module specification

SE4F03 - Understanding Play (2024/25)

Module specification Module approved to run in 2024/25
Module title Understanding Play
Module level Certificate (04)
Credit rating for module 30
School School of Social Sciences and Professions
Total study hours 300
90 hours Scheduled learning & teaching activities
150 hours Guided independent study
60 hours Placement / study abroad
Assessment components
Type Weighting Qualifying mark Description
Coursework 40%   Illustrated talk (10 mins) (taught course) or Explanatory text (1500 words)
Coursework 60%   An essay drawing on theory and observations of practice
Running in 2024/25

(Please note that module timeslots are subject to change)
No instances running in the year

Module summary

This module introduces students to a range of historic and popular views on play and its relationship to learning

Prior learning requirements

It is expected that students will be in a work placement providing for children in the birth to six age range for a minimum of 2 hours each week throughout the module, normally in a group setting.

Module aims

This core module aims to enable students to:
• Reflect on theories of play and their cultural contexts for children from birth to six
• Critically analyse the work of key theorists in relation to historic and theoretical views on play
• Consider the different roles that adults (including parents and carers) undertake in supporting, fostering and enhancing children’s play and learning
• Explore ways of providing an environment, both in and outdoors,  that supports and enhances children’s individual learning  through play,  giving due consideration to issues of gender, class, race and disability and family form


In this module students will study a range of historic and popular views on play and consider the work of key theorists such as Piaget, Bruce and Goldschmied. Different perspectives will be introduced including schema, heuristic and free flow play. Students will be encouraged to engage in the process of observation by not only observing, but by situating themselves in the observation. It will support students in considering the relationship between play and learning and the importance of the role played by adults and the use of available environments and resources.  Throughout the module tutors will pay particular attention to supporting children from diverse socio-cultural and family backgrounds and those with additional educational needs.

Learning and teaching

For taught course students theoretical input will be through lectures and seminars, analysis of workplace observations and curriculum documentation and discussion. Distance Learning students will receive the same theoretical input through bespoke on-line module materials with access to an allocated tutor who is available to support them either face-to-face, by e-mail or by telephone. All students will benefit from a blended learning approach through the use of WebLearn for supplementary materials, links to E-books, on-line discussions and self assessment exercises such as quizzes and reflective tasks.Video and slide material will also be used to familiarise students with a range of curriculum models.

Reflection and discussion are key to teaching for all students – for taught students this will be in the context of tutor-led sessions while for distance learning students reflection will be promoted by the exercises incorporated into the web-based materials.  For all students experiential learning promotes their growing ability to act as a reflective practitioner.

Teaching and learning strategies and methods also focus on workplace skills and professionalism. All students undertake and reflect on observations in the workplace and weekly tasks and reflective exercises support increased knowledge and understanding. Observations, action research, work-related tasks and the use of development planning tools support the growth of practitioners’ professional competence.

The development of transferable skills in presenting evidence, arguments and points of view to a range of audiences, through a range of media, including the use of ICT also supports individual learning.

Learning outcomes

On successful completion of this module students will be able to:
1. Discuss different ideas relating to the play of babies and young children and be able to draw on some theoretical sources to justify a considered view
2. Articulate the role of adults in suporting and extending the play of babies and young children, giving due consideration to issues of gender, class, race, disability and family form
3. Justify the importance of providing appropriate resources which both support learning and reflect the rich diversity of cultures and languages of the children with whom they work
4. Debate the importance of play as part of an early childhood curriculum


Abbott, L. and Langston, A. (2004) Birth to Three Matters: Supporting the Framework ofEffective Practice,Maidenhead: Open University Press.
Bruce, T. (2001) Learning Through Play: Babies, Toddlers and the Foundation Years, London: Hodder and Stoughton.
Dryden, L, Forbes, R, Mukherji, P and Pound, L. (eds) 2005) Essential Early Years, London: Hodder Arnold
Goldschmied, E. and Jackson, S. (2004) (2nd edition) People UnderThree: Young Children in Day Care,  London: Routledge.
Manning-Morton, J. and Thorp, M. (2003) Key Times for Play: The first three years, Maidenhead: Open University Books.
Manning-Morton, J & Thorp, M. (2006) Key Times: A Framework for Developing High Quality Provision for Children from Birth to Three,  Maidenhead: OUP
Moyles, J. (1989) just Playing? The Role and Status of Play in Early Childhood Education Bucks: Open University Press.
Early Childhood Forum (2004), Quality in Diversity in Early Learning: a frame work forearly childhood practitioners, London: National Children’s Bureau
Stephen, C. Dunlop, A., in consultation with Trevathen, C. (2003) Meeting the Needs of Children from Birth to Three: Research evidence and implications of Out-of –Home provision. Insight 6. Edinburgh Scottish Executive Education department.  Accessed 17-7-08
Scottish Executive (2005) Birth to three, supporting our youngest children. Learning and Teaching Scotland. Accessed 17-7-08
http://www.zerotothree.orgAccessed 17-7-08