A Phenomenological Exploration of Play Among Educational Leaders
Seybert, Janette L.
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Problem: Today’s educational leaders are facing more challenges than ever before. State and federal mandates make it difficult for leaders to work outside a given framework and many are stretched physically, emotionally and mentally beyond their limits to maintain health. Play is an important part of a healthy life style. This qualitative study explored how play impacted educational leaders both in their own lived as well as in the culture they created with their followers. Procedures: This phenomenological study explored the phenomenon of play as it relates to educational leaders. The grand tour question is “How is the phenomenon of play impacting the work of educational leaders?” A semi-structured interview was conducted with eight educational leaders including, superintendents, curriculum directors, and principals. The questions focused on play history, current forms of play, and playful leadership. The educational leaders were selected using purposeful sampling. Data analysis was conducted through the use of open and axial coding and was used to identify key themes or topics. Verification of data will include triangulation and rich, thick descriptions. Findings were written in a phenomenological structure to provide a narrative description of the experience. Findings: This study found that play is impacting the work of the eight educational leaders in the way they find relief from stress both on the job and at home, the ways in which they identify playful leaders and the culture that is created through playful leadership. The leaders were not all aware of their own playful nature or habits but all of them identified playful behaviors in others. Conclusion: Reflection offered an opportunity for the participants to make connections to the playful leadership of others as well as in their own leadership role. Those who saw the benefits of play in their own lives also reported feeling a better sense of balance and were more purposeful in their creation of a playful work culture. Recommendations: These data suggest that leaders can benefit from recognizing play as a part of the human experience and may be more effective leaders when they create a culture of personal connection and play. The data also point to the recommendation that educational leaders provide time for playful learning for their students and staff and that they recognize symptoms of a life without play and the detriment it can cause.