Mary NugentFollow




School of Education


Doctor of Education (EdD)


Ralph Marino


Curriculum, Early Childhood Education, Kindergarten, Play-based Learning


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


The purpose of this phenomenological study was to describe kindergarten teachers’ experiences with integrating play-based learning into standards-based academic curriculum in a school district in South Carolina. Play–based learning experiences were defined as instances which allow children to engage in active, social learning experiences in classrooms. This study explored the question of how kindergarten teachers describe their experiences with integrating play-based learning experiences in their classrooms, the value of play in their classrooms, their role as the adult during play experiences, and the difficulties that they face in making instructional decisions. The theories guiding this study were Froebel’s early childhood learning theory and Vygotsky’s cognitive constructivist theory as they demonstrate the importance of providing play-based learning experiences for kindergarten children. The sample was gathered through a criterion sampling strategy where teachers from a school district in South Carolina were selected because they have experienced the phenomenon being studied. Data collection included interviews, a focus group, and artifact analysis. The data was transcribed and analyzed using memoing and coding to identify emerging themes. Five themes emerged: academic values resulting from play-based learning, functional values resulting from play-based learning, intentional instructional planning, classroom interactions as a key component, and difficulties with implementing play-based learning. The results of the study will provide information to educators about how to best support kindergarten teachers in their pedagogical decision making.