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Title: Investigating play and learning in the Ghanaian early years classroom : a mixed methods study
Author: Avornyo, Esinam Ami
ISNI:       0000 0004 7654 0169
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2018
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This study examined the meaning and role of play in Ghanaian early years settings, focusing on the beliefs of stakeholders, the expression of play in the Ghanaian early years curriculum and classroom practices. Framed within a sociocultural theory of play, this study followed an explanatory sequential mixed methods design, which involved the initial collection of quantitative data followed by a qualitative data. In the initial quantitative phase, a survey scale, referred to as the Early Years Play and Learning Perception Scale (EYPLPS), was developed and used to collect data from 292 stakeholders (147 parents, 105 teachers and 40 head teachers). A preliminary comparison of the mean differences among the stakeholders using ANOVA indicated that the teachers and head teachers perceived play as a form of learning more favourably than the parents. This difference was further explored using cluster analysis to determine whether the stakeholders' education status might be a factor in explaining the group means differences. The cluster analyses revealed five distinct clusters characterized by participants' status and level of education - highly educated parents, teachers and head teachers; moderate educated teachers and low educated parents. The five clusters were compared on the play-learning belief score using ANOVA. The results revealed that the scale score was statistically significantly lower for low-educated parents compared to high-educated teachers, high-educated head teachers and high-educated parents, indicating low-educated parents were less likely to associate play and learning than these other groups. There was, however, no statistical significant difference between the scale scores of low-educated parents and moderate-educated teachers. The results suggest the significance accorded play depends on the stakeholder's level of education, with stakeholders reporting higher levels of education endorsing play as an opportunity for learning and acquiring social skills as well as academic skills. With the EYPLPS scores providing the basis for sample selection, four early years settings were selected as cases for in-depth qualitative inquiry using interviews, observations, photographs and analysis of curriculum. An analysis of the curriculum revealed that the curriculum does not emphasise play-based learning. It does, however, support the idea of children learning by doing. Therefore, the curriculum promotes activities that involve children's participation as an effective approach to teaching and learning. Interviews revealed that play first of all resonated with fun and happiness in stakeholders' perceptions. The majority of those interviewed perceived play as a way of maintaining children's interest in lessons, and as a break from learning. Classroom practices that emphasise teacher-directed academic activities and the stakeholders' unanimous appreciation of the use of rhyme and song in classrooms illustrate this point. Rhymes and songs were used at the beginning of lessons and also as an interlude when children appeared tired and bored during lessons. Other examples of how stakeholders perceived play included play as storytelling, a way of keeping children occupied, as a recess activity and as a form of learning. The findings are discussed from a sociocultural perspective, drawing a picture of the cultural meanings attributed to the model of childhood, play and learning in Ghana.
Supervisor: Baker, Sara Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: play ; learning ; early years