“Help Me Play”: a teacher training program to facilitate social play in preschoolers
Oey, Elvina Fayme
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“Help Me Play,” an evidence-based, client-centered and theory-driven training program facilitated by an occupational therapist, provides educational opportunities for early childhood educators to support the development of social play among preschool students in an inclusive classroom setting. Despite the belief of early childhood educators of the importance of social play, research suggests lack of pre-service or in-service training focusing on how they can support social play effectively in the classroom (Vu, Han, & Buell, 2015). “Help Me Play” consists of four weekly two-hour workshop sessions and an individualized 30-minute coaching and feedback training session. The workshop sessions are held in small groups of eight to 12 individuals, and cover the following topics: definition and benefits of social play, assessment of social play needs, environmental supports and barriers, and strategies to facilitate social play. The coaching and feedback session is held upon completion of the workshops and scheduled at the participants’ convenience. During this session, the facilitator may use prompting, modeling, feedback and encouragement to support the teacher in using scaffolding strategies. In line with adult learning principles highlighting active participation, the workshop sessions are organized using Kolb’s (1984) Model of Experiential Learning, which posits that experience is the building block of learning. Each session begins with concrete experience (i.e. engaging in an activity), followed by reflective observation (i.e. relating the activity to past experience), abstract conceptualization (i.e. gaining knowledge and skills) and active experimentation (i.e. testing out new skills and abilities). Another theoretical framework that guides the program relates to the concepts of zone of proximal development and scaffolding in Vygotsky’s (1978) social development theory. Vygotsky (1978) defined the zone of proximal development as the distance between the developmental level by independent problem solving and under adult guidance, while scaffolding is the process by which adults tailor their guidance with the just-right support to enable the child to perform at a higher level. “Help Me Play” presents a unique opportunity for occupational therapists to engage in a collaborative consultative model of service delivery in preschool settings to foster children’s social play by collaborating and providing training to preschool teachers. REFERENCES Kolb, D. A. (1984). Experiential learning: Experience at the source of learning and development. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall. Vu, J. A., Han, M., & Buell, M. J. (2015). The effects of in-service training on teachers’ beliefs and practices in children’s play. European Early Childhood Education Research Journal, 23(4), 444–460. doi: 10.1080/1350293X.2015.1087144 Vygotsky, L. S. (1978). Mind in society: The development of higher mental processes. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.