Playful Learning by Professor Jennifer Zosh

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Playful Learning: Rethinking Play as a Spectrum That Supports Learning Across Ages and Contexts. By Professor Jennifer Zosh

Children are amazing learning machines. As adults and educators, our challenge is to uncover how to harness this natural tendency to learn. In other words, how do we teach in a way that is child-centered, evidence-based, and most effective for learning today and success tomorrow? Research from the Science of Learning is zeroing in on an answer to this question. This talk will explore how learning can be maximized when adults purposefully create joyful experiences that promote active (minds-on), engaged (not-distracted), and meaningful learning (connects to the child’s life) using iterative exploration (experimentation) and utilizing the power of social interaction. Playful learning, a pedagogical approach that views play as a spectrum rather than through the false dichotomy of play vs. learning, naturally harnesses these characteristic in a way that is effective for learning across domains – from content knowledge (e.g., STEM and literacy) to the development of self-regulation and beyond. By thinking about free play, guided play, games, teacher-directed play, and direct instruction as different approaches, we can begin to explore how and when these approaches can be used to achieve desired learning outcomes. Guided play, in which children maintain agency in play but are supported by adults and a rich curriculum, seems to be especially effective. This talk will explore what is known about playful learning and discuss how this pedagogy can be leveraged across contexts (e.g., schools, homes, and communities) and ages. 


Professor Jennifer Zosh 

Prof Jennifer ZoshJennifer M. Zosh received her Ph.D. in Psychological and Brain Sciences from The Johns Hopkins University and is a Professor of Human Development and Family Studies at Penn State University’s Brandywine campus. As the Director of the Brandywine Child Development Lab, she studies how infants and young children learn about the world around them. 

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