Date of Conferral

2016

Degree

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)

School

Education

Advisor

Darragh Callahan

Abstract

Following implementation of the No Child Left Behind Act and Common Core Standards, play experience opportunities by kindergarten students have been compromised. Prior research indicates that how teachers make sense of play is most likely reflected in educational practice. The purpose of this interpretative phenomenological analysis was to gather the lived experiences of 5 kindergarten teachers from northern New England on the nature of play through pre-reflective description and reflective interpretation. Guided by Vygotsky's social constructivist theory as the conceptual framework, the goal of this study was to describe lived play experiences of kindergarten teachers. In-depth, semi-structured interviews were used to answer the main research question about the essence of play as expressed by teachers. Interviews were transcribed, reduced, coded, and analyzed for common thematic elements and essences regarding the impact of how play manifests in curriculum planning and classroom arrangement. Three themes emerged: community building, creative learning, and engaged excitement. The findings revealed that although kindergarten teachers experienced the nature of play differently, play naturally and unequivocally seemed to promote social skills and cooperation, language and concept development, and motivated and self-directed learners. Additional findings showed an incompatibility between the lived world interpretations of kindergarten teachers and the district curriculum expectations. This study influences positive social change by opening educational discussions about kindergarten pedagogy, leading to improved classroom practice.