Evaluating Research Questions and Qualitative Research Designs

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Just as in quantitative research, when researchers set out to design a qualitative research study, they are guided by its purpose, and their research questions align with their selected approach and the data that will be collected.

As you learned in previous weeks, alignment means that a research study possesses clear and logical connections among all of its various components. In addition to considering alignment, qualitative researchers must also consider the ethical implications of their design choice, including, for example, what their choice means for participant recruitment, procedures, and privacy.

For this Discussion, you will evaluate qualitative research questions in assigned journal articles in your discipline and consider the alignment of theory, problem, purpose, research questions, and design. You will also identify the type of qualitative research design the authors used and explain how it was implemented.

With these thoughts in mind, refer to the Journal Articles handout for your assigned articles for this Discussion. If your last name starts with A through I, use Article A. If your last name starts with J through R, use Article B. If your last name starts with S through Z, use Article C.

Post by Day 4 a critique of the research study in which you:

  • Evaluate the research questions using the Research Questions and Hypotheses Checklist as a guide
  • Identify the type of qualitative research approach used and explain how the researchers implemented the design
  • Analyze alignment among the theoretical or conceptual framework, problem, purpose, research questions, and design

Be sure to support your Main Issue Post and Response Post with reference to the week’s Learning Resources and other scholarly evidence in APA Style.

Read a selection of your classmates’ postings.

Respond by Day 6 to a classmate who was assigned a different article than you by further supporting his or her critique or respectfully offering a differing perspective.

Resources

Research Questions and Hypotheses Checklist
Use the following criteria to evaluate an author’s research questions and/or
hypotheses.

 Look for indications of the following:
• Is the research question(s) a logical extension of the purpose of the
study?
• Does the research question(s) reflect the best question to address the
problem?
• Does the research question(s) align with the design of the study?
• Does the research question(s) align with the method identified for
collecting data?
If the study is qualitative, does the research question(s) do as follows?
• Relate the central question to the qualitative approach
• Begin with What or How (not Why)
• Focus on a single phenomenon
• Use exploratory verbs
• Use nondirectional language
• Use an open-ended format
• Specify the participants and research site
If the study is quantitative:
• Do the descriptive questions seek to describe responses to major
variables?
• Do the inferential questions seek to compare groups or relate variables?
• Do the inferential questions follow from a theory?
• Are the variables positioned consistently from independent/predictor to
dependent/outcome in the inferential questions?
• Is a null and/or alternative hypothesis provided as a predictive statement?
Research Theory, Design, and Methods Walden University
© 2016 Laureate Education, Inc. Page 2 of 2
• Is the hypothesis consistent with its respective research question?
• Does the question(s) and/or hypothesis specify the participants and
research site?
If the study is mixed methods, do the research questions and/or hypotheses do
the following?
• Include the characteristics of a good qualitative research question (as
listed above)
• Include the characteristics of a good quantitative research and/or
hypothesis (as listed above)
• Indicate how the researcher will mix or integrate the two approaches of the
study
• Specify the participants and research site
• Convey the overall intent of the study that calls for a mixed methods
approach 

Article

Pre-service Teachers’ Views of Children’s
and Adults’ Play in Japan, Taiwan, and the USA
SATOMI IZUMI-TAYLOR
Department of Instruction and Curriculum Leadership,
University of Memphis, USA
YOKO ITO
Faculty of Education, Chiba University, Japan
CHIA HUI LIN
National Taichung University of Education, Taiwan
YU-YUAN LEE
Applied Foreign Languages Department,
Nan Kai University of Technology, Taiwan

