The Power of Play-Based Learning: A Pedagogy of Hope for Potentially At-Risk Children

  • Marguerite MaherEmail author
  • Stephanie Smith
Part of the International Perspectives on Early Childhood Education and Development book series (CHILD, volume 18)


In this chapter, the authors explore the preliminary findings of a qualitative action research study into the effects of a play-based program in a primary school, which focused on improving knowledge and skills in the key areas of science and mathematics for a cohort of potentially at-risk children. The findings of the study suggest the need to counter teacher prejudice against the notion of play as a vehicle for learning for school-aged children; the need for parents to be encouraged in a different way to be partners in their children’s education; and they highlight the pivotal role of professional development for participant teachers. The authors use the work of Freire on the pedagogy of hope and its interaction with literature on play to illustrate a number of advantages of this play-based program. First, it had cross-curricular advantages given its correlation with improved literacy and numeracy scores obtained through the National Assessment Program for Literacy and Numeracy; second, children demonstrated an increased ability to drive learning content; third, it had positive impacts on student confidence and engagement; fourth, the children developed a complement of twenty-first-century life skills; and finally, the acquisition of cultural capital and social skills proved a powerful tool to student engagement. This chapter seeks to explain those impacts in terms of the playful nature of the program.


Formal Schooling Lesson Study Instructional Leader Professional Development Session National Assessment Program 
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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of EducationThe University of Notre Dame AustraliaSydneyAustralia

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