An exploratory case study of an American-style, play-based curriculum in China

Xinxin WANG, Chun Bun Ian LAM

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10 Citations (Scopus)


An increasing number of parents in China are enrolling their preschool children in after-school programs provided by private, for-profit early learning centers. This study used a qualitative approach to explore how teachers in these centers understood and implemented play and play-based curricula. Data were collected by examining the curriculum design of an American-style, early learning center, interviewing two of their teachers, and observing the teaching practices of the two teachers. Thematic analysis showed that the two teachers generally endorsed the importance of play in child learning. They also agreed that play should be enjoyable, creative, and developmentally appropriate. However, although the curriculum of the center emphasized its strict adherence to a child-centered approach and one of the teachers was able to articulate such emphasis during the interview, in practice, the two teachers quite uniformly organized their classes around specific teaching goals and learning outcomes. Pedagogical play, which was rule based and teacher driven, was much more evident than free play. Instead of a direct replication, an indigenized curriculum, in which play-based teaching was carried out in a way that meets Chinese traditional expectations for children to show self-restraint and for teachers to be respected, appeared to have been created. Copyright © 2017 Association for Childhood Education International.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)28-39
JournalJournal of Research in Childhood Education
Issue number1
Early online dateJan 2017
Publication statusPublished - 2017


Wang, X., & Lam, C. B. (2017). An exploratory case study of an American-style, play-based curriculum in China. Journal of Research in Childhood Education, 31(1), 28-39.


  • Case study
  • Early childhood curriculum
  • Early childhood educators
  • Play


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