New Zealand Research: Sarah Aiono, Massey University

Longworth Education’s CEO, Sarah Aiono, recently completed her Doctor of Education (EdD) studies with Massey University, and is set to graduate in May 2021. This is exciting news for play pedagogy in New Zealand, as Sarah’s study contributes to a very small, but growing area of research in the value of play in the primary school setting, and in particular, how to support teachers with effective PLD to implement evidence-based teaching practices in the classroom.

Sarah’s study, undertaken over 6 years, is an investigation of two models of professional development to support effective teaching through play practices in the primary classroom. The aim of this study was to identify teachers’ beliefs, knowledge and practices when implementing teaching through play in the primary school setting and investigate the impact of a professional learning and development (PLD) intervention on teachers’ subsequent implementation of play pedagogies.

Sarah’s study involved the creation of the Play-Based Learning Observation Tool (P-BLOT), and the implementation of practice based coaching, an evidence-based practice-focused coaching model, successful in supporting teachers to implement specific teaching practices with fidelity in their classroom setting. Pre-intervention findings suggested a tension between what teachers know and believe about play as a pedagogical tool, and how they implemented teaching through play practices with fidelity in their classrooms. Post-intervention findings suggest that while participating in workshop-style PLD successfully increased teachers’ knowledge about play pedagogies, it was participating in PLD that included practice-based coaching that positively influenced teacher behaviour and practices.

The examiners had high praise for Sarah’s work, commenting that her work represented “a very accomplished and important study. It is both rigorous and scholarly and leaves the reader in no doubt that it is the result of a deep and significant research journey that will add value to teaching and learning”.

Those who have been supported by Longworth Education in their classrooms, will be familiar with the coaching model we use to ensure play pedagogy is implemented with fidelity, and that teachers are supported to make links between what they know and believe about play, and what they do everyday in their practice. Sarah’s study highlights the importance of investing in this level of PLD for successful play pedagogy to be established in schools and sustained over time.

For more information about Sarah’s work, please contact her on sarah@longwortheducation.co.nz.