‘I care:’ maternal perspectives on learning through play

Year: 2013

Author: Colliver, Yeshe

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Research on play-based curricula in early childhood education has tended to focus on the views of academics, psychologists and policy makers. Less is known about what educators, families and children think about play-based curricula, despite their centrality as stakeholders in the field. This paper addresses this issue, reporting findings on the perspective of mothers as part of a larger study of children’s, educators’ and mothers’ perspectives. The most prolific discussion in the literature on play-based curricula is centred on learning through play, and the current study sought the perspectives of mothers on this topic. Their perspectives are considered an important contribution to this ongoing debate, particularly from a cultural-historical perspective, which recognises the interconnected nature of influence from different cultural practices.
Existing literature on maternal perspectives on learning through play generally suggests mothers value cognitive and social learning more than other aspects of learning. Mothers may emphasise such aspects because they value the types of play in early childhood educational settings more than in the home. This is because the types of opportunities for learning may be perceived to be greater in early childhood settings, where there are more opportunities for play such as social and structured play. However, this perspective has been found to be dependent on the individual mother’s education levels, cultural background, and parenting style. Much remains to be investigated thoroughly; little to no research has focused solely on the perspectives of mothers on learning through play. The current study sought to redress this gap.
This paper reports from a case study of maternal perspectives conducted in an inner Melbourne children’s centre. The case study used video-stimulated recall dialogues (VSRDs) to invite eight mothers to express their perspectives on specific play episodes, such that comments were particular and detailed. The comments were coded inductively to show that, in contrast to previous research, mothers perceived intellectual and emotional learning to be occurring most in children’s play. Moreover, social development was mentioned approximately half as much as emotional development. A cultural-historical reading of these results suggests that perspective expression is bound to the common identity mothers felt within the early childhood centre. Drawing on Rogoff’s theory of intent community participation (ICP), this paper concludes by explaining the above findings; the emphasis mothers placed on intellectual and emotional learning can be understood by considering the caring role they have within early childhood settings.