 ABSTRACT Teachers’ perspectives of play differ widely because of social and cultural influences that
can be seen in their values and beliefs about play in different countries. In a global community, sharing
educators’ knowledge of play and their perspectives of how to educate children through the use of play
would be appropriate and complementary in understanding early childhood education in different
countries. To understand the meaning of play, American, Japanese and Taiwanese early childhood preservice
teachers’ perceptions of play were examined. The participants consisted of 25 American preservice
teachers, 25 Japanese pre-service teachers, and 25 Taiwanese pre-service teachers. Qualitative
analysis of the data yielded four themes for play: learning and development; social skills; creativity; and
children’s work. There were three themes regarding the meaning of adults’ play: being both similar to
and different from child’s play; preventing stress; and enjoying interacting with others. One theme of
enjoyment emerged for the understanding of playfulness. More American and Taiwanese participants
agreed that play relates to learning and development than their Japanese counterparts. Japanese and
Taiwanese participants viewed play as being more than learning and development, while none of their
American counterparts did. Both Japanese and Taiwanese participants claimed that although play can
support children’s development and learning, children should enjoy play for the sake of playing. One
theme that differentiated the groups was the notion that play is children’s work. While several
American and Taiwanese participants mentioned this slogan, this was not the case for the Japanese.
Introduction
Teachers’ perspectives of play differ widely because of social and cultural influences seen in their
values and beliefs about play in different countries (Izumi-Taylor, Samuelsson, et al, 2010).
Theories and research on play are multifaceted, and teachers’ perceptions of what constitutes play
in early childhood vary widely. One source of understanding teachers’ perceptions of the
appropriate implementation of play is Japanese early childhood education. Japanese teachers
generally support children’s play based on the cultural belief that play is valued for itself, not its
relationships to education (Izumi-Taylor, 2006; Muto, 2009; Ogawa & Izumi-Taylor, 2010). To
many American educators, play is a way for children to develop and learn, so by providing play
activities for children, teachers must understand how they view play (Keiff & Casbergue, 2000;
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Satomi Izumi-Taylor et al
214
Taylor et al, 2004; Copple & Bredekamp, 2009; Izumi-Taylor, Samuelsson, et al, 2010). Many
Taiwanese educators see play as an important component of early childhood education (Lee, 2010;
Lin, 2011; Preschool Activities and Curriculum Guidelines – 0228 edition, 2012).
Although many differences exist in political, educational, and religious systems among these
nations, educators value play in early childhood education. As teachers’ perceptions of play mediate
children’s play activities in classrooms, examining perceptions in different nations can contribute to
early childhood education. Viewing play from different perspectives might help educators to ‘make
sound decisions about classroom play’ (Frost et al, 2005, p. 58) to support children’s development
and learning.
As global notions of play include ‘vague general statements to justify the play-oriented
curriculum and vague characterizations to describe play in early education’ (DeVries et al, 2002, p.
6), examining American, Japanese, and Taiwanese pre-service teachers’ perspectives can illuminate
how play is mediated by their own cultural influences and understanding of play. Various studies
find that teachers’ beliefs influence their teaching (Taylor et al, 2004; Vartuli, 2005); therefore,
triangulating views of play in Japan, Taiwan, and the United States might provide educators with
universal perspectives. For these reasons, this study investigates pre-service teachers’ perspectives
of children’s and adults’ play.
Play in Japan, Taiwan, and the USA
When pre-service teachers view children’s play as beneficial to their development and learning,
they implement it within the curriculum (Van Hoorn et al, 2011). Their perceptions of adults’ play
also influence how pre-service teachers value play in the classroom (Taylor et al, 2004). In Japan
play is highly valued by teachers and the government. The National Curriculum Standards for
Kindergarten (NCSK) set forth by the Japanese government (Ministry of Education, Culture,
Sports, Science, and Technology, 2008) state that play promotes children’s learning as well as
developing balanced minds and bodies. Japanese early childhood education is based on the concept
that through play children construct their knowledge by interacting with environments that are
part of group-oriented and caring communities (Izumi-Taylor, 2008; Muto, 2009). Play supports the
development of the whole child (Muto, 2009; Kayo, 2010). Children should initiate play, and adults
need not force them to participate but should support and facilitate such activities (Ogawa &
Izumi-Taylor, 2010). To encourage children’s engagement in play, teachers must nurture children’s
spirit of inquiry, their interests in matters, their ability to relate to environments, and their capacity
to innovate to solve problems (Muto, 2009).
To analyze the quality of play, Takazakura (2007) finds that three-year-olds form their peer
relationships through play and develop their social skills. Sunagami (2008) affirms that when young
children play with others, they experience and learn to solve conflicts. Through play, children learn
to compromise and to play cooperatively with others. Ryu (2011) has examined differences in
Chinese and Japanese teachers’ perspectives on play and found Japanese teachers more likely to
support children’s social development than their Chinese counterparts. Japanese teachers perceive
children’s social skills to be more important than academic skills.
Although no standards are prescribed by governmental early childhood educational
guidelines, play is considered to be the best mode for children to learn and develop by many
American educators (Rogers & Taylor, 1999; Kieff & Casbergue, 2000; Copple & Bredekamp,
