Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Education (Ph.D)


Education Specialties

First Advisor

Michael Sampson

Second Advisor

Olivia Stewart


This study was designed to develop a deeper understanding of prekindergarten teachers’ perceptions, beliefs, and understandings of their role in language development in supporting language development through play. Purposive sampling was used to gather a sample of 12 prekindergarten teachers who taught in classrooms worldwide. The study was guided by a qualitative research design and data were collected through semi- structured interviews. The conceptual framework that underpinned this study was based on Vygotsky’s sociocultural theory and Jerome Bruner’s theory of play. Six themes emerged from the data analysis: (a) play and language go hand in hand, (b) how I see play is how it shows up, (c) teacher’s role is layered, (d) planning is ongoing, (e) play first then curriculum, and (f) building pedagogy is a process. The implications for positive social change include viewing prekindergarten as a great equalizer in reaching marginalized populations, making it vital that policymakers prioritize prekindergarten programs. Training prekindergarten teachers who serve these marginalized communities in ways to effectively and consistently use play activities to develop language can help these young students succeed now and in their later academic years, which can result in closing the opportunity gap.

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