Community playgroups and social media as a contemporary context for caregiver learning about play

Year: 2019

Author: McLean, Karen

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Caregivers in community playgroups are using social media affiliated with the playgroup to communicate with each other about children’s play. Caregiver knowledge of play is known to influence the quality of children’s play-based learning opportunities in the home learning environment with noted benefits for children’s learning and developmental outcomes extending into formal education. Playgroup participation promotes caregiver engagement in play with their children and enhances the provision of play through play experiences at playgroup which are repeated or extended upon in the home or accessed via attending a playgroup. Despite increasing use of social media by caregivers in community playgroups this social situation for caregivers’ learning about play is yet to be theorised for maximising children’s access to play-based learning experiences in early childhood. This paper reports on Stage One of an Australian Research Council Discovery Early Career Researcher Award Project which aims to provide new knowledge about caregiver learning about play in the context of community playgroups and social media use.

The project uses the sociocultural concept of ‘learning activity’ to conceptualise caregivers’ joint activity about play in the social situation created by community playgroups and affiliated social media. Two components of learning activity - learning task and learning actions, are used to consider ‘what’ and ‘how’ caregivers are learning about play in the context of community playgroups and social media use. The project conceptualises caregiver learning about play in design for learning activity (Davydov et al., 2003) as self-propelled learning in adulthood, and considers the potential for the social situation of community playgroups and social media to be mobilised for the benefit of all families.

The research involves nine community playgroups throughout rural, regional and metropolitan Victoria. Data methods described in this paper for Stage One of this qualitative research include direct field observations and social media data mining. The data analysis process for deductive coding to known constructs about play is discussed in relation to emerging findings. The alignment of data collection methods with the research question and the use of learning activity as the theoretical framing is detailed to show how caregiver learning about play in this contemporary learning context can inform responsive approaches to parent education and engagement in early childhood education.

Davydov, V.V., Slobodchikov, V. I., & Tsukerman, G. A. (2003). The elementary school student as an agent of learning activity. Journal of Russian and East European Psychology, 41(5), 63-76.