Teaching STEM through play: conditions created by the conceptual playWorld model for early childhood teachers

Tanya Stephenson, Marilyn Fleer, Glykeria Fragkiadaki, Prabhat Rai

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


While evolving societal needs have created a demand for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) outcomes in early childhood, research indicates a deficit view on early childhood teachers’ ability to teach STEM. Existing teaching models are primarily developed from school-based research, conflicting with the early childhood philosophy of play. This paper examines the conditions created by the Conceptual PlayWorld model for early childhood teachers, to understand if and how this model can shift teachers’ motive orientations towards increased STEM engagement in play-based settings. The educational experiment involved a professional development workshop, followed by implementation of the model across two early childhood settings. Interview responses of four teachers regarding their experience of STEM engagement through this model are reported. The findings of the study highlight how this model can create the conditions for a positive shift in the motive orientations of early childhood teachers towards the possibility of re-engaging with the intentional teaching of STEM, while also increasing their confidence and competence. Findings suggest that as a play-based STEM teaching model for play-based settings, this model takes a positive step towards engaging young children with STEM, enabling teachers to meet the societal demand of increased STEM outcomes in early childhood.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)811-827
Number of pages17
JournalEarly Years
Issue number4-5
Publication statusPublished - 2023


  • conceptual playworld
  • Early childhood
  • play
  • STEM
  • teacher development

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