2009). The National Association for the Education of Young Children’s book on developmentally
appropriate practice (DAP) (Copple & Bredekamp, 2009), states ‘Play is an important vehicle for
developing self-regulation as well as for promoting language, cognition, and social competence’ (p.
14). Likewise, play allows children to engage in cooperative, intellectual, and challenging activities,
and promotes all features of children’s development (Van Hoorn et al, 2011).
Elkind (2007) considers play, love, and work as being essential to healthy development for
both children and adults based on Freud’s ideas about play. Katz and Chard (2000) also recognize
the importance of play for children and state that ‘play is not the only natural way that children
learn: it is just as natural for them to learn from observation and investigation’ (p. 7).
Just as American and Japanese educators consider play an important mode in which children
learn; Taiwanese educators regard it as one of the early childhood curriculum components (Hsieh,
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Pre-service Teachers’ Views of Children’s and Adults’ Play
215
2001; Hadley, 2003; Wei, 2005; Lee, 2010). Although generally Taiwanese early childhood
education programs are based on traditional Chinese Confucius philosophy, it now embraces
Western philosophies, including those of Piaget, Montessori, Frobel, and Reggio Emilia (Hsieh,
2004; Lin, 2011). Play is part of the six areas of the kindergarten curriculum standards set forth by
the Taiwanese Ministry of Education (1987), and learning through play is important in current
Taiwanese early childhood education. However, the standards are vague and do not fully address
how to implement them in classrooms, and many teachers still use workbooks (Lai, 2000). Since
2007, many educators consider the goals and contents of the Kindergarten Curriculum Standards
obsolete and have advocated for change to meet the global trends of early childhood education
(Lin, 2011). Therefore, the Taiwan Ministry of Education has released the Preschool Activities and
Curriculum Guidelines in which the component of play is stressed (Preschool Activities and
Curriculum Guidelines – 0228 edition, 2012). Today, teachers are educated to provide children with
sufficient play experiences.
Taiwanese teachers have diverse perceptions and implement play in their classrooms
according to their understanding of Western values, including Piaget, Vygotsky, Montessori, and
their cultural values (Johnson & Chang, 2007; Shen, 2008; Johnson et al, 2011). Taiwan teachers and
parents have various perceptions of play (Wei, 2005; Johnson & Chang, 2007). Johnson et al (2011)
report that parents focus on children’s academic achievement and fail to understand the benefit of
learning through play, while some teachers in city schools are more aware of its importance in
children’s learning and development (Wei, 2005).
One cross-cultural study (Izumi-Taylor, Samuelsson, et al, 2010) examines play perceptions of
American, Japanese, and Swedish early childhood teachers. It finds these teachers related play to
processes of learning, fun activities, and creativity. Japanese and Swedish teachers associated play
with possibilities and creativity, but this was not so for American teachers. Play as child’s work
represented both American and Swedish teachers’ notion of play, but this was not so regarding
Japanese teachers. The notion of play as empowerment differentiated Japanese teachers from
others, although Japanese and Swedish teachers offered unstructured play to children while this
was not the case for the Americans. Their understanding of play was influenced by their cultures.
Another study of American and Japanese teachers’ views of play reveals that they considered
play as opportunities for children to learn, to have fun, and to be with nature (Taylor et al, 2004).
However, American teachers viewed play as children’s work, while none of the Japanese teachers
perceived it as such. The meanings of play are related to teachers’ past experiences and their
cultural values.
The Purpose of the Study
The purpose of this study was to examine similarities and differences of play perspectives of
American, Japanese, and Taiwanese pre-service teachers. Cultural beliefs, values, and traditions
influence the goals of education (Hsieh, 2004), and such influences might provide understanding
when reviewing the values and contexts of teachers’ varying perceptions of play. Because of
changes in contexts for play as well as the composition of players, educators should examine
teachers’ philosophies and outline applications for developmentally appropriate play in different
countries’ classrooms (Frost et al, 2005). The benefits of cross-cultural studies include examining
what is typical and atypical among different cultures to present universal concepts (Kagitcibasi,
1996). Sharing educators’ knowledge of how to educate children through play would be
complementary in a universal understanding of early childhood education (Roopnarine &
Metindogan, 2006).
Regardless of the current emphasis on the importance of play in early childhood education
(Van Hoorn et al, 2011), there exist limited studies examining pre-service teachers’ perceptions of
play in different cultures. This study was conducted to address such limitations and was guided by
the following two research questions: (1) What do these pre-service teachers think of children’s and
adults’ play? And (2) Are there any similarities and differences among these pre-service teachers’
views of play? How are they similar or different?
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Methods
Participants
The participants consisted of 25 American pre-service teachers in the southeastern USA, 25
Japanese pre-service teachers on the main island, and 25 Taiwanese pre-service teachers from
central Taiwan. The respondent pool was selected through convenience of access. All pre-service
teachers majoring in early childhood education were in their third or fourth year of college, and
they were informed that their participation was voluntary, and that refusal to participate would not
negatively affect their school performance.
The data regarding pre-service teachers’ play perceptions came from their written responses
