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South African Journal of Childhood Education

On-line version ISSN 2223-7682
Print version ISSN 2223-7674


ISAACS, Shafika; ROBERTS, Nicky; SPENCER-SMITH, Garth  and  BRINK, Sonja. Learning through play in Grade R classrooms: Measuring practitioners' confidence, knowledge and practice. SAJCE [online]. 2019, vol.9, n.1, pp.1-11. ISSN 2223-7682.

BACKGROUND: This article reports on the evaluation of a professional development programme for underqualified Grade R practitioners, many of whom work under challenging conditions. AIM: The study aimed to evaluate the practitioners' confidence, knowledge and practice of play. SETTING: The programme involved a 5-week training programme for 1000 Grade R practitioners across three Eastern Cape districts. METHODS: The study included three data sources: (1) self-reported shifts in confidence and practice solicited through closed Likert-type questions, (2) responses to open-ended questions on knowledge of play and (3) lesson observations of case study practitioners, using a lesson observation protocol to distil quantitative shifts in the practice of case study practitioners (n = 10), compared with control practitioners (n = 4 RESULTS: The evaluation found positive shifts in practitioners' self-reporting on their confidence and knowledge of play. However, evidence of their knowledge of play was mixed. Practitioners offered very general conceptions of play, with specific attention on the expected 'form' of play. The use of materials for play, and changed classroom practice from whole class to small groups, were most strongly evident. Because it was short course of 5 weeks, lesson observations of case study practitioners were less positive, with no significant difference between treatment and control lesson observations. CONCLUSION: The study opens a window into the implementation of the 5-week professional development programme and the instrumentation used to reflect on practitioners' confidence, knowledge and practice of play. The discussion reflects critically on improving the instrumentation in future for measuring shifts in practitioner confidence, knowledge and practice of play.

Keywords : Grade R; play; play pedagogy; ECD; ECD practitioners; learning through play; teaching through play; professional development.

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