Programmatic research in the Conceptual PlayLab: STEM PlayWorld as an educational experiment and as a source of development

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The purpose of this paper is to present an overview of the programmatic research of the Conceptual PlayLab in Australia. Funded by the Australian Research Council Laureate Fellowship Scheme, the programmatic research seeks to examine under what conditions does children's imaginative play promote the visualisation and imagination of abstract Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) concepts? Over five years the research follows the STEM learning of infants, toddlers and pre-schoolers in contexts of homes and play-based settings. A total of 3000 qualified early childhood teachers, 150 children (infants under 18 months; toddlers under 3 years; and preschoolers 3-5 years) in play-based settings, and 100 children and their families will be studied using digital tools. As part of the programmatic study design, researchers with early childhood teachers and families are currently gathering imaginative moments in STEM on a digital device using Fleer's Conceptual PlayWorld Application. Early childhood teachers and families are currently being interviewed using stimulated recall (Lyle, 2003) in remote mode and previously in person. Digital video observations of infants, toddlers and pre-schoolers have been and are currently being gathered and analysed, and understandings about how conceptual development in STEM begins in infancy and changes over four years is currently being undertaken. The background to the programmatic research, the theoretical foundations, the Conceptual PlayWorld intervention and educational experiment, and an overview of the findings to date, are presented in this paper.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)9-23
Number of pages15
JournalScience Education Research & Praxis
Publication statusPublished - 2020

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