A case study : elementary teachers’ perceptions of play-based learning on students’ social, emotional, physical, and cognitive development.


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Play-based learning is an opportunity for holistic student development. Yet, too few opportunities for play-based learning currently exist in public elementary schools across the United States despite the benefits linked to the intentional use of play-based instruction. This case study identified elementary educators’ perspectives on the benefits of play-based learning and the barriers to its use. An extensive literature review was completed to identify themes in the current research. I used four conceptual domains, supported by Ginsburg (2007) and visualized by The Strong Museum (courtesy of The Strong, Rochester, New York) as the lens to conduct to this study. Play influences children’s development in four conceptual domains: physical, social, emotional, and cognitive. The data analysis consisted of five steps, ending with visuals showcasing result findings. The research findings provided strong evidence from participants about the benefits of play-based learning opportunities for student growth in the noted four conceptual domains. Ten themes were identified that supported benefits in each domain. In the social domain, impact was noted in areas of diversity and relationships. In the emotional domain, recognition of emotions and regulation of emotions emerged as impacted areas. In the physical domain, motor skills, classroom behaviors, and healthy habits were identified Last, in the cognitive domain, content knowledge, creativity, and problem-solving skills were identified as areas of impact. The findings also provided four themes as evidence for barriers with play-based learning opportunities. These four thematical barriers identified were professional development, funding, time, and limited space. There were two emerging themes identified in the research, expectations, and engagement Each finding is important to next steps in education. Implications and recommendations for this research are important to educational decisions and advocacy moving forward to impact educators’ ability and willingness to utilize play-based learning and promote optimal student development. Stakeholders in education are given support through this research for such advocacy. Through a collective voice, this research increases potential opportunities for play-based learning to move forward in its impact on student development.