State of Play: Five Debates which Characterise Play Literature

Year: 2011

Author: Colliver, Yeshe Jampa

Type of paper: Refereed paper

It has been argued that the contemporary literature associated with the role of play in early childhood educational (ECE) curricula is characterised by competition‖ and collision‖ (Ailwood, 2003, p. 288; Wood, 2007, p. 309). These concepts of competition and collision reference the increased debate in the ECE field about how play is used in the curriculum and to what end. Whilst progressive discourses have advocated the value and indispensability of play as a central feature of ECE curricula, essentialist and reconceptualist arguments have questioned the grounds on which it has been advocated. A significant portion of the reconceptualist and critical literature repositions hitherto assumed facts‖ about play into a space where they may be re-evaluated. The resultant landscape is one characterised by these spaces. This literature review proposes a framework for conceptualising the contemporary landscape of the play literature in terms of five crucial debates. These include debates over (1) the educative value of play time; (2) play as a site for power differentials (both student-student and teacher-student); (3) the ethnocentricity of pro-play rhetoric; (4) the universalist treatment of individuals through play advocacy; and, (5) the privileging of expert‖ stakeholder perspectives in play research. Conceptualising contemporary play literature within these five debates may be a useful framework for examining how play is understood and used in early childhood curricular discussion.