to the questionnaire. In this study, the American pre-service teachers are working on their
bachelor’s degrees to teach kindergarteners or first through third graders, and the Japanese preservice
teachers are pursuing their bachelor’s degrees to teach in early childhood settings. Japanese
early childhood education college programs offer one degree for working in childcare centers and
another for kindergartens. Children from birth to age five needing longer care attend childcare
centers, while children requiring shorter care attend kindergartens. Children from age three to five
attend kindergartens that are equivalent to USA preschools. The third year of preschool mirrors
American kindergartens (Taylor, 2004). The Taiwanese pre-service teachers are working on their
bachelor’s degrees to teach in early childhood settings and must complete a pre-service teachers’
education program and pass the National Teacher Certification Exam to obtain teacher certificates
to teach five to six year olds.
Data Collection
The first author asked two American instructors of early childhood education courses to administer
the questionnaire to students in one session, and then collected their responses. In Japan, the
second author obtained data following this same procedure. In Taiwan, the third author also
followed the same procedures. The Appendix showed the content of the questionnaire. The first
and second authors modified the questionnaire developed by Izumi-Taylor et al in 2010, and the
questions in this study resulted from many discussions and revisions. The questions in the 2010
study with 89% reliability were revised in order to obtain more information. For example, in the
first question section asking, ‘What is play?’ more inquires are added such as ‘Please read the
statements below (a-f) and indicate the level of your agreement that most accurately reflects your
opinions. Then, also tell me the reasons for your responses’.
Data Analysis
The first author translated Japanese students’ responses into English, and two Japanese bilingual
educators reviewed the responses and reached consensus on translation. The third author used the
same data analysis procedures to translate Taiwanese students’ responses into English. The data
were coded and categorized using qualitative analysis methods (Lichtman, 2010). The first author
trained two assistants to code and categorize responses.
Firstly, each statement was read with no concern for its relationship to other textual aspects.
Secondly, each statement was scrutinized to become familiar with the transcript. Thirdly, analysis
focused on emerging patterns and themes. Fourthly, among themes, patterns, as well as similarities
and contradictions, the researchers selected relevancies and discarded irrelevancies. Assistants
coded and categorized responses independently, and coders agreed on the coding and
categorization of responses. Finally, the research team brought together the themes from each
response, unified them under the umbrella of cultures studied, and then related them to the wider
discourse on play. We ensured the trustworthiness of the questions by asking American, Japanese,
and Taiwanese pre-service teachers to review our data analysis, and each country’s pre-service
teachers were asked to verify the accuracy of our interpretation by using member checking (‘using
respondents to check language’) (Lichtman, 2010, p. 230).
The frequencies for the number of responses to each inquiry are shown in the Appendix.
Each response was coded according to its relevance to the study, and multiple category codings
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were counted as separate responses. Responses that were irrelevant were discarded, thus this
category totaled less than 100%. Other responses were coded more than once resulting in
categories totaling over 100%. Percentages of the responses were spread across the three samples
(Izumi-Taylor, Ito, et al, 2010).
Results
Qualitative analysis of the data yielded four themes for play (learning and development, social
skills, creativity, and children’s work), three themes for adults’ play (being similar to and different
from children’s play, preventing stress, and enjoying interacting with others), and one theme for
playfulness (enjoyment). They will be discussed accordingly.
Play as Learning and Development
When asked to discuss if they agree that children play because they want to, and if the process of
play is important to their learning and development, 25 American, 24 Taiwanese, and four Japanese
participants agreed with this issue. A total of 11 Japanese participants and one Taiwanese
participant somewhat agreed. According to an American participant, ‘Children learn a lot through
play. Playing with other children gives them a chance to learn about other cultures and ways of
life’. One Taiwanese participant noted, ‘Play promotes children’s minds and is important to their
development’. A Japanese participant said, ‘While playing, children learn many things from their
environments’.
However, four Japanese participants disagreed or somewhat disagreed with this statement,
but this was not so for the Americans and Taiwanese. One Japanese participant disagreed as
follows, ‘I agree with the process being more important than the product, but I disagree that
children always must learn while playing’.
In giving reasons for agreeing or disagreeing with this premise, seven Japanese and one
Taiwanese mentioned that the play process offers more than learning and development. Japanese
participants commented, ‘The play process may be important, but we should focus on providing
children with freedom to play because they may reach goals in play’, and ‘I think the process is not
important, but we must value children initiating spontaneous play, and it is more than learning’.
Similarly, a Taiwanese participant offered, ‘Because play is instinctive, children need no learning
process. Children should enjoy playing’.
Play as the Development of Social Skills
The theme of social skills emerged through participants identifying the meaning of play. Social
skills are the ability to interact with others positively. As shown in the Appendix, seven American,
22 Japanese, and eight Taiwanese participants related play to developing social skills. A Japanese
participant said, ‘Through play, children learn about human relationships, cultivate social skills and
