Research in Science Education

, Volume 49, Issue 6, pp 1569–1593 | Cite as

Young Children’s Development of Scientific Knowledge Through the Combination of Teacher-Guided Play and Child-Guided Play

  • Marija Sliogeris
  • Sylvia Christine AlmeidaEmail author


Play-based approaches to science learning allow children to meaningfully draw on their everyday experiences and activities as they explore science concepts in context. Acknowledging the crucial role of the teacher in facilitating science learning through play, the purpose of this qualitative study was to examine how teacher-guided play, in conjunction with child-guided play, supports children’s development of science concepts. While previous research on play-based science learning has mainly focused on preschool settings, this study explores the possibilities of play-based approaches to science in primary school contexts. Using a qualitative methodology grounded in the cultural-historical theoretical perspective, children’s learning was examined during a science learning sequence that combined teacher-guided and child-guided play. This study revealed that the teacher-guided play explicitly introduced science concepts which children then used and explored in subsequent child-guided play. However, intentional teaching during the child-guided play continued to be important. Play-based approaches to science allowed children to make sense of the science concepts using familiar, everyday knowledge and activities. It became evident that the expectations and values communicated through classroom practices influenced children’s learning through play.


Science education Cultural-historical theory Play Elementary education Early childhood education 


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.EducationMonash University-Peninsula CampusMelbourneAustralia

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