Children′s Perspectives of Play and Their Research Participation

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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An important ambition to this study was theorising play from the perspectives of the players themselves – the children. This study explored the perspectives of a group of children on their play experienced in an Australian early childhood education and care (ECEC) setting, and the ways in which these children chose to share their views and understandings.
In Australia, play-based learning has been placed at the centre of children’s learning in the ECEC practice, looking back on a long tradition of play being recognized to benefit children’s learning and development. There are times, however, where children’s play interests compete with agendas of educators. Previous research and debates have focused primarily on the adult point of view, whilst generally omitting children’s perspectives.
There is growing recognition of the importance of children’s understandings of their lived experiences of childhood. Children’s perspectives should have an important role to inform play pedagogies and how play is conceptualised in ECEC.
Underpinned by sociocultural theory, this study considers play as a leading activity in children’s constructions of understandings and as a cultural practice where children interact with their social environment. The study is also situated in Childhood Studies, recognizing children as social agents and competent actors. Children and childhoods have been considered worthy of study in their own right. However, despite efforts to create conditions for children’s participation in research, little is known about how children choose to participate.
With the theoretical anchorage in mind, the methodology draws upon social constructivist grounded theory. The interpretivist approach seeks to understand the meanings that children hold about the specific phenomenon of play. The exploration of children’s perspectives of play employed a qualitative design and utilised constructivist grounded theory as a framework for data generation and data analysis. Data were generated through group conversations with video stimuli. These incorporated video-recordings of children in their play (‘play-videos’) and the showing of these play-videos to the children. The play-video functioned to stimulate a small group of children to converse about their play experiences. The group conversations were also video-recorded to capture children’s verbal and nonverbal expressive forms.
The interpretation of the results of this study demonstrated a prominence of pretend play although children did not separate between different types of play; the diversity of children’s perspectives; children’s emphasis on control and agency in play; the community of co-players; and the importance of peers in learning and play activities. The ways in which children participated produced knowledge about their strategies of consenting and dissenting. Playing was one of the participation processes children initiated on their own, and play itself was utilised to demonstrate their perspectives of play.
Findings of this study contribute to ongoing considerations of ethical research involving children, and to stimulate the idea that research is situated in a physical, creative, and social-emotional space. The study also poses further reflections about children’s rights to participation and privacy. The children demonstrated verbally and through bodily expressions that their right to participation was not a right they had to act on, and that they could decide how to share their experiences and perspectives.
This thesis highlights the importance of taking children’s perspectives as the point of departure for continuous reflections of play-based pedagogies and ethical research practices, and concludes with implications for play provision in ECEC as a co-constructed endeavour between children and educators.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Charles Sturt University
  • Dockett, Sue, Principal Supervisor
  • Perry, Bob, Co-Supervisor
Award date01 Jul 2017
Publication statusPublished - 2018


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