nourish positive emotions’. One American participant claimed, ‘It is the chance to interact with one
another and to learn from one another’. Likewise, a Taiwanese participant noted, ‘Play promotes
social skills’.
When asked which skills children are likely to acquire through play, nine American, 17
Japanese, and nine Taiwanese participants ranked social skills first. They explained that children
play with others and develop social skills. One Taiwanese participant wrote, ‘Children interact with
others during play, so I think play can promote social skills and can regulate emotions’. A Japanese
participant commented, ‘While playing, children interact with their environment and
communicate with others. They experience various kinds of feelings, including happiness, sadness,
anger, and loneliness. Through such experiences, children learn human relations and
communications skills’. Similarly, an American participant responded, ‘Play encourages social and
emotional skills because the students are learning to work together as a group’.
This theme of developing social skills was again evident when participants were asked to rank
which skill children most likely acquire if play empowers children. As shown in the Appendix, 17
Japanese, nine American, and nine Taiwanese participants ranked social skills highest. A Japanese
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participant claimed, ‘Play nurtures children’s social skills and relationships. Children learn about
their feelings and appropriate expressions while playing’. An American participant noted, ‘Social
skills are most learned during play because they are surrounded by their peers very closely’.
Similarly, a Taiwanese participant articulated, ‘Children need to learn communication with others,
and they learn to share and to wait their turns’.
Only Japanese participants (five) associated play with understanding others’ thoughts and
feelings, while none of the Americans and Taiwanese shared this opinion. A Japanese participant
explained, ‘When engaging in pretend play, children can act out others’ roles and identify with
them’. Another Japanese participant noted, ‘Through pretend play, children understand others’
actions; thus, assuming another’s role allows them to empathize’.
Play as the Development of Creativity
Creativity was another theme surfacing among responses of these participants. Creativity refers to
combining two or more things in an imaginary way novel to the individual or to his/her
environment. When asked about the meaning of play, eight American, eight Japanese, and four
Taiwanese participants discussed how play fosters children’s imagination. A Japanese participant
noted, ‘Play nurtures children’s creativity and imagination’. A Taiwanese participant claimed,
‘Children play through imagination, and play fosters creativity’. An American participant
commented, ‘Play is something that makes kids interact and use their imagination’.
When 10 Japanese and 11 Taiwanese participants discussed why play can be a source of
possibilities, this creative theme emerged again. One Japanese participant wrote, ‘Because children
can pretend to be something or someone impossible in reality, play offers opportunities to cultivate
imagination and creativity’. Equally, a Taiwanese participant remarked, ‘Children have imaginative
powers. They can attempt to change the impossible into something real’.
In addition, 25 Americans, 7 Japanese, and 21 Taiwanese participants agreed that play fosters
children’s creativity and creativity is important. More Americans and Taiwanese participants
agreed with this issue than did their Japanese counterparts. One American asserted, ‘Creativity
opens a new level of thinking’. Another American’s comment focused on imagination, ‘Play allows
children to think freely and to create things that may not exist’. Likewise, a Taiwanese participant
wrote, ‘Children want play to be interesting, so they have to think harder. They make new rules,
create new types of play, and add something new to their play via their imagination’. Also, one
Japanese participant commented, ‘When children play, they create new things, or they observe
others’ play and think about their own play. Hence, children’s creativity is promoted, and future
originality and inventive skills are cultivated’.
Play as Being Children’s Work
The theme of play as children’s work emerged among 21 Americans and 20 Taiwanese, but not
among Japanese participants. In particular, these participants’ responses described play as being
children’s work because they learn different skills. One American explained, ‘Play is like a job for
children. It develops their minds’. A Taiwanese participant said, ‘Play is like a duty for children, and
they can learn through play’.
A total of 18 Japanese participants disagreed or somewhat disagreed with the concept of play
as children’s work and gave many reasons for this. Such disagreements included, ‘Play is important
and is necessary, but it is not like work because work seems unnatural for children’, ‘Play should be
play. If we say it is work, it relates to duty or responsibilities’. This participant’s comment was
insightful: ‘If we call play children’s work, we force them to play. What about children who are not
playing but are observing others? Do we see them as passive or lazy children?’
Adults’ Play as Being Both Similar to and Different From Children’s Play
Although American, Japanese, and Taiwanese participants used different terms, many appeared to
be discussing how adults’ play is both similar to and different from that of children. Nine American,
two Japanese, and two Taiwanese participants seemed to think that adults’ play could be similar to
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Pre-service Teachers’ Views of Children’s and Adults’ Play
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that of children. A Japanese respondent noted, ‘It could be the same as children’s play. We play
because we enjoy it. We do what we like, and our play is based on the way we want to do it’.
According to an American respondent, ‘It is the same because you are able to use your
imagination. You are free to do what you want’. A Taiwanese respondent commented, ‘It is the
same because we like to play, being excited and happy’.
