Research into Communication during Play-Based Learning
Action Research Abstract
The study compared first graders' communication skills and satisfaction levels while participating in play-based learning activities in a virtual classroom versus an in-person classroom context. The action research collected evidence of students' communication skills while engaged in play-based learning activities within virtual and in-person classrooms and what differences existed in student communication. Students gave feedback on their satisfaction levels immediately following the game-play. Preliminary data suggested increasing student-talk and a need to explicitly model and teach longer, more complex, complete sentences because of low frequency. In-person students used longer utterances and complete sentences more frequently and had higher student-talk occurrences than the students engaged virtually in the same gameplay. Subsequent cycles of research implemented strategies to increase student communication frequency and complexity that were minimal or nonexistent in the previous cycle. In the subsequent gameplay, students were placed with one or two other partners in breakout rooms for virtual game-play, and sentence frames were modeled and used during gameplay following the initial findings. Student-talk increased, and there was an increase in complete sentences being used by students following the lesson. This comparative study conducted in a first-grade public school classroom amongst a convenience sample of 21 first-graders used mixed quantitative analysis methods of language use and qualitative analysis of student satisfaction.
Click here to read more on my action research
Background and Need
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, children were able to engage more freely in playtime. However, there was already a downward trend in how much playtime children participated in school and home. Dr. Yogman et al. reported in the American Academy of Pediatrics’ (AAP) 2018 clinical report, The Power of Play: A Pediatric Role in Enhancing Development in Young Children, noted that "because of increased academic pressure, 30% of US kindergarten children no longer have recess. Many schools have cut recess, physical education, art, and music to focus on preparing children for tests” (p. 8). It also reported that from 1981 to 1997, children's playtime decreased by 25% (Yogman et al., 2018). While playtime has seen a decrease in schools, playtime at home has also seen a decline. Factors such as increased homework load, the pressure to participate in after-school extra-curricular activities, unsafe playgrounds or neighborhoods, and increased media use have also jeopardized the opportunities children have to play (Yogman et al., 2018).
As the beginning of the 2020 school year began, districts across the nation created plans for reopening school campuses hoping that the pandemic would subside. In this study, the local district decided that schools would allow students to return to campus in phases. In Phase 1, students engaged in distance learning for the entire portion of the school week. In Phase 2, students engaged in a hybrid model of distance and in-person learning throughout the school week. The reduced time on a school campus provided by both phases further decreased the time students played with peers versus a traditional school day. The reduction of time on campus further exacerbated the downward trend for children’s playtime with peers.
Synchronous learning time with students within the district also decreased from approximately 6 hours to 2.5 hours during both of these prescribed phases of distance learning. In Phase 2, the time spent in-person on school campuses required health and safety protocols for students to maintain a distance of 6 feet apart with no physical contact. Students were unable to share materials, and schools revoked all outdoor activities while on campus. These in-person protocols challenged teachers in the primary grades to find ways to deliver academic content using engaging, age-appropriate, play-based learning experiences that effectively maintained health and safety protocols for both in-person learning and virtual learning environments.
The COVID-19 pandemic created a need for the above social distancing measures at schools. The use of teleconferencing platforms reduced the risk of exposure to the community. As teachers delivered lessons online, they redesigned strategies and tasks initially designed for in-person peer-to-peer learning, collaboration, and interactions for the virtual learning platform (Kim, 2020). However, limited empirical research around the impact of play-based learning (PBL) pedagogy and how primary children experience play-based learning activities while engaged in distance-learning is available. Empirical literature centered on play-based learning pedagogy focused on lessons delivered in physical classrooms without social distancing parameters or limitations on sharing materials or wearing masks (Kim, 2020; Taylor & Boyer, 2020). Classrooms that integrated technology and PBL pedagogy focused on individual student performance on learning apps or the interaction students have while collaborating on educational apps or programs within the physical classroom setting (Miller, 2018; Thibaut et al., 2015). Those gaps in prior research led to this action research study to collect qualitative and quantitative data comparing the satisfaction levels and communication skills first graders have while engaged in play-based learning activities during virtual learning versus in-person learning contexts.
Seminal works and educational theories from Piaget, Vygotsky, Montessori, and Freubel have formed the foundations of education and early childhood education. However, technology integration and the role of the teacher both were reimagined in the pandemic. Previous research gave us foundations, but we were rewriting education experimenting with teaching and learning like it had never been done before. Read more of the literature background of this action research by clicking here.
ARCS Design Model Presentation