Dear Playful Teacher Educators,

Here are some Frequently Asked Questions about the PoP Teacher Education Resources.

Who created these resources?

Megina Baker and Ben Mardell, researchers on the Pedagogy of Play project at Project Zero, created these resources in collaboration with teacher educators around the world. This work has been generously funded by the LEGO Foundation. Both Ben and Megina have been classroom teachers and teacher educators and have tried out all of the resources and most of the ideas in this guide in our teacher education courses in Boston, MA, where we live and work. Megina identifies as a white, cisgender, bilingual woman. Ben identifies as a white, Jewish-American man. We have built the resources in this guide and website through collaboration with many colleagues around the globe who bring a wide range of cultural, linguistic, and educational experience and teach in a variety of teacher education programs. You can learn more about all the contributors by clicking on the “Meet the Collaborators” button on our webpage. We recognize that our lived experiences color our work, and we hope that you will adapt and hack these resources for your own context and language of instruction.

How were the resources created?

The PoP Teacher Education Resources draw on research from the Pedagogy of Play project, with ongoing feedback and collaboration from the group of teacher educators mentioned above. The PoP team developed drafts of the resources with input from the teacher educator group about what would be most useful. Regular feedback sessions (held via Zoom so that folks could join synchronously from all over the world) provided times for the group to make suggestions, ask questions, and contribute materials. The resources were revised several times through this iterative process.

What is your definition of playful learning?

There are many ways to define playful learning. Here is our working definition for Pedagogy of Play: Playful learning in schools occurs when the learning goals of adults and the interests and curiosities of students align. In these situations, learners are leading their own learning, exploring the unknown, and finding the joy of learning (though the specific terms for describing these feelings and behaviors will vary based on the cultural context). Put another way, playful learning in school occurs when students are doing what they want, and this is exactly what their teachers want them to be doing. Because learners care, the result is often deep learning. By unifying cognition and emotions, and often the physical and social dimensions of learning, playful learning is a powerful strategy for learning.

Play, and by extension playful learning, does not mean that anything goes. In play, there are both literal and metaphorical rules of the game. In soccer you can’t pick the ball up and run with it, unless you want to be kicked out of the game. In dramatic play, if you are pretending to be the mother, you can’t start meowing like a cat, not unless you want your friends to tell you stop or switch roles. In writing a creative essay, you can’t abandon the rules of spelling and grammar; not unless lack of clarity is the point of your communication. Play sets up boundaries in which experimentation can take place (Schulz, T.S., Andersen, M.M., Roepstorff, A.H., 2022). So playful learning does not equal chaos, but rather adults sharing decisions about the direction of learning with students. Some play advocates use the term “learning through play” to foreground the combination of learning, play and playfulness. Others prefer “playful learning.” While some in the field see subtle but important differences between the two terms, in our resources we use them interchangeably.

I’ve never done “documentation” before and am not sure how to teach my students about this. Where can I learn more? The Making Learning Visible (MLV) Project, another research project at Project Zero, has many resources to support learning about documentation. We recommend that you explore the tools about documentation available on the MLV website: The book Visible Learners (Krechevsky et al. 2013) is also an excellent resource to learn more about documentation and how it can be used to deepen and extend learning. Finally, PZ researchers have developed two online courses where you can learn about MLV and Playful Learning concepts and frameworks, practice using the tools and resources in your own classroom context, and receive feedback from educators experienced using the frameworks and tools in their own classrooms. The courses are: Making Learning Visible (13 weeks/six 2-week sessions & 1 week orientation) and Let’s Play (4 weeks/4 sessions)

How can I encourage students to adapt the playful learning experiences in this course and use them with their learners?

People of all ages need and can learn through play. Giving a 3-hour lecture to university students would be a missed opportunity. It would be unfair to expect a person who will become a teacher to adopt an understanding of playful learning without ever having a playful experience. When teacher candidates experience playful learning themselves in the university classroom, they can bring those experiences into their future teaching. Throughout your course, we encourage you to pause and invite students to reflect on how a playful learning experience they have participated in during class might be adapted for the learners they are preparing to teach. Ask them to think about the learning experience you just shared, and what elements they could use in their current or future teaching. Or ask, “What new playful learning ideas are you now inspired to try with your learners?”

Why is it important to introduce teacher candidates to Playful Participatory Research?

Playful Participatory Research (PPR) is one component of the PoP Teacher Education Resources and is included as a core assignment/process in the course materials. PPR is a process-oriented professional development approach that engages teachers in collaborative reflection. The power of PPR is that teachers learn to ask and explore their own questions about teaching and learning, take risks and try new approaches in their teaching, and playfully engage with colleagues to explore new ideas. PPR also engages teachers in looking together at documentation from their classrooms and reflecting on teaching experiences. It is a great way to learn, from the start, that teaching is a collaborative process and that educators have a lot to gain from meeting together to talk about their teaching practices. How do you support teacher candidates when they see learning in schools that is not playful? Add more here based on our conversation as a group What ideas do you have for teaching this course remotely/online? We will talk about this question during the gathering in June and add your ideas! How can I foster playful learning if I teach a very large group of students? We will talk about this question during the gathering in June and add your ideas! How can the university learning environment or space be organized to support playful learning?