Conversely, 23 Japanese participants said adults’ play is not like children’s, five American
participants considered play as not similar to adults and 15 Taiwanese participants said adults’ play
is not comparable to children’s. One American participant declared, ‘Adults’ play can be more
guarded and inhibited than children’s – unfortunately’. A Japanese participant noted, ‘I think of
adults’ play as lacking creativity, and interaction with nature, but not lacking exploration of the
environment’. Equally, a Taiwanese participant commented, ‘Adults’ play is more competitive
than children’s’.
Another difference of adults’ play from children’s was the issue of adults’ play being costly, a
subject broached by only the Japanese. Two participants claimed: ‘When adults play, they tend to
spend money’ and ‘A difference is that it costs us money to play’.
Adults’ Play as Preventing Stress
When asked to explain their thoughts on adults’ play, eight American, four Japanese, and two
Taiwanese participants associated it with a way to prevent stress in their lives. These participants’
comments generally related play to their work and lives. One American participant said, ‘Play helps
adults get away from the stress of real life and work in a way of managing or preventing stress’. A
Japanese participant noted, ‘Adults’ play frees one from stress, and it sets one free’. Likewise, a
Taiwanese participant declared, ‘Adults relieve stress through play’.
Adults’ Play as the Opportunity to Interact with Others
As seen in the Appendix, only two American and 13 Japanese participants related this concept of
adults’ play as an opportunity to interact with others, and none of their Taiwanese counterparts
described it this way. A Japanese participant stated, ‘When adults play, we also enjoy talking and
exchanging information and thoughts with others. It is like a tool to keep our relationships going’.
An American participant explained, ‘Adults have to learn to work together; they practice
communication skills and get emotionally connected to peers while playing’.
Playfulness as Enjoyment
In responding to the inquiry of the meaning of playfulness, 13 American and 12 Taiwanese
participants reported it as enjoyment, while 12 Japanese participants related it to their hearts
seeking enjoyment. Enjoyment is defined as positive feelings, including joy, fun, excitement,
happiness, cheerfulness, and pleasure. The American participants defined playfulness with such
phrases as, ‘Being happy and enjoying fun’, ‘ Being happy, joking and laughing’, and ‘It means to
enjoy your life and have fun’. The two Taiwanese participants used the term ‘relaxing’ to explain
their concepts: ‘It is happiness and relaxation’ and ‘Playfulness is something that makes you relaxed
and cheerful’. Although 12 Japanese participants associated their concept of playfulness with their
hearts, their comments were parallel to their American and Taiwanese counterparts, ‘It is one’s
heart that can view life as being fun and enjoyable; thus, one dose not react negatively even when
things are tough’, ‘It is my heart that honestly enjoys working on my tasks or something I want to
do’, and ‘Playfulness relates to your heart and a sense of humor, and it can give peace to those
around us’.
Discussion
The thematic analysis of results reveals American, Japanese, and Taiwanese participants’
perception of play, their views of adult play, and playfulness. The following discussion addresses
the two research questions simultaneously: (1) What do these pre-service teachers think of
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children’s and adults’ play? And (2) Are there any similarities and differences among these preservice
teachers’ views of play? If so, how are they similar or different?
American, Japanese and Taiwanese Pre-service Teachers’
Perceptions of Play in Terms of Similarities and Differences
The responses to Question 1 indicated a stronger association between play and learning for the
American and Taiwanese participants, consistent with the current focus on enhancing teaching
skills through the use of play (Hadley, 2003; Wei, 2005; Copple & Bredekamp, 2009). More
American and Taiwanese participants agreed that play relates to learning and development than
their Japanese counterparts. These observations are supported by two studies (Taylor et al, 2004;
Izumi-Taylor, Samuelsson et al, 2010) finding that more American pre-service teachers consider
play to support children’s learning and development than their Japanese counterparts. In Taiwan,
using play to support learning is common (Lee, 2010; Lin, 2011), and pre-service teachers see most
students’ work as play when activities have many fun elements. Likewise, Lai and Lin (2003) and
Huang (1995) have considered children’s learning to be related to play.
Although Taiwanese participants viewed play being associated with learning, they also said
that play is more than learning and development, just as their Japanese counterparts did. The
notion of valuing play for itself is not new to Japanese early childhood educators. Japanese preservice
teachers’ play perceptions come from their own cultural values that children should enjoy it
(Taylor et al, 2004; Izumi-Taylor, 2008; Muto, 2009; Ogawa & Izumi-Taylor, 2010). Similarly,
although the concept of ‘earlier learning is better’ has impacted parents’ views of children’s
learning, many Taiwanese contemporary educators consider play to be important in children’s
lives (Lee, 2010; Lin, 2011). Play reveals children’s innocence, sincerity, and intrinsic feelings in
their minds (Li, 2006).
Some of these nations’ participants appeared to consider the meaning of play as being related
to the development of social skills. These participants associated play with human relationships.
The importance of nurturing children’s social skills through play is acknowledged by the NCSK,
noting that children need to work with others willingly and cooperatively through play activities
(Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, 2008). Other play studies in Japan
have found that pre-service Japanese teachers are educated by their colleges to intentionally
promote children’s social skills through play (Takazakura, 2007; Sunagami, 2008; Muto, 2009; Kayo,
2010; Ryu, 2011). Similarly, DAP has advocated the importance of play and how it promotes
