Exploring early childhood teachers' beliefs and practices about preschool outdoor play: A case study
The purpose of this qualitative research was to explore how teachers' beliefs and practices influence the function of preschool outdoor play. Two theoretical perspectives informed this study, the qualitative case study and activity theory. Focusing on a particular phenomenon, the case study relates the complexities of the case with a thick, descriptive end product. Activity theory, a descriptive theory, is related to cultural historical theory. Human activity is explained by human intentions which provide understanding of a specific occurrence in a given case. The purposive sample of early childhood teachers was bounded in a single-case program in North Texas. Ten early childhood teachers were interviewed face-to-face and each wrote journal entries about their beliefs, perceptions, and facilitations related to the outdoor play environment. Typological analysis model as well as the researcher's observations was used to analyze the data. Three typologies were predetermined from the research questions, teachers' beliefs, perceptions, and facilitation practices about outdoor play. The typologies were analyzed to determine themes and subthemes for each typology. The final analysis resulted in themes and statements for a case narrative. The early childhood teachers believed that supervision is paramount during children's outdoor play. The teachers perceived that the physical design of the outdoor environment posed limitations for their planning, preparation, and implementation in that environment. Teachers' recollections of their own childhood outdoor play activities provided a shared value of freedom during play. Yet, during outdoor play teachers'displayed an adherence to rules; a philosophy-reality variance (Hatch, 2002). The teachers believed that outdoor play is important to the development of young children, however, minimal knowledge of the outdoor play environment and motivation to promote outdoor play was not evident. The results of the study were compared with a review of the literature. This case study uncovered the beliefs and practices that influence meanings and decisions concerning children's outdoor play environments. This case study provides implicationsfor the stakeholders as well as for the larger society. Recommendations for futureresearch are discussed.