Purposeful play during learning centre time: from curriculum to practice

Alfredo Bautista*, Malikka Habib, Anthony Eng, Rebecca Bull

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    11 Citations (Scopus)


    This article explores the correspondence between the vision of play articulated in Singapore’s national kindergarten curriculum framework and the play-related pedagogies enacted by teachers on the ground, particularly during Learning Centre Time (LCT). Influenced by neo-liberal ways of thinking, the curriculum states that purposeful play is a medium to achieve intended learning outcomes. The study is part of a longitudinal project where 108 Kindergarten 1 classrooms were videotaped during a full ‘typical day’ (3–4 h). While learning centres were set up in all classrooms, only 36 LCT episodes were identified. Certain learning centre types (literacy, arts) were more common than others (numeracy, science), and time spent by teachers in the different centres varied widely. Children were allowed limited freedom of choice while playing in learning centres, and some were even required to complete assignments. While teachers tended to adopt facilitative roles, quality of instructional support provided to children was low. We conclude that pedagogical practices during LCT in the observed classrooms do not adequately reflect the curriculum’s vision of purposeful play. This theory/practice gap might be due to curriculum expectations, teacher-related factors (beliefs, lack of preparation) and parental pressures. Implications, limitations and lines for future research are discussed.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)715-736
    Number of pages22
    JournalJournal of Curriculum Studies
    Issue number5
    Early online date6 May 2019
    Publication statusPublished - 2019


    • curriculum
    • pedagogy
    • purposeful play
    • learning centre time
    • preschool education
    • classroom observation
    • teacher–child interaction


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