Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Early Childhood Education and Care

First Advisor

Anne Douglass

Second Advisor

Angi Stone-Macdonald

Third Advisor

Robert Lublin


While imaginative play, music, movement, and the visual arts are established components of the curriculum in early childhood education (ECE), teacher-guided story drama, or “improvised role play stimulated by a story” (Booth, 2005, p. 8), is an underutilized arts-based practice that supports children’s early literacy skills, creativity, and enjoyment of learning. There are numerous practitioner books and resources about the benefits of and strategies for how to incorporate storytelling, dramatic play, theater, and creative dramatics into the early learning environment (Bolton & Heathcote, 1999; Booth, 2005; V. Brown & Pleydell, 1999; Carleton, 2012), however, there is little research examining the process early educators undergo when they attempt to integrate process-based dramatic pedagogies into their practice. This phenomenological case study examined four preschool teachers’ experience adopting story drama as an instructional practice with support from coaching. It explored the ways coaching supported preschool teachers’ adoption of story drama in their literacy curriculum; teachers’ experience engaging in story drama, a creative play-based pedagogy; and what teachers valued about integrating story drama into their pedagogical repertoire. Teachers participated in six weeks of coaching in story drama lesson planning, creative dramatics and storytelling techniques, coupled with observations of them implementing story drama lessons. Data were gathered from class observations and reflective dialogic interviews with participants before, during, and after the coaching intervention. The results reveal that teachers had a positive experience adopting story drama into their pedagogical repertoire. They felt that coaching introduced them to new techniques, resources, and perspectives while supporting their confidence with implementing story drama independently. Teachers felt that story drama was a meaningful practice in their curriculum with benefits to children’s social emotional and literacy skills. Engaging in story drama impacted teachers’ relationships with children and colleagues positively. Finally, teachers reported experiencing fun and joy in their workday as a result of playing with children during story drama lessons.

While decades of research have focused on children’s play as a vehicle for authentic learning, few studies have examined the role of play in teachers’ practice. This study offers a unique view into the experience of early educators’ perceptions, in their own words, of adopting a playful process-centered theater-inspired pedagogy and the function of coaching to support their own creative self-efficacy. Findings of this study will allow relevant stakeholders to design professional development opportunities informed by early educators’ perspectives on their experience with coaching, play, and story drama.