Meaningful leisure time, development and learning in school-age educare | Skolforskningsinstitutet

Meaningful leisure time, development and learning in school-age educare

This systematic review compiles research into how teachers can offer pupils meaningful leisure time, as well as promoting their development and learning in school-age educare. The aim of the review is to provide teachers with research-based knowledge about different approaches and methods for creating the right conditions for offering pupils meaningful leisure time, and promoting their development and learning. 

The review is based on the following research question: 

How do teachers create the right conditions for offering pupils meaningful leisure time and promoting their development and learning in school-age educare (SAEC)? 

Results of the review 

Omslagsbild på boken Meningsfull fritidThe results of the review provide a nuanced picture of how teachers can organise their teaching and their approach to the pupils. The results from the included 37 studies were compiled on the basis of an analysis that resulted in three primary themes: 

  • teachers’ approaches to pupils 
  • creating creative environments 
  • organising teaching and learning. 

The themes of the review are cohesive and provide an overall perspective on classroom teaching practices. 

Teachers’ approaches to pupils 

The studies show that teachers’ approaches to pupils involve care, teaching and learning. According to the studies, teachers capture opportunities by observing the pupils, allowing space for their play and activities. They create and maintain a safe environment, while also gaining knowledge of the pupils’ needs and interests and, accordingly, being able to provide meaningful environments that stimulate and support the pupils’ development and learning. The teachers act by talking, listening and confirming, to increase the pupils’ self-esteem, make pupils feel valued and create positive relationships with pupils. The teachers can also participate in the pupils’ activities, which may increase pupil engagement. 

Creating creative environments 

An important element of a stimulating and supportive learning environment is that teachers take the pupils’ needs and interests as their starting point. A teacher creates a stimulating learning environment by providing time and space for pupils’ play and activities, as well as by providing material for pupil-initiated activities that benefit the pupils’ social interactions, which are experienced as meaningful and which contribute to their development and learning. It is also apparent that pupils use the physical environment both indoors and outdoors, for instance different materials, in a way that makes it meaningful for them. 

Introducing digital learning resources in teaching has proven to be a good way of helping the pupils’ develop a variety of skills. The studies show that the pupils’ interest.

and motivation increase when the subject content and related tasks are embedded in a game. Teachers can also use digital learning resources to create a good social environment by allowing pupils to use language resources and previous experiences as part of their learning. 

Organising teaching and learning 

By offering well-designed and varied teaching situations, teachers can increase the pupils’ opportunities to experience meaningful leisure time, broaden and deepen their interests, and contribute to their development and learning. Planned teaching and learning situations with clear and well-defined goals create conditions suitable for language development, reading and writing skills, and social skills; particularly when these situations take the pupils’ linguistic experiences into account, as this also increases pupil engagement. Project-based teaching creates opportunities for pupils to explore, experiment, create and learn in a meaningful way. The studies also show that teaching which promotes the natural sciences, technology and sustainable development offer pupils the opportunity to become involved in social issues in the community in a way that is meaningful to them – particularly when teachers initiate projects that are connected to real-life issues, giving pupils the time and space to establish their own goals, plan, and test, and thus increase their self-esteem. 

Aspects for consideration 

In the review, we also discuss the results in relation to the opportunities and challenges of teaching in school-age educare. In this discussion, we make associations to the curriculum for school-age educare. We have tried to focus on methods in which play and creative activities are implemented for the purpose of offering a fun and stimulating learning environment, based on the pupils’ needs and interests. 

In the studies included in the review, teaching is both planned and spontaneous. To support the pupils in their development, teachers start from a planned activity, but also allow pupils the space to find their own way to participate, as well as to utilise what is happening in the moment. This means that the teacher has to be attentive to what is taking place and flexible in their interaction with the pupils, to create conditions that contribute to their development. Teaching is thus governed by the situation, not unplanned or unconsidered. 

Play has a central role in these studies. Play is expected to develop a pupil’s imagination, creativity and social skills, among other things. The pupils can also act independently on the basis of their own choices and manage conflict in a constructive way. Play also provides teachers with the opportunity to explore what the pupils are interested in, to be able to create the right conditions for meaningful leisure time and promote the pupils’ development and learning. 

The review indicates that teachers have a central role in creating interest and motivation among the pupils. The studies confirm the importance of making the pupils’ interests a basis for teaching, and that pupils need to make their own choices in order to make learning meaningful. It is important that the teacher has clear goals and purposes as a basis for their teaching, but the results show how there is a risk that these goals do not always correspond to what pupils are interested in and want to do. 

Most of the methods examined in the studies are based on teachers planning and presenting activities for the group as a whole. The pupils experience, explore and create together, and it is important that they feel involved, that they have a sense of belonging and community. This indicates the importance of teachers understanding group dynamics, so they can stimulate and support both the group and individual pupils. In other words, to be able to create positive learning environments, teachers need to know how the pupils interact, the relationships between them and the roles they play in the group; for the same reason, it is also important that teachers come to know how the pupils’ roles can vary in different social groupings. 

The systematic review is available as summary, information sheet and full report (in Swedish).

Project group

The project is carried out by a project team consisting of external researchers (specialists in the field) and employees at the Swedish Institute for Educational Research.

External researches

  • Björn Haglund, senior lecturer, Faculty of Education and Business Studies, University of Gävle
  • Karin Lager, senior lecturer, Department of Education, Communication and Learning, University of Gothenburg

From the institute

  • Ilana Manneh, PhD (project manager)
  • Johan Wallin, PhD (assistant project manager)
  • Eva Bergman (information specialist)
  • Lisa Jonsson (information specialist)
  • Catarina Melin (project assistant)

For further information, please contact