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Learning through play - why instructional learning is a thing of the past

Melanie Randeniya

I just wanted to do a post about learning through play. As you all may (or may not know) in 2012 a new curriculum was released in Australia called the Early Years Learning Framework that completely changed the landscape for early education - moving from instructional teacher led learning to learning through play. The question that most people ask is why?

Well... let's start off with Australia. Our literacy and numeracy scores are dropping, mental health issues are on the rise and so many more social issues continue to come to the surface. If our education system was working would these things be happening?

A body of substantiated research has developed over that last ten to 20 years that has pointed to the effectiveness of learning through play. Remember - content based knowledge is not everything - we tend to forget how important resilience, social skills, problem solving, real life learning, empathy, resilience and other skills are. Regardless, all our five developmental domains are best facilitated through play. 

Also - did you know that we are biologically wired to learn through play? Notice how babies begin to explore the world by dropping and picking up objects, learning about cause and effect - if we are biologically wired to learn this way then would it not make sense to facilitate learning the way our brain best learns? Not to mention - it is SO MUCH FUN!

Our education system was developed pedagogically on research conducted on animals in cages and to find out how to best produce behaviour that would breed a goal driven result. I look at this and find it absurd that this research continues to run our school classrooms... How is it that technology, globalisation and so many other rapid revolutions have occurred in the world but the things I learnt in school 20 years ago and the way it was delivered is still the way it is done in schools now?

When we are taught to sit, listen and not question, are we being taught to be innovative, creative, resilient and autonomous? Given the day and age we are going into - where there are many issues that need to be creatively solved... is our education system facilitating the childhood creativity and imaginations of our children? What happens then when we go out into the real world and we no longer have someone telling us how to sit and what to do - this creates a mental dissonance for young adults that is contributing to the rise in mental health issues.

~190 countries, members of the United Nations came together and signed an agreement that in order to meet the sustainable development goal of "equal access to education" that by 2030 all 190 countries would introduce learning through play to their young children. Creating a curriculum where children are learning in a fun and exciting way breeds an environment of positivity, creativity, social constructivism and equal access to learning. 

Let’s look to countries like Finland who have leading literacy and numeracy scores. Drawing inspiration from them to drive our early education system - it’s all done through learning and play and based on ideologies such as social constructivism. Ultimately, sometimes we don’t see it but so much learning is happening in play both in the moments of free play to those moments of teacher led play. Just think about a moment of free play where the children are in the home corner. They negotiate roles and they enact a story with a beginning, middle and end. They are required to follow rules in order to successfully participate in the social experience and use literary understanding to construct a narrative for their play. Finally, they iterate their learning by practicing the same type of play over and over, learning each time and refining skills more and more. 

If you are interested in learning more I have many amazing articles and videos that I can share with you on the topic. 

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Helping to guide your child through anxiety

Melanie Randeniya