Date of Award

Spring 3-6-2024

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctorate of Philosophy (PhD) in Education


College of Education, Doctoral Program

First Advisor

Amira Proweller

Second Advisor

Mojdeh Bayat

Third Advisor

Amy Clark


This phenomenological study explores how play-based preschool educators experienced and re-imagined play and play-based learning throughout the Covid-19 pandemic. Semistructured interviews were conducted with six teachers and three administrators from three private Midwest play-based institutions. This study uncovers preschool educators’ experiences of engaging in play-based learning throughout the different phases of the pandemic and delves into the issues and challenges of online learning and the subsequent return to the classroom. Results show that despite pedagogical adjustments and limitations brought about by online learning modalities and pandemic related restrictions, the nature of play remains unchanged and continues to be vital to a child’s learning. The educators navigated the challenges they encountered by adhering to play-based philosophies and being responsive to the needs of the students. Educators focused on providing communication, fostering relationships, and providing students with opportunities to explore and utilize new environments as play spaces for learning. This study shows the need for critical supports for educators and students as they continue to experience negative effects of the pandemic upon their return to in-person learning. Implications of pandemic-related trauma emerging through behavioral issues in young learners indicate the need for further research into the long-term effects of the pandemic in children.

Included in

Education Commons