Localizing Play-Based Pedagogy: Nigerian Educators' Appropriation of Sesame Classroom Materials


  • Naomi A. Moland Teachers College, Columbia University


Play-based approaches, pedagogy, culturally relevant pedagogy, globalization


This article examines how international organizations promote play-based pedagogical approaches in early childhