The Repository @ St. Cloud State

Open Access Knowledge and Scholarship

Date of Award


Culminating Project Type




Degree Name

Child and Family Studies: Family Studies: M.S.


Child and Family Studies


School of Education

First Advisor

Frances Kayona

Second Advisor

Ana Welu

Third Advisor

Brittany Sullivan

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

Keywords and Subject Headings

Play, Kindergarten


The purpose of this research study was to explore the influence of teacher preparation, in-service professional development opportunities, and school climate /culture on kindergarten teachers' beliefs and ability to implement play-based pedagogy in the classroom. A descriptive electronic survey was distributed to two central Minnesota school districts where play-based learning is not mandated. The descriptive survey was used to determine how Kindergarten teachers defined play and what influential factors supported this belief and definition. Additionally, the survey had Kindergarten teachers self-report how additional factors such as school climate, culture, funding, and colleague support impacted their ability to implement play-based learning in the kindergarten classroom.

Twenty-three eligible kindergarten teachers were contacted to participate in the survey, with eight completing the survey for a return rate of 35%. The survey results indicated all teachers valued play in kindergarten, but their licensure preparation may influence how they value and define play. All teachers licensed in early childhood education showed agreement (agree =3/ strongly agree=4) that children should have choice and control over play. Teachers with a K-6 elementary teaching license varied in their responses, with some disagreeing or strongly disagreeing that children should have choice and control over play. Teachers were equally divided (50% agreeing, 50% disagreeing) on whether their pre-service experience emphasized play and learning in coursework and was part of the course content and assignment. All teachers expressed dissatisfaction (87.5% somewhat dissatisfied, 12.5% completely dissatisfied) with the college preparation education they received on play-based learning.

The study found teachers did not receive training on play-based learning from their employing school districts but sought out the training independently. While college preparation and ongoing professional development are essential, when teachers were asked to indicate the factors most influential to their beliefs and definitions of play-based learning, the top three factors identified by mean were: teaching colleagues (4.5), personal experiences (4.38), and mentor teachers (4.0). When it came to implementing play-based learning in the classroom, teachers revealed administrative support, preparation time, and class time (mean =4.5) were the most influential in their ability to implement play-based learning.

The study findings showed that teacher licensure and preparation influences teacher’s beliefs and values regarding play-based learning. The study also revealed that college preparation for kindergarten teachers does not offer satisfactory education regarding play-based learning and that teachers often seek professional development independently. Mentors and colleagues play an influential role in shaping teacher beliefs and values, while administration support, class time, and preparation time are critical to implementing play-based learning.


I would like to express my deepest appreciation to the young children who have graced my classroom over the past nine years. Through your intrinsic love of learning and the magic that occurs when you are in the flow of play, you have shown me first-hand the importance of honoring your innate ability to learn. Your tenacity and bravery in exploring the world around you fan the flame that drives me to continually seek ways to support learning through play-based instruction. While I may be designated your teacher, you have imparted a great amount of wisdom and shown me through your words, actions, and behaviors what truly matters.

I would like to thank my family for supporting me in my relentless pursuit of knowledge and the time and devotion I poured into this research and my personal classroom. Thank you for always encouraging me and believing in my abilities. Without your love and support this thesis would not be possible.

I would also like to thank the staff at St. Cloud State University: Frances Kayona, Brittany Sullivan, and Ana Welu, for their guidance, insight, and assistance with this project. I appreciate your willingness to answer my questions, discuss my thoughts or ideas, and your genuine interest in my research.

Finally, I would like to express my appreciation to my kindergarten colleagues who thoughtfully completed the survey and shared glimpses into your classrooms. Without your feedback and responses, this thesis would not have been possible. I understand how truly busy the kindergarten world of teaching is and express my deepest appreciation for the time you shared with helping complete this research.