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Tinkering toward teacher learning: a case for critical playful literacies in teacher education

Cherise McBride (School of Education, University of California Berkeley, Berkeley, California, USA)
Anna Smith (School of Teaching and Learning, Illinois State University, Normal, Illinois, USA)
Jeremiah Holden Kalir (School of Education and Human Development, University of Colorado Denver, Denver, Colorado, USA)

English Teaching: Practice & Critique

ISSN: 1175-8708

Article publication date: 11 May 2023

Issue publication date: 8 June 2023




The purpose of this paper is to re-center playfulness as a humanizing approach in teacher education. As teachers navigate the current moment of heightened control, surveillance, and systemic inequity, these proposed moves in teacher education can be transgressive. Rather than play as relegated to childhood or infancy, what does it look like to continue to be “playful” in teaching and teacher education?


To examine how teacher educators may design for teachers’ critical playful literacies, the authors offer three “worked examples” (Gee, 2009) of preservice teachers’ playful practices in an English literacies teacher education course.


The authors highlight instructional design elements pertinent to co-designing for teachers’ play and playful literacies in teacher education: generative constraints to practice everyday ingenuity, figuring it out to foster teacher agency and debriefs to interrupt the teaching’s perpetual performance.


The term “playful,” as a descriptor of practice and qualifier of activity appears frequently in educational literature across domains. The relationship of play to critical literacies – and, more specifically, educators’ literacies and learning – is less frequently explored.



McBride, C., Smith, A. and Kalir, J.H. (2023), "Tinkering toward teacher learning: a case for critical playful literacies in teacher education", English Teaching: Practice & Critique, Vol. 22 No. 2, pp. 221-233.



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