Date of Conferral
Research indicates play contributes to children's learning and development. The passage of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) changed early care and education by limiting time for play in early childhood classrooms. There is a gap in the literature concerning early childhood teachers' current beliefs about play and how those beliefs are connected to their practices. The purpose of this qualitative case study was to examine the connections between early childhood teachers' beliefs regarding play and their practices in the early childhood classroom. Lave's situated learning theory formed the conceptual framework for this study recognizing the early childhood classroom and the social aspect of learning as a community of practice. Data for the study were collected through structured interviews, observations, and documents from teachers in 6 early childhood classrooms. Coding was used to identify patterns and themes. Analysis revealed that teachers held strong positive beliefs in regard to play. Teachers believed the connection between their beliefs and practices regarding play was strong and the connection between them was clear. Evidence showed the connection was not as strong and clear as teachers perceived. A clearer understanding of the link between teachers' beliefs and practices could create positive social change and benefit teachers, parents, administrators, and children. Teachers may use the information in this study to reflect on and make changes to their practices. Program directors, principals and school districts may be guided to implement curriculum changes more inclusive of play, or to include play and play theory in preservice training. These changes could bring the United States more in line with top performing countries in terms of educational outcomes for children.