Erin N. Ellis

Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Doctor of Education (EdD)

Degree Name

Teaching and Learning

Department or School/College

Phyllis J. Washington College of Education

Committee Chair

Fletcher Brown

Commitee Members

Trent Atkins, Julie Bullard, Kate Brayko, Daniel Lee


COVID-19, desirability, feasibility, play-based learning, presence


University of Montana


The purpose of this mixed-method study was to examine early elementary education teachers' perceptions of the presence, feasibility, and desirability to implement play-based learning, including free play, guided play, and games in Montana public school K-2 classrooms, and the impact COVID-19 health and safety protocols had on the implementation of play-based learning compared to the previous year (before COVID-19). Using a sequential explanatory research design, teachers self-reported their ability to implement play-based learning, including playbased learning forms, activities, and materials before the COVID-19 pandemic (retrospectively) compared to during COVID-19 and the impact the COVID-19 health and safety protocols had on their play-based learning practices. Data was first collected using an online survey and followed up with semi-structured interviews (N=9) to gain a further explanation for survey responses (N=110). Results indicated that teachers in Montana utilized play-based learning in their classrooms both before and during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, play-based learning, including games, guided play, and free play, were implemented far less frequently during the pandemic than before. The impact COVID-19 had on the presence, feasibility, and desire of Montana teachers to implement play-based learning was large. Specifically, health and safety protocols, including social distancing, students' inability to share school supplies, and restricting or reducing student movement for specials, lunch, etc., were the top three hindrances of implementing play-based learning during the COVID-19 pandemic.


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