Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Title

The Australian Educational Researcher




School of Education


CAUL and its Member Institutions

Australian Department of Education Research Training Program


Johnston, O., Wildy, H., & Shand, J. (2022). Teenagers learn through play too: Communicating high expectations through a playful learning approach. The Australian Educational Researcher. Advance online publication.


Play-based learning is an approach used in early childhood education that is well supported by research on its varieties and effectiveness for young children’s learning. Play-based learning meets the developmental needs of young children, but new research presented in this paper suggests that teenagers learn through play too. The experience of 25 Year 10 students in three Western Australian government schools was drawn upon to generate grounded theory about how students experience their teachers’ expectations of them, which included findings that playful learning approaches communicated high teacher expectations. The students were shadow-studied in their classrooms and interviewed at the end of each day. Teachers were appraised as having high expectations when they included a playful learning approach, characterised as creative, exploratory, hands-on, fun and non-didactic. The students reflected that this led to increased motivation and academic success. A foundation for conceptualising play in teenagers’ education is provided, suggesting how secondary school educators can harness play and communicate high expectations for learning through their pedagogical approach.



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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

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