Module 2.4 Organising and resourcing play-based and inquiry learning experiences

Teaching roles in indoor and outdoor play-based and inquiry learning

The following animation brings to life the potential in teaching practices, that embrace different teacher roles in play-based and inquiry learning both indoors and outdoors. By using the metaphor of a tree, the animation illustrates teaching as dynamic, changing and continually growing.

Transcript of Key Teaching Roles in Play 

Teaching roles in play and inquiry learning

  • Different roles can change over time or within one episode of play and inquiry.
  • Each of these roles are of equal value according to the context, and teachers should be flexible in their application of their roles.

Branch one: Manager


  • The teacher allocates, organises and manages space inside and outside to support students' play and inquiry learning, for example, floor space, quiet areas, number of chair available at a table, messy play area, investigative areas for exploration, boundaries.
  • For example, opportunities for students to organise their own play and learning spaces inside and outside, a sense of belonging and place attachment.


  • The teacher identifies required and relevant resources to further enable play and inquiry learning, such as accessing Reverse Garbage and op shops.  
  • The teacher considers opportunities for students to access resources independently, such as, on open shelving, allowing student access to storage cupboards 


  • The teacher understands the need for and allocates blocks of uninterrupted time for students to be engaged in play and inquiry learning inside and outside, allowing play and inquiry activities to carry on over a period of days/weeks to consolidate the students' learning as complex play and inquiry learning projects require sufficient time to develop.  

Noticing and guiding: Low interaction


  • The teacher notices students' play, interests, dispositions for learning, activities and behaviour in play and inquiry learning as a basis for planning and assessment.
  • Sometimes it is useful to start by observing, while other times you can pull back from an active role in the middle of a learning experience to observe what is happening, for example,  


  • The teacher positioned on the edge of play to help the play run smoothly, such as, resolving conflicts, promoting equity, and, interpreting play cues for some children when necessary.
  • This is most effective when teachers first observe before stepping into play.  

Facilitating: (supporting and extending learning)


  • The teacher provides support through various means such as modelling, organising materials, verbal explanations or prompts to support the students to eventually engage in learning independently.
  • Play tutoring involves tutoring individual students or groups in specific play skills to enable them to participate with peers in play and inquiry learning experiences.  


  • The teacher and student are jointly involved in an activity to encourage students' agency and confidence to co-construct meaning, for example, creating a book together with pictures and text, exploring micro-organisms in the soil under a tree with scientific equipment.

Reflector and Evaluator

  • The teacher engages with students in reflecting and evaluating, supporting the development of metacognitive thinking, for example, documentation can be created to record students' reflections and evaluations of their play and inquiry learning.

Explicit teaching (active and direct teaching)


  • The teacher demonstrates techniques or skills, most effective when accompanied by explanations and opportunities for practice, for example, when introducing new equipment or posing new challenges or problems to be solved.  


  • The teacher is explicit in directing students' play and inquiry learning activity, such as, when necessary to remind students of procedures or rules for outside learning experiences; or when students need to follow particular steps for successful learning.
  • The teacher may act in the director role when they have very specific learning outcomes around complex concepts such as in the integrated teaching and learning of literacy or STEM.  

Planning, organising and resourcing indoor classrooms for play-based and inquiry learning

The organisation of your classroom environment and the resources you provide are all crucial components in an effective play-based and inquiry learning approach.

To support you to think about resources for play-based and inquiry learning and the potential they can have for the students in your classroom, we have created a downloadable booklet. 

The Planning for play-based and inquiry learning booklet (pdf- 2.35mb) provides insightful thoughts about planning accompanied by visuals. 

We encourage you to download this resource, read the prompts, and draw from the examples. 

Planning, organising and resourcing for play-based and inquiry learning in the outdoors

The outdoor setting is a vibrant and diverse learning space. Play-based and inquiry learning approaches recognise the potential of learning both indoors and outdoors (Little, Elliott & Wyver, 2017; Millington, 2013). In the video below, Principal Jennifer Deeble describes her school's journey and determination to develop a nature play classroom.


Research has shown that school playgrounds are effective, but often underutilised, places for inquiry and learning (Chancellor, 2008).

‘Where there is wholehearted support for learning outside the classroom, where it is embedded in planning and integrated into practice – then children are learning outdoors regularly, and they thrive... There is convincing evidence that the quality and use of school grounds has a significant impact on children’s learning and well-being...’
(Robinson, 2018, p. 117 The importance of school grounds) 

Another common misconception is that school playgrounds are only a space for students to ‘get rid of excess energy’. However, there is compelling evidence that students use the spaces in their school playgrounds in multiple ways.

For example, students may be engaged in socio-dramatic play. They may seek out places for solitude. Students may also purposefully create places for their self-directed play. School playgrounds are a significant site for social play as well as physical activity.

Interactive poster

The interactive poster below provides some important points, practical tips and examples of environments for you to consider when planning and organising play-based and inquiry learning outdoors.

The outdoors is full of potential for learning, and play creates avenues for children to make connection, build skills, and encounter concepts in curriculum. As you click on the different hotspots (+) in the interactive poster, you are encouraged to think about these links. In some cases, it might be a site to visit, in other cases it could be a resource inspiration, or planning tip.

Let’s have a go!

Share your ideas of your own play spaces that work for you and your students, with fellow participants by taking photos and uploading here on the Padlet, with a caption explaining the learning involved.

Please ensure that uploaded photos do not contain images of students or adults, or any identifying features of school names.

Click on the plus (+) icon in the corner of the Padlet screen, to make your contribution to the board. Any questions you ask will be answered on the Padlet or during the webinar.

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