The object of this communication is to answer the question of how to develop guiding competencies during free play at preschool, as well in initial training and in continuing education.
To answer this question, we followed two steps. First, we documented teachers’ interactions with their pupils during free play. As a matter of fact, a lot of work has been done about the importance of play (Golinkof & Hirsh-Pasek, 2006), but very few on the teachers’ guidance which can help immature play develop into a more mature play. The latter clearly shows a higher degree of complexity, building crucial competencies for further learning achievements such as abstract thinking, imagination and self-regulation (Pramling Samuelsson & Asplund Carlsson, 2008). Secondly, we started the elaboration of guidelines that will help teachers have a better understanding of their role during free play to make this time a learning time and, thus, enhance vocational training.
Based on the historico-cultural paradigm, we argue that free play is essential for the child’s development between ages 4 and 7, particularly in parallel with more structured learning at school, yet is often not present outside of school anymore (Bodrova & Leong, 2009).
We implemented a research design in 3 Swiss schools. In each of them, pupils were filmed in the classroom during 3 weeks. 9 interviews were conducted with the teachers and extensive notes were taken throughout all aspects of the research. A multimodal analysis is being conducted on the main data (Filliettaz, de Saint Georges & Duc, 2008).
In spite of the different settings, our first results allow us to state that the 3 teachers we shadowed, all of whom are experts in guiding free play, may have different guiding types but all have a common underlying postulate: use this time as a learning time. This communication will enable us to illustrate this statement and show our first analysis of fine multimodal interaction. In terms of language, they show that the words the teacher uses have a clear impact on the course of interaction and inversely. The pupils’ verbalizations also constitute key elements allowing the teacher to evaluate their progression and to understand their project and reasons of action (Balslev, Saada-Robert & Tominska, 2009). In terms of other semiotic modes, we will illustrate how gesture, mimics and physical as well as symbolical posture also clearly influence the mechanism of construction of meaning (Filliettaz, 2009).
Our final results will benefit both the scientific community as well as our students at the Higher School of Education in Lausanne who express a clear need in this area. And ultimately, if a dialogue sets in, the Teacher Education as a whole will be enriched by better knowing how to guide free play so that it can be what it is: a real opportunity for fundamental learnings, rather than a simple reward after “serious work” is finished (Clerc-Georgy & Truffer Moreau, 2016).