Professional learning and best practice resources to support differentiated play-based/inquiry learning for foundation teachers

The challenge

Globally and nationally, learning through play has traditionally been a central tenet in early childhood education, however, in recent times primary schools have begun to consider the benefits of introducing a play-based approach into early years classrooms to support young children’s learning and wellbeing. Play-based and inquiry learning in the early school years is important to help a child’s social and emotional development and wellbeing. Children can learn and perform better when they engage in both unstructured and structured learning. Including play-based, inquiry learning opportunities in the early years of school can support children’s continuity of learning by supporting them to adjust to their new school setting, and to build relationships and understanding.

The Professional Learning and Best Practice Resources to Support Differentiated Play-Based/Inquiry Learning for Foundation teachers 2021 project was designed to support a cogent progression in teacher knowledge and inquiry to inform practice due to the unique and ongoing challenges for Foundation teachers created by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Practice change can occur through an effective program that combines essential elements such as knowledge building, situating the learning within the context of practice, and encouraging critical deliberation in a supportive collegial environment.

Project overview

The project developed and strengthened Victorian Foundation teachers’ knowledge and understandings of the role of play and inquiry in children’s lives and learning. This was achieved through a purpose-built program. This knowledge was essential to enable teachers to engage in planning, teaching and assessing children’s learning within a play-based approach in the primary school context.

The innovative play and inquiry-based program achieved three key outcomes:

  1. enhanced understandings about young children’s learning dispositions and capabilities to support achievement of curricular outcomes
  2. innovative ways to provide social and emotional learning environments that facilitate young children’s capacities to adapt to transitioning into formal education in this challenging time
  3. opportunities to develop practices that foster differentiated teaching approaches in response to children’s dispositions and capabilities.

This project supported the practical application of play-based educational theories and underlying educational concepts in a Foundation Year educational program. This was provided through a stepped progression of learning, that deepened participants’ knowledge over time.


This research project resulted in an online, self-paced professional learning program that is freely available on the Victorian Department of Education’s website. The program consists of four modules and associated webinars and resources that maximise learning. You can access the program on the Victorian Government website.

Project team

Academic team 

Learning design team

  • Christian Bass
  • Kat Cain
  • Stephen Nowland

Project manager 

  • Jenni Beahan


Completion date: 31 January 2022 


Victorian Department of Education and Training 


More information

Play-based learning can set your child up for success at school and beyond ( 

Differentiated play-based and inquiry learning ( 


play-based learning, pedagogy, foundation teachers, professional learning