Practice-based Coaching & Research

Our Vision

Our coaching model helps teachers recognize and implement guided play with their kindergarten students as a best practice in play-based learning. Guided play provides opportunities for child-led educational activities while integrating the support of teachers in pursuit of a learning goal that can be integrated into the activities themselves. In this way, it is teacher-initiated (i.e., the teachers set up the environment to foster desired learning outcomes and provide support), but student-directed (i.e., the students retain agency as they learn, engaging with the materials, their peers, and their teacher). Guided play seamlessly incorporates evidence-based principles of how children learn and promotes the 6 Cs of what they need to learn. In New Hampshire, our goal is to:

  • Increase guided play experiences that are child-directed and teacher-facilitated.
  • Increase teachers' capacity to leverage the joy of play to allow children to connect authentically with content.
  • Increase opportunities for children to co-construct their learning with their teachers and peers.

Our Approach

Our model uses embedded practice-based coaching to support and empower kindergarten teachers as they facilitate guided play. The playful learning principles (i.e., active learning, engaged learning, etc.) and "6 Cs“ are intentionally flexible. This enables teachers to exercise their professional discretion to develop activities that simultaneously align with their curricular learning objectives, the playful learning principles, and their students’ backgrounds and experiences inside and outside the classroom. The goal is for teachers to implement at least one hour of guided play per day at the conclusion of the coaching experience. The coaching process is highly collaborative and individualized with each participating teacher receiving support from one of our instructional coaches.

  • Coaching cycles include goal planning, focused observation, and reflection and feedback conducted in collaboration with our teachers.
  • Guided play provides a framework to expand teachers’ existing curriculum and supports the use of evidence-based practices.
  • The coaching team leads focused workshops with teachers statewide. As of 2021, coaches have supported teachers from approximately half of NH’s school districts.
  • The coaching team provides embedded coaching in an effort to help teachers translate knowledge of guided play into their classroom practices. As of 2021, coaches have supported teachers representing about one-fourth of NH school districts.

Our Coaching Model

  • Individualized (co-designed with the teacher)
  • Intensive (every 2 weeks)
  • Sustained (6 months)
  • Context-specific (embedded in the classroom)
  • Focused specifically on increasing guided play experiences

Coaches Reflect on the 2019-2020 Program


Contact for More Information About Early Childhood Initiatives and Research

Kimberly Nesbitt, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
Department of Human Development and Family Studies
University of New Hampshire