children’s social skills (Copple & Bredekamp, 2009). Johnson and Chang (2007) have found that
some Taiwanese teachers in city schools believe that play supports children’s social skills.
With regards to play helping to develop one’s social skills, both American and Japanese
participants viewed adults’ play as being related to the opportunity to interact with others. Elkind
(2007) has suggested that when adults and children interact playfully, they understand each other
better, and their relationships with others can improve positively.
Only the Japanese participants viewed play as forging relationships resulting in the
empowerment of children. Japanese early childhood educational settings must offer children the
opportunity to develop their power to live through play (Izumi-Taylor, 2006; Muto, 2009). The
NCSK (Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, and Science and Technology, 2008) articulates that
the foundation of a curriculum should promote children’s ‘zest of living’ (p. 2) by offering playoriented
activities. Izumi-Taylor, Samuelsson et al (2010) have also found that Japanese teachers
view play as a way of empowering children to become competent citizens, and Japanese early
childhood colleges and educational institutions train and educate their pre-service teachers
accordingly (Taylor et al, 2004; Muto, 2009; Kayo, 2010).
These nations’ participants shared their opinions that play should promote children’s
creativity. These observations are supported by Izumi-Taylor, Samuelsson et al (2010) who found
that American, Japanese, and Swedish teachers related play to creativity. Play and creativity are
closely aligned with the NCSK (Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology,
2008), stating that children should use various materials creatively in play. DAP (Copple &
Bredekamp, 2009) recommends teachers to offer play activities to enhance children’s creativity.
The White Paper on Creative Education in Taiwan (Ministry of Education Taiwan, 2003) advocates a
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multi-level approach to cultivate creativity at schools. Johnson and Chang (2007) have found that
Taiwanese teachers believe that play is related to children’s creativity and imagination, even
though teachers may not interact with them when children are engaged in dramatic play.
Only American and Taiwanese participants tended to think play was children’s work. This
notion of play as children’s work is congruent with other studies where American and Swedish
teachers consider play as children’s work, while this was not the case for Japanese teachers (Taylor
et al, 2004; Izumi-Taylor, Samuelsson et al, 2010). Similarly, in Taiwan, early childhood educators
consider play as the core activity of children’s daily lives (Wei, 1994; Wang, 2001), and many
teachers tend to think play is children’s work (Lai & Lin, 2003). Despite work and play being listed
as two different content areas in the Taiwanese Kindergarten Curriculum Standard, educators have
prioritized the importance of play in early childhood curricula. They believe that play is essential to
children’s learning and development (Wei, 1994; Huang, 1995; Wang, 2001; Li, 2006).
However, although the NCSK (Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and
Technology, 2008) places more emphasis on social/emotional development than on the cognitive
development in relation to play, such stated Japanese values are based on the belief that when
children’s needs are met, their cognitive development will be augmented (Taylor et al, 2004).
Therefore, there seems to be a need to balance play and work for children (Rogers & Taylor, 1999).
Katz and Chard (2000) remark that teachers must present children a balance of activities such as
spontaneous play and systematic instruction. Undeniably, Elkind (2007) insists that play, love, and
work can complement each other, and when they do, learning and development of one’s life is
most effective.
The notion of adults’ play being both similar to and different from children’s play appeared to
be associated with these participants’ everyday life experiences. These findings support the results
of the study by Taylor and others (2004) who found that both American and Japanese teachers
agree with this notion. Additionally, as they compared their own play with children’s, the
participants claimed that adults’ play is more inhibited than children’s. They also related it to
preventing stress and considered it as a way to interact with others. However, more Japanese
participants than Americans perceived adults’ play as an opportunity to interact with others, while
none of the Taiwanese participants thought this.
These participants stated that playfulness is related to positive feelings, and they agree with
the perspective that playfulness is related to enjoyment, happiness, or fun feelings. Two previous
studies (Taylor et al, 2004; Izumi-Taylor, Samuelsson, et al, 2010) reveal that many American,
Japanese, and Swedish teachers relate playfulness to enjoyment. Playfulness is one disposition that
teachers should be aware of in classrooms, as often many scientific and artistic accomplishments
and discoveries have been achieved during leisure (Rogers & Taylor, 1999). Elkind (2007)
encourages adults to be playful in their daily work as well as in their childrearing practices to
integrate play, love, and work.
Implications for Early Childhood Education
Each theme mentioned above offers an insight into the field of early childhood teacher education.
The American, Japanese, and Taiwanese participants appear to be influenced by their own cultures
and their own college training. They seem to make their own connections between play and their
values of play in educating children. Because they tend to agree that play is one of the best ways for
children to learn and develop, it would be beneficial for American, Japanese, and Taiwanese
educators to collaborate with each other to gain more knowledge about how to implement playbased
activities.
In the process of collaboration, teacher educators can examine the best way to educate their
students and to produce teacher training materials that translate theory and research into practice.
By understanding and appreciating each country’s pre-service teachers’ different views of play, they
