Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Curriculum & Instruction

First Advisor

Dr. Laura Jewett

Second Advisor

Dr. Bobbette Morgan

Third Advisor

Dr. Peter Gawenda


Play has been globally recognized as valuable to children's learning and development (Frost et al., 2012). The value of play is acknowledged as a developmentally appropriate practice in part because it fosters cognitive, physical, emotional, and social benefits to children. Play is also known as a human right that should be protected. However, in the past five decades there has been a significant decline of play due to multiple and interrelated factors, which are having dire consequences on children's learning and developmental possibilities (Almon & Miller, 2011; Gray, 2013). Due to the challenges posed by the current educational climate, in South City, Hispanic teacher candidates have reportedly grappled with making sense between the rhetoric and reality of the educational value of play. Therefore, the purpose of this qualitative study with constructivist grounded theory methods was to explore teacher candidates' beliefs about the value of play and to understand what influences possibly shaped these beliefs. This study took place in a Hispanic Serving University along the United States-Mexico border in the Rio Grande Valley. Data consisted of intensive interviews, observations, and document analysis. The data analysis involved transcription of interviews, the use of open coding and focused coding to identify patterns of salient meaning of data, which resulted in categories, themes and concepts that led to an interpretive theoretical understanding of the studied phenomenon grounded in the data (Charmaz, 2014). Findings suggest that participants in this study value play in their everyday life and in education. Also, findings indicate that participants are still playing with a conceptualization of play. Participants' beliefs about play appeared to be shifting, as they now believe in the educational value of play for children's learning and development. A significant experience in teacher candidates' reconceptualization of play appeared to be their participation in a service learning play day. Data revealed that participants' beliefs about play were influenced by multiple and interrelated factors such as their play histories, which were constructed through everyday and educational experiences within a social, cultural and historical context (Vygotsky, 1978, 1986).


Copyright 2015 Diana H. Cortez-Castro. All Rights Reserved.