Date of Submission



Most contemporary early childhood education and care (ECEC) settings in Western-heritage contexts are play-based. Play has become a central component of ECEC provision through the writings of Romantic philosophers of the 17th century and the spread of the child-centred approach in the latter half of the 20th century. Such an approach places what the child is interested in – notably represented by her/his play – in the centre of ECEC. What interests the child has been seen to represent what s/he is currently learning. Any interference with this from the adult has been seen to inhibit learning. The educator’s role in this approach has been primarily as a facilitator, providing resources for rich and diverse play opportunities that the child chose at her/his will to learn from autonomously. In recent curricular reforms across the globe, however, the educator is becoming repositioned. It is no longer sufficient that s/he facilitates learning through play only; s/he must engage with and extend play towards the learning of curriculum outcomes. In Australia, such reforms have taken the form of the National Quality Framework, which now stipulates that educators must “provide a balance between child led, child initiated and educator supported learning” rather than just child-initiated play (DEEWR, 2009, p. 15). Research suggests educators struggle to find this balance. Further, the NQF assesses ECEC centres on whether they “respond to children's ideas and play and use intentional teaching to scaffold and extend each child's learning” (ACECQA, 2012, para. 10). This active, “intentional” role appears to be at odds with educators’ traditional, facilitative approaches, influencing how learning through play is implemented. This thesis focused on this implementation by investigating the perspectives of those that enact learning through play – educators, family members, and children. Using a case study methodology, it conducted video-stimulated recall dialogues with 46 “insider” stakeholders in an ECEC centre in inner-Melbourne, Australia. Perspectives were expressed in relation to videos recorded of young children’s 4 play in the home and the ECEC centre. Using a sociocultural theorisation of perspectives, findings were analysed in relation to the institutional practices and values that were expressed in the perspectives of children, mothers and educators.


School of Education

Document Type


Access Rights

Open Access


426 pages

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Faculty of Education