Exploring Constructions of the Meanings of Play among Korean Preservice Kindergarten Teachers
Ahn, Soo Young
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The purpose of this study was to explore what the word "play" means and implies for Korean preservice kindergarten teachers in an early childhood teacher education program. The research questions under investigation were: (1) How do Korean preservice teachers with an early childhood emphasis view play? (2) How do factors such as culture and education influence the constructing of these views? The participants were ten Korean preservice kindergarten teachers enrolled in the Department of Early Childhood Education in one teacher education college in Korea. The data for this study was collected through in-depth qualitative interviews both individual and group and other qualitative methods. The findings of this study showed that Korean preservice kindergarten teachers had a conceptual conflict in the perception of general play and educational play. General play was considered as a fun, enjoyable, and spontaneous activity that is engaged in without concern for a specific outcome. General play was also thought as the opposite concept to work or study. Educational play was regarded as an ironical concept, since Korean preservice kindergarten teachers thought that learning occurs through working, not playing. Korean preservice kindergarten teachers theoretically advocated for the pedagogy of learning through play, just as they were taught in the teacher education program. However, Korean preservice kindergarten teachers did not agree with the practical effect of play on children's learning. Korean preservice kindergarten teachers were more supportive of a structured and pre-planned program for young children, believing that it resulted in better learning opportunities for children than a play-oriented program. The findings of the study revealed that personal experiences with play, the kind of education of the preservice teachers themselves received in their teacher training program, and Korean culture had significant roles in influencing the participant preservice teachers' ideas on play. This study implies that interpretations of play as an educational tool vary from culture to culture. Further research is needed to more deeply understand how views and attitudes on play are created and enacted.