Using researcher autoethnography and a Mosaic approach to co-construct perspectives of play at community playgroup

Year: 2021

Author: Thomas, Melanie

Type of paper: Individual Paper

This paper reports on the innovative use of autoethnography used within the Mosaic methodological approach in a PhD study which explores the perspectives of play and playgroup held by caregivers attending a community playgroup in Melbourne. The value of play-based learning has been well researched and documented within Western-European cultures.  Play has long been seen as an inherent part of early childhood, however, this may not be true for all families.  In many Western-European cultures caregiver’s participation in children’s play is encouraged and valued, while in other cultures play is considered to be an activity specifically for children.  Play in early childhood is recognised by Australian state, territory and national governments through the implementation of the National Early Years Learning Framework. Playgroups are an informal place for caregivers and their children to come together to socialize and engage in a range of activities.  With play being the primary activity provided to children at playgroup, the participation in playgroup has been identified as one way of increasing children’s access to play-based learning in early childhood.  However, little is known about how the institution of playgroup is co-constituted by societal values and individual motives for play and playgroup of caregivers attending a community playgroup. Drawing on cultural-historical theory and specifically Hedegaard’s (2009) model of children’s learning and development through participation in institutionalised practice, this qualitative research investigates the shared caregiver motives and societal values of play and early childhood education within the institution of playgroup. The study involved 2 playgroups and 7 caregivers and their children. A Mosaic approach (Clark, 2010) was used to gain insight into the varying perspectives of play held by the participating caregivers.  A variety of research data pieces, including a researcher autoethnography (Henderson, 20147), were drawn on to create a co-constructed map between each participant and the researcher. The paper reports on the use of autoethnography to identify societal values of early childhood at playgroup and considers these in relation to caregiver motives. Clark, A. (2010). Transforming children’s spaces: Children’s and adults’ participation in designing learning environments. Routledge.Hedegaard, M. (2009). Children’s development from a cultural-historical approach: Children’s activity in everyday local settings as foundation for their development. Mind, Culture, and Activity, 16, 64-81.Henderson, E. (2017). Autoethnography in early childhood education and care: Narrating the heart of practice. Routledge.