The important work of play

Playgroups are a desperately under-researched area of early childhood education but Professor Susan Edwards and Dr Karen McLean from ACU’s Learning Sciences Institute Australia (LSIA) are helping to change that.

Playgroups are an engaging way for children to practice getting along with others and trying new ways to play. They’re great for mums, dads, grandparents and caregivers too; offering support and social contact.

Armed with $156,000 worth of new government funding, Professor Edwards and Dr McLean can apply their research into the important work of play and discover how playgroups work best.

The funding comes from a highly-coveted Australian Research Council (ARC) Linkage grant, for which fewer than 40 per cent of applications were successful in this round.

Industry partner Playgroup Victoria is providing funding and in-kind support for the research to the tune of $180,000. The organisation has collaborated with ACU on four separate projects over the last five years to break new ground in understanding the nature of playgroups.

Demand for support on playgroups-in-schools within Victoria alone has quadrupled within a six-month period and, through their newly-funded research, Professor Edwards and Dr McLean are working to build a best practice framework for playgroups-in-schools, increasing capacity to advise school-leaders on key policy and practice issues.

The research project’s vision is to introduce Australian families to school communities early, and build parents’ knowledge, skills and confidence in providing their young children with play-experiences, leading to better learning and developmental outcomes for kids as they progress through the education system.

LSIA Director Professor Claire Wyatt-Smith said this was a fantastic result for Professor Edwards, Dr McLean and the institute.

“This shows the value of their work and is powerful recognition of the fact that our research is making an impact on businesses and the community,” Professor Wyatt-Smith said.

The ARC Linkage Projects scheme is designed to promote links between universities, industry and the community.

Projects must involve a partner organisation outside the higher education sector and these partners are required to make a significant monetary contribution, in addition to ARC funding.

Learn more about the Learning Sciences Institute Australia.


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