Play, Agency, Executive Functions and Self-regulation in Early Years Education

9th March 2021 : 16:30 - 17:45

Category: Public Seminar

Speaker: Dr Sara Baker

Location: Teams

Convener: Kathy Sylva

Audience: Public


Playful learning has some strong supporters, and a tentative research basis, but can also be seen as nebulous and therefore reliant on practitioners’ intuitions in early education settings.  In this talk I will present a theoretical account of how play in the early years might support the acquisition of lifelong learning skills like executive functions (EF) and self-regulation (SR).  I will argue that play develops children’s agency in learning, and through this, their executive functions and self-regulation.  I will conclude with suggesting practical strategies that educators can adopt to enhance learning through play and children’s agency in their learning, connecting with the “characteristics of effective learning” from the UK Early Years Foundation Stage.

About the speaker

Sara Baker is a Reader in Developmental Psychology and Education at the University of Cambridge.  She is also a Principal Investigator in the Centre for Research on Play in Education, Development and Learning and Deputy Dean of Darwin College. Her research aims to improve children’s lives by identifying factors at home and school that can support their agency over their own learning, for example using playful approaches to build self-regulation. Sara’s projects have been funded by the Newton Trust, a Cambridge Humanities Research Grant, the Economic and Social Research Council, the LEGO Foundation and the Nuffield Foundation.