Our research agenda aims to leverage learning through play in grades 4 to 8 to improve health, engagement and well-being for students traditionally marginalized by systems of schooling across Canada. In the first phase of this research, we conducted five parallel, in-depth scoping reviews from March 2022 to December 2022 in order to understand and identify key concepts and practices in different contexts and modalities of teaching and learning through play.
Our approach to these scoping reviews included a variety of perspective and allowed us to clarify existing knowledge and deepen our understanding of the intersections of play in the following areas: green (outdoor), screen (digital play), machine (maker-oriented teaching and learning, and everything in between (inclusive, cultural, social and language learning). Following the rigorous PRISMA protocol (Arksey & O’Malley, 2005; Sergeant & O’Connor, 2020), the scoping reviews were conducted based on the following research questions:
- Green (outdoor): What do we know about play out-of-doors as part of schooling within grades 4-8 (students aged 9-14) internationally? How is outdoor play understood/defined, what does it look like, and what is the rationale for its implementation? What are the reported outcomes related to the use of out-of-doors play that support learning, well-being and engagement in schools? What are the challenges of implementing out-of-doors playful activities in the classroom or curriculum?
- Screen (digital): What does digital play (broadly conceived) include, as integrated as part of schooling for children, in Grades 4-8? What technologies, platforms, and practices are reported in studies of digital play in schools? What evidence is there for the practices of digital play that support learning, well-being and engagement in schools? In what ways can and do practices of digital play also pose risks and threats to learning, engagement, and well-being? For whom? And why?
- Machine (maker-oriented): Based on the scientific literature, how are physical and digital making activities implemented and described in school settings in grades 4-8 (internationally and in Canada)? What types of physical and digital Making activities are reported and recommended? What are the reported effects of these activities and teaching practices?
- Inclusive Play: How is learning through play practiced within settings inclusive of diverse groups of students, in Grades 4-8? How are the needs of a range of students, particularly those with disabilities, considered when planning and implementing learning through play? What practices have been found to be effective or impactful? What limitations or challenges are noted?
- French Language & Play: What is the role given to playful learning and games in teaching French in schools on the international scene? What place does it occupy in language learning classes from 4th to 8th grade? How is learning French through play implemented, described and evaluated in Francophone or Anglophone schools – and what are the differences? What are the most notable objectives and learning outcomes stemming from these playful activities?