Feb. 01, 2012

Source: Journal of Early Childhood Teacher Education, 33(1), pages 85–101, 2012.
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

Synthesizing research with practice in a meaningful manner continues to be a challenge, particularly in relation to securing the place of play in the school setting.
Thus, early childhood teacher educators (ECTE) need to be strategic and reanalyze the various ways we develop understandings of the importance and role of play in learning.

The author suggests that educators of preservice teachers begin to employ insights gained from the Gardner’s (2007) Five Minds for the Future.
In order to show relationships between early childhood play and Gardner’s theory, the author crafted the framework.
This framework takes into account both artistic and scientific aspects of the mind.

The article describes each mind as interpreted from Gardner, and explores the implications for the instruction of preservice teachers.

The Creating Mind: Defining the Terms Play and Work

Developing the Creating Mind is essential for the continuation and future of a thriving society and for the health and well-being of the individual.
The Creating Mind is to be enhanced through school experiences, then school experiences must incorporate play.
However, research which investigating first grade teachers’ attitudes toward play, uncovered that clear definitions of play are often lacking
Therefore, a clear definition of the term play is essential.

Implications for Early Childhood Teacher Educators
As early childhood teacher educators, we seek to ground ourselves, and the preservice educators we teach, in a working definition of play that assists society-at-large in coming to view times of play as meaningful and worthwhile for young children.

Synthesizing Mind: Defining the Early Childhood Practitioner’s Role

Uncovering opportunities and obstacles inherent in the learning processes of young children is the central role of teachers.
In this capacity, educators exercise the Synthesizing Mind and, in so doing, make possible the same development in their students.

Gardner sees this phase of development as a critical foundation for later, more sophisticated, synthetic thinking.
Gardner defends and encourages the children's imaginative function as a means of developing synthesizing minds necessary for today’s world and the future.
Gardner’s call for attention to the development of a Synthesizing Mind encourages early childhood educators to incorporate times of mediated play and mediated work into the daily experience of young students.

Implications for Early Childhood Teacher Educators
Early childhood practitioners specialize in balancing aspects of science with the art of teaching.
Early childhood teacher educators should promote both the scientific and artistic dimensions of teaching.
Future educators will be equipped to reduce the disparity between textbook theory and classroom practice when we, as ECTE, teach them to balance the art and science of their work.

Disciplined Mind: Uncovering Links Between Standards and Play

The Disciplined Mind is considered the essential purpose of our nation’s schooling, which often leads to early childhood classrooms characterized by direct instruction and memorization.
Literacy and numeracy are foundational for further endeavors within the disciplines.
Gardner identifies a critical period to master literacy and numeracy that includes exposure to processes of the disciplines.
However, Gardner warns against mere memorization of facts related to each of the disciplines.

Implications for Early Childhood Teacher Educators
Linking children’s play to traditional content is crucial in order for play to be part of today’s early childhood settings.
Teacher educator need to challenge themselves and their students to see how play addresses aspects of the prescribed standards.
Part of their role is examining the relationship of standard-based education to the early childhood setting and creating a fit that links the two.
Therefore, early childhood teachers can deliberately and intentionally link their knowledge of children’s interests and needs with the standards.

Respectful and Ethical Minds: Adhering to developmentally appropriate practice and Grade-Level Indicators

Gardner points out that children lack the ability to recognize the significance of a choice from the perspective of its impact on others.
They can learn and develop respect, but the ethical mind requires a capacity for abstract thinking that does not develop until adolescence.
Hence, to teach and model respect and ethics in everyday interactions with individuals and with the environment is of paramount importance.


Implications for Early Childhood Teacher Educators
In preparing future practitioners, early childhood teacher educators have an obligation not only to model and teach, but also to participate in societal and political dialogues.

The author concludes that recognizing the importance of play, as captured within Gardner’s Five Minds for the Future, allows us to acknowledge that play is a meaningful and necessary feature in the contexts of school, and ultimately in the lives of the nation’s school children.

Gardner, H. (2007). Five minds for the future. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Publishing.

Updated: Oct. 21, 2013