School of Education


Doctor of Education (EdD)


Michelle B Goodwin


Affordances, Early Care and Education, Nature Play, Outdoor Play, Playground, Teacher Beliefs


Curriculum and Instruction | Curriculum and Social Inquiry | Educational Assessment, Evaluation, and Research | Educational Methods | Educational Psychology | Other Education


he purpose of this multiple case study was to discover the beliefs and practices regarding preschool outdoor play for early care and education teachers at three diverse school locations. Each site, located in central Pennsylvania, represented a different playground environment: manufactured, natural, and a mixed environment. Using purposeful, maximum variation sampling, three teachers from each of the three centers were selected as participants, based on age, number of years teaching, and educational background. Data collection methods consisted of observations, using the Preschool Outdoor Environment Measurement Scale (DeBord, Hestenes, Moore, Cosco & McGinnis, 2005), semi-structured interviews and a document review to gain an overall understanding of the goals for each center regarding children’s use of the playground and to achieve triangulation of data. Cross-case analysis was based on the following a priori themes: teacher beliefs, teacher planning, teacher behaviors, and playground affordances. Findings from the study demonstrated that although all teachers valued scheduled outdoor play, and viewed their overarching role as supervisory, a disparity existed in how teachers engaged with children and utilized the playground environment to optimize children’s learning. Teachers’ practices ranged from supervising independent play to planning activities and interacting with children to scaffold learning. According to this study, the affordances of the playground do influence teacher interactions with children. The teachers with more convenient access to loose parts were more likely to include loose parts on the playground environment, and were observed as more engaged in meaningful interactions with children. Recommendations are provided for directors of early care and education programs, professional development providers, higher education faculty, parents and regulatory organizations.