Original Research-Special Collection: Teacher education for the primary school and the perennial problem of practice

Learning through play in Grade R classrooms: Measuring practitioners’ confidence, knowledge and practice

Shafika Isaacs, Nicky Roberts, Garth Spencer-Smith, Sonja Brink
South African Journal of Childhood Education | Vol 9, No 1 | a704 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajce.v9i1.704 | © 2019 Shafika Isaacs, Nicky Roberts, Garth Spencer-Smith, Sonja Brink | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 05 September 2018 | Published: 29 May 2019

About the author(s)

Shafika Isaacs, Centre for Education Practice Research (CERP), University of Johannesburg, Johannesburg, South Africa
Nicky Roberts, Centre for Education Practice Research (CERP), University of Johannesburg, Johannesburg, South Africa
Garth Spencer-Smith, Centre for Education Practice Research (CERP), University of Johannesburg, Johannesburg, South Africa
Sonja Brink, Centre for Education Practice Research (CERP), University of Johannesburg, Johannesburg, South Africa


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Abstract

Background: This article reports on the evaluation of a professional development programme for underqualified Grade R practitioners, many of whom work under challenging conditions.

Aim: The study aimed to evaluate the practitioners’ confidence, knowledge and practice of play.

Setting: The programme involved a 5-week training programme for 1000 Grade R practitioners across three Eastern Cape districts.

Methods: The study included three data sources: (1) self-reported shifts in confidence and practice solicited through closed Likert-type questions, (2) responses to open-ended questions on knowledge of play and (3) lesson observations of case study practitioners, using a lesson observation protocol to distil quantitative shifts in the practice of case study practitioners (n = 10), compared with control practitioners (n = 4).

Results: The evaluation found positive shifts in practitioners’ self-reporting on their confidence and knowledge of play. However, evidence of their knowledge of play was mixed. Practitioners offered very general conceptions of play, with specific attention on the expected ‘form’ of play. The use of materials for play, and changed classroom practice from whole class to small groups, were most strongly evident. Because it was short course of 5 weeks, lesson observations of case study practitioners were less positive, with no significant difference between treatment and control lesson observations.

Conclusion: The study opens a window into the implementation of the 5-week professional development programme and the instrumentation used to reflect on practitioners’ confidence, knowledge and practice of play. The discussion reflects critically on improving the instrumentation in future for measuring shifts in practitioner confidence, knowledge and practice of play.


Keywords

Grade R; play; play pedagogy; ECD; ECD practitioners; learning through play; teaching through play; professional development

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