From the archive: The role of play

FORUM - ISSN 0963-8253
Volume 64 Number 1 (2022)

From the archive: The role of play
Margaret Gracie pages 58-65
DOI: 10.3898/forum.2022.64.1.05


In ‘The role of play’, the fifth article we are highlighting from the extensive FORUM archive available online, Maggie Gracie draws on material and observations she had collected during a year of study in an infant and reception class in the mid-1970s to develop ideas about the need to enable pupils to develop genuine autonomy of action and independence of thought. Prevailing curricular structures in school undermine or inhibit this development. Teachers can and must change these structures, so as to limit their tendency to construct children as passive recipients of a predetermined and self-sufficient learning experience. An important element in this construction is the teacher’s own prior mastery of what it is the pupil is learning. Gracie considers how this inevitable imbalance in knowledge and understanding can be circumvented through play and in opportunities for artistic expression: ‘When they play and when they paint, the children have few constraints on their power to formulate ideas, experiment with them and evaluate the results’. However, play tends to be regarded as less educationally important than the (inevitably teacher-directed) work of engaging with reading, writing and numeracy, thereby undermining the value accorded to pupils’ independent and autonomous thinking and action. Gracie’s account, tentative and preliminary though it is, serves to remind us of the need to value play in our own day, and to rebut a policy of ‘school readiness’.

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To cite this article
Margaret Gracie (2022) From the archive: The role of play , FORUM, 64(1), 58-65.

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