An Exploration of the Nature of Physically Active Play in New Zealand Early Childhood Education.
Emberson, Helen Irene
The provision of physically active play (PAP) varies amongst early childhood services, directly impacting the experiences and opportunities available to children. This is a significant issue because PAP is a central component of the curriculum within the New Zealand early childhood service identified within the curriculum Te Whāriki. I undertook this study to understand the activity of PAP within early childhood education practice, where I presumed tensions and contradictions in delivering a quality PAP programme would be revealed. As teaching in an early childhood setting is both an individual and collective activity often influenced by interpersonal factors, I explored the nature of PAP through the lens of Cultural Historical Activity Theory (CHAT). This study utilised second generation activity systems analysis as an exploratory tool to reveal how the activity system for PAP operated in each centre. Data comprised teachers’ surveys, a group interview, observations, and documentary evidence from five centres. From this, representations of teachers’ individual activity systems were produced before being analysed collectively to model the activity systems for PAP at each centre. The findings in each case setting revealed the unique tensions, contradictions and successes of the system as the teachers’ worked toward current objects. A cross-case analysis of the activity systems attended to the major research question of the study: What is the nature of PAP in city-based early childhood centres in New Zealand? The analysis revealed how the activity system mediated teachers’ movement toward the immediate objects that they held and the ultimate outcome of a quality PAP programme underpinned by Te Whāriki. Affirmed within this study is the scope and usefulness of CHAT as a conceptual framework to understand the contextualised practice of PAP in early childhood services. The findings revealed the objects teachers were working on within PAP ranged from: the PAP programme, parent education, self-review, and structured physical activity sessions. I argue that the most influential factor in the collective pursuit of the objects was interpreted to be teachers’ beliefs and values. These underpinned teachers’ motivations, preferences, and tacit rules which had implications for children’s learning. I argue the need for teachers to discuss issues such as their own risk anxiety to ascertain whether the image they hold of the child is reflected in practice. I suggest that open dialogue on these issues presents a way to mitigate such contradictions as found in this study. Furthermore, I argue the value of professional development (PD) which was found to change the activity system and resulted in the adaption of new resources which advanced the teachers’ pursuit of objects. There was strong evidence where teachers sought to align their beliefs and values in delivering a quality PAP programme with their perceptions of parent’s expectations of early childhood education through a range of instruments. I argue that these instruments which included communicating the PAP philosophy at the time of enrolment, discussions with parents, and family events enhanced the PAP activity system. Such instruments enabled teachers to achieve success in their aspirations for parent education and ultimately a quality PAP programme.
Advisor: Gunn, Alexandra; Trevethan, Helen
Degree Name: Doctor of Education
Degree Discipline: College of Education
Publisher: University of Otago
Keywords: Early childood; Education; Physical activity; New Zealand; Play
Research Type: Thesis