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Expectations and Assumptions: Examining the Influence of Staff Culture on a Novel School-Based Intervention to Enable Risky Play for Children with Disabilities

Grady-Dominguez, Patricia; Ragen, Jo; Sterman, Julia; Spencer, Grace; Tranter, Paul; Villeneuve, Michelle; Bundy, Anita


Patricia Grady-Dominguez

Jo Ragen

Grace Spencer

Paul Tranter

Michelle Villeneuve

Anita Bundy


Risky play is challenging, exciting play with the possibility of physical, social, or emotional harm. Through risky play, children learn, develop, and experience wellbeing. Children with disabilities have fewer opportunities than their typically developing peers to engage in this beneficial type of play. Our team designed a novel, school-based intervention to address this disparity; however, our intervention yielded unexpected quantitative results. In the present study, we qualitatively examined divergent results at two of the five schools that participated in the intervention. Specifically, we aimed to explore how staff culture (i.e., shared beliefs, values, and practices) influenced the intervention. To explore this relationship, we employed a retrospective, qualitative, multiple case study. We used thematic analysis of evaluative interviews with staff members to elucidate the cultures at each school. Then, we used cross-case analysis to understand the relationships between aspects of staff culture and the intervention’s implementation and results. We found that staff cultures around play, risk, disability influenced the way, and the extent to which, staff were willing to let go and allowed children to engage in risky play. Adults’ beliefs about the purpose of play and recess, as well as their expectations for children with disabilities, particularly influenced the intervention. Furthermore, when the assumptions of the intervention and the staff culture did not align, the intervention could not succeed. The results of this study highlight the importance of (1) evaluating each schools’ unique staff culture before implementing play-focused interventions and (2) tailoring interventions to meet the needs of individual schools.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jan 11, 2021
Online Publication Date Jan 23, 2021
Publication Date 2021
Deposit Date Sep 7, 2021
Publicly Available Date Sep 7, 2021
Journal International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Publisher MDPI
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 18
Issue 3
Article Number 1008
Keywords disabilities; play; risky play; school culture; staff culture; teacher perceptions
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Expectations And Assumptions: Examining The Influence Of Staff Culture On A Novel School-Based Intervention To Enable Risky Play For Children With Disabilities (1.4 Mb)

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Copyright Statement
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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