can integrate appropriate play activities in classrooms.
When educators respect and value different play perspectives of pre-service teachers, it opens
debate about play in both general and applied contexts. Because play appears to serve as a vehicle
to unify and integrate all dimensions of learning and development, teacher educators need to
realize and teach the importance of its definition and its role in early childhood teacher education.
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Limitations of the Study
The sample size of this study was small, and the results may not completely describe how preservice
teachers view children’s and adults’ play in the three nations. Sampling procedures show
this study’s limitations as well. This study was conducted among pre-service teachers with whom
we had access to in these nations, and other pre-service teachers from major cities in Japan,
Taiwan, and the USA were excluded.
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APPENDIX.
Themes in American, Japanese, and Taiwanese pre-service teachers’ responses
Questions Frequencies
Japan USA Taiwan
1. What is play?
Tell me, how do you think play affects young children?
Learn and explore environments 1 14 0
Develop creativity or imagination 8 8 4
Learn social skills 22 7 8
Provide opportunities to interact with environments 1 3 3
Learn different kinds of skills 24 1 15
Develop one’s heart and body 6 0 1
Develop communication skills 5 0 2
Understand others’ thinking and feelings 5 0 0
Promote one’s power of living 2 0 0
Promote happiness and relaxation 0 0 11
2. Please read the statements below (a-f) and indicate the level of your agreement that most
accurately reflects your opinions. Then, also tell me the reasons for your responses.
(a) Children play because they want to, and the process of such play is important
to their learning and development.
Disagree 1 0 0
Somewhat disagree 3 0 0
Uncertain 2 0 0
Somewhat agree 11 0 1
Agree 4 25 24
Please explain why you think this way:
Play leads to learning and development 9 13 19
Play gives freedom 1 3 1
Play’s process offers more than learning and development 7 0 1
(b) Play can be considered to be a source of possibilities because children can work
things out during play even if things are impossible to do in reality and such a source is
important to children.
Disagree 1 0 1
Somewhat disagree 1 0 0
Uncertain 4 0 0
Somewhat agree 16 2 4
Agree 3 23 21
Please explain why you think this way:
Play develops children’s problem-solving skills 1 16 1
Play allows children to pretend 6 5 5
Play promotes children’s creativity/imagination 10 0 11
Pretend play allows children to learn about others’ feelings 3 0 0
Pretend play promotes children’s heart development 2 0 0
Play promotes learning 0 0 7
(c) Play can provide children with a sense of empowerment, and
empowering children is important.
Disagree 0 0 1
Somewhat disagree 0 0 0
Uncertain 1 1 1
Somewhat agree 2 3 7
Agree 22 21 15
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Please explain why you think this way:
Play gives children confidence 0 7 0
Play provides children with certain skills 0 2 0
No answer 3 5 15
(d) If you agree that play empowers children, which skills do you think that children are
able to acquire the most through play?
Please rank the following skills:
Social skills 17 9 9
Cognitive skills 1 2 2
Physical skills 0 3 7
Social/emotional skills 7 0 6
Please explain why you think this way:
Children play with others and develop social skills 16 5 9
Children develop all kinds of skills 3 20 0
(e) Play can foster children’s creativity, and promoting creativity is important.
Disagree 0 0 0
Somewhat disagree 1 0 0
Uncertain 5 0 0
Somewhat agree 12 0 4
Agree 7 25 21
Please explain why you think this way:
Play promotes imagination 14 8 19
Play promotes different kinds of skills relating to creativity 3 7 0
Play allows creation of new games 0 0 4
(f) Play is children’s work and it is important.
Disagree 10 0 0
Somewhat disagree 8 0 1
Uncertain 7 0 2
Somewhat agree 0 4 2
Agree 0 21 20
Please explain why you think this way:
Children learn and develop through play 7 16 13
Children choose to play 1 3 0
Play is not children’s work since children enjoy playing 16 2 1
3. If you have any additional thoughts on these above questions regarding how play influences
children’s learning and development, please write them here:
No answer 25 23 23
Play is essential for children to learn 0 2 2
4. Tell me your thoughts on adult play, focusing on the similarities and differences of
children’s and adults’ play:
Preventing stress 4 8 2
Learning and development 0 8 0
Enjoying interactions with others 13 2 0
Having limitations/patterns 6 0 7
Costing money 2 0 0
Being similar to children’s play 2 9 0
Being different from children’s play 23 5 15
5. Tell me what playfulness means to you:
Enjoyment, fun, and happiness 0 13 12
Freedom to express 0 3 0
One’s heart that seeks enjoyment 12 0 0
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No answers 4 0 1
One’s attitude that can turn work into play 7 0 0
One’s way of relaxation 0 0 7
One’s attitude 0 1 0
SATOMI IZUMI-TAYLOR, PhD, is professor and coordinator of early childhood education with
the Department of Instruction and Curriculum Leadership at the University of Memphis,
Tennessee, USA. Her research interests include cross-cultural studies of teacher education, play,
constructivism, infant and toddler development, and science education. Correspondence:
sitaylor@memphis.edu
YOKO ITO, PhD, is professor at the Faculty of Education at Chiba University in Japan. Her
current research interests include cross-cultural studies of fathering in China, Japan, the United
States, and Sweden.
CHIA HUI LIN is lecturer of early childhood education at the National Taichung University of
Education in Taiwan. She is currently working on her doctoral degree in the Department of
Instruction and Curriculum Leadership at the University of Memphis, Tennessee. Her research
interests include early childhood education teacher programs and arts education for young
children.
YU-YUAN LEE, EdD, is an associate professor at the Applied Foreign Languages Department at
Nan Kai University of Technology in Taiwan. Her research interests include cross-cultural studies,
ESL/EFL education, and technology use in EFL settings.
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