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Learning through play

(24 Posts)
LovetheHarp Fri 12-Aug-11 10:49:52

I watched a documentary last night, (sorry can't find the link!) where researchers looked at the evolution of the theory of learning through play and how it was applied and developed to be also included in mainstream education. They also researched (this was back in the 70s) two different schools', one based on traditional methods (teaching individual subjects, rota learning, children in rows, etc) and more liberal methods (learning through play, practical learning, creative learning etc and their finding were:
- low achieving boys thrived in the learning through play environment
- low achieving boys were held back in a learning through play environment
- high achieving children were held back in a learning through play environment
- a learning through play environment suffered with more discipline problems
- on average the traditionally taught children were 1 year ahead in all knowledge, including the 3R's.

I thought it was really interesting as this has certainly been my experience too, but was wondering what everyone else thought! If anyone saw it and can remember the title that would be useful too!!!

mrz Fri 12-Aug-11 11:00:14

Are you a teacher LovetheHarp?

PandaNot Fri 12-Aug-11 11:09:48

Depends on your measure of achievement - knowledge is not the only way of measuring how successful children are at learning. Do you really mean attainment rather than acheivement? In my experience, as an early years and SEN teacher, children who learn through play generally have better problem solving skills, are more resourceful at dealing with conflict within peer groups, show greater creativity in their thinking and how they learn and acquire skills and knowledge in the future. 'High achieving children were held back' may mean children who prefer formal learning and having adults do lots for them and need help to develop the ability to learn for themselves?

With respect to the the discipline problems, I wonder whether this was measured using teachers perceptions, as I know lots of teachers feel their classrooms are 'out of control' in a play based environment.

It all sounds a bit simplistic to be quality research.

LovetheHarp Fri 12-Aug-11 11:28:29

Interesting thoughts, PandaNot. I guess the programme was focusing on what they had learned at the end of their primary school years, so yes knowledge acquisition as opposed to "skills for acquisition".

Mrz - no I am not a teacher, that doesn't mean I don't have any experience of education related matters!

My experience, for what it's worth, is that high ability children tend to appear not to be learning very quickly in that environment. You see zillions of posts on here "my reception/Y1 child is being held back/not learning etc"...

I am interested in alternative views, ie long term ones - what could be an apparent lack of speed in acquiring information could be made up by learning skills to learn, ie learning to learn! I am sure there is research done on this, but the programme didn't touch on it - would be interested to read more about longer term outcomes, if anyone can point me in the right direction!!

LovetheHarp Fri 12-Aug-11 11:34:50

PS I mistyped the bit about low achieving boys: they reckoned that low achieving boys were held back in a traditional environment but thrived in a learning through play one.

LovetheHarp Fri 12-Aug-11 11:40:45

Oh I have just done a search on here and I have got loads of material on it now. Will go off for a good read!!!!

PandaNot Fri 12-Aug-11 12:06:36

Yes we do see lots of posts about children being 'held back' by play based learning but again IME lots of this is down to parents wanting children to acquire the knowledge and demonstrate that they know lots of things in a formal manner i.e. writing and reading to a particular level rather than developing the learning and thinking skills which may help them become a more effective learner in the future. Also parents (and governments) sometimes fail to place equal importance on the development of creativity and personal and social skills, alongside the more academic skills.

There is no 'one size fits all' school of education but it doesn't mean that one type is more valuable than another.

mrz Fri 12-Aug-11 12:13:03

I was just wondering what your experience is LovetheHarp
I think play is perhaps misunderstood and has become a dirty word.

MadamDeathstare Fri 12-Aug-11 12:13:32

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

mrz Fri 12-Aug-11 12:18:13

LovetheHarp I don't think MN is really representative of real life. I'm not sure how objective some of those posts are and how many opinions are based on parental expectation rather than on reality

mrz Fri 12-Aug-11 12:32:31

This programme?
Carrot or Stick? A Horizon Guide to Raising Kids

mrz Fri 12-Aug-11 12:40:50

MadamDeathstare the expectation is that schools provide a balance between child led learning and adult direct learning in reception. Young children need concrete experiences to make sense of what they are learning.

LovetheHarp Fri 12-Aug-11 17:21:11

Thanks Mrz, that was it! (you made me laugh with "play" being a dirty word!)

I think the problem is that most of us oldies have had a very traditional education, so getting to know/understand a new system doesn't come natural. Since having the children through the system I am getting to warm to the methodologies a lot more and certainly would say that certain children thrive much more than others on it - but this is true of all methods I guess.

mrz Fri 12-Aug-11 17:27:34

Saracen Sat 13-Aug-11 05:47:51

Here's an experiment which doesn't compare learning-through-instruction with learning-through play, but does compare learning-through-instruction with receiving no instruction: Some schools were told to remove mathematics from the curriculum until the children reached the age of eleven. It wasn't replaced with play, but with instruction in other subjects. Still, you may find it interesting.

Replacing adult-led instruction with an education which is completely child-led is a method used by many home educating parents in this country, including me. "Autonomous education", as it is called, does not necessarily equate to learning entirely through play; it just means the child chooses how, when and how to learn. However, it seems that given the choice, most younger children choose learning through play most of the time.

As far as I know, the evidence on outcomes from this method is almost entirely anecdotal. I think it's safe to say that it gives far better results than most people would expect. Whether it's better than adult-led direct instruction is hard to prove. Very few parents would be happy to go along with the type of experiment Gray describes.

Anecdotally, parents whose children learn informally at home tend to report that their reasoning skills and general knowledge are particularly good, and that computational skills and reading ability come later than it they do in mainstream education, but that children "catch up" quickly in these areas once they do tackle them. So I wasn't at all surprised by the description Gray gives of the New York "experiment". Of course, parents' views of the success of our own methods may be taken with a pinch of salt. Besides, other factors besides the lack of instruction may come into play. For instance, all of the children I am talking about are home educated and therefore getting plenty of one-to-one attention from adults. It's possible that their outcomes would have been just as good or better if they'd had formal teaching at home instead of being allowed to do whatever they they liked.

Bonsoir Sat 13-Aug-11 06:21:47

I think I believe that all children thrive when given the right combination of formal instruction and opportunities to learn by experimentation/doing/play for their particular personality. Given the resources at my disposal (traditional type school and my own time and money), I let school do the formal, technical stuff and arrange for my DD to have plenty of exposure to the world and opportunities to play and create for herself at home, albeit with lots of educational props for the odd bit of formal teaching here and there. For example, this summer we have done quite a bit of travelling around France and to the Netherlands and England. I regularly get the relief map out before and after a journey and make sure DD knows where we have been, which routes we travelled down, where we did stopovers and the main geographical and cultural sites we saw. It takes 5-10 minutes to check on and we will have done it 6-7 times over the summer (so not a lot of formal learning) but I think that sort of thing (and there is plenty of it) is invaluable, and can only be done one-to-one at home. So not all formal learning is going to happen in the classroom.

shawstart Sun 14-Aug-11 18:45:43

I have just read all these comments and found them very interesting.I have recently found it very hard to find toys that are geared to my childs stage of development.We have great playtimes with a range of things around the house but can anyone point me in the direction of somewhere that i can buy toys for under twos that are not advertising characters off the TV and have a lot of play value to them I am struggling to find anything thanks.

Bonsoir Sun 14-Aug-11 21:36:50

For her second birthday, DD got a very beautiful wooden farm building with a red folding roof and a barn with flappy doors, and lots of Schleich animals (actually, we had got started on these a few months previously). She has had loads of Schleich stuff and still play with it (she is 6, soon to be 7). Also a nice wooden castle with a drawbridge. I think a wooden castle with lots of bits to it is fab for boys.

mrz Mon 15-Aug-11 07:48:13

I'm not suggesting you buy from this site shawstart but it might give you some ideas of things for under twos

lots of things in the treasure baskets you probably have around the house but didn't consider as "toys"

shawstart Mon 15-Aug-11 21:33:02

Thank you for your help Bonsoir and MrZ,
Bonsoir can you only get Schleich toys on the internet are there any shops you can go and see their range of toys?
Mrz are you a teacher or do you work in education?
Does anyone know anywhere on the highstreet that sells good toys? I used to like elc but have been really disappointed in what they are selling these days.Thanks again for your help.

mrz Tue 16-Aug-11 08:00:36

The Early Learning Centre stores do sell Schliech animals and some buildings.

Yes I'm a teacher I'm afraid usually save my money and arrange a visit to The Early Excellence Centre (which is an early years training and resource centre ) although I sometimes stumble across things when I'm on holiday. I agree about ELC I have to be very selective.

mrz Tue 16-Aug-11 08:33:16

shawstart Tue 16-Aug-11 19:17:40

Thank you have seen that document but thanks for your help and link to elc

mrz Tue 16-Aug-11 19:19:51

Sorry shawstart the document link was intended for the OP blush I should have made myself clear

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