UNESCO-NIE Centre for Arts Research in Education (CARE)

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Name of Author: 
Tan, Carolyn
Thesis (M.Ed.) National University of Singapore
Seng, Seok Hoon
Year of completion: 
Country of Research Data: 

This study primarily examined the effects of thematic fantasy play on the perspective-taking ability of preschool children. A secondary investigation addressed the effects of thematic fantasy play on the free play behaviour of young children. The central hypothesis for the study was that training in thematic fantasy play would improve young children's performance on a battery of perspective-taking tasks. It was also hypothesized that training in thematic fantasy play would significantly increase the incidence of fantasy play in free play sessions. Based on the pretest-posttest control group design, two intact classes (n=27) of a private kindergarten were randomly assigned to one of two conditions: thematic fantasy play training and control. In the experimental group, the children were exposed to a curriculum of thematic fantasy play using role enactment of fairy tales such as Henny Penny and The Three Little Pigs. After telling the stories, the teacher guided the children in the reenactment of the fairy tales. The children were involved in thematic fantasy play for twelve 30-minute sessions over the course of five weeks. Children in the control group followed the routine curriculum of the school i.e. they were read fairy tales following which they discussed the stories with the teacher. Both groups spent the same amount of time with their teachers. All 54 children (mean age=5.0 years) were pretested and posttested on measures representing the three areas of perceptual, cognitive and affective perspective-taking. The three sets of perspective-taking tasks were adapted from various sources (Flavell et al, 1968; Borke, 1971; Fishbein et al, 1972; and Kurdek & Rodgon, 1975) in the literature and modified for use with Singaporean children. The free play behaviour of the subjects were also observed. Results of analysis of covariance indicated that subjects in the thematic fantasy play condition performed significantly better than those in the control group on total and perceptual perspective-taking measures (p<.05). Children in the experimental group also performed better than those in the control group on the cognitive perspective-taking measure although there was no significant difference. No significant effects were found on the affective perspective-taking task. In addition, chi-square analyses indicated that changes in free play behaviour was significant for the experimental group (p<.05). The main findings of the study indicated that thematic fantasy play applied to preschool classrooms can produce beneficial effects for perspective-taking ability. These were discussed in terms of their practical implications for curriculum design and teacher training. It was suggested that the use of thematic fantasy play as preschool instructional strategy would provide for a more developmentally appropriate curriculum. Further research to ascertain the permanency of play effects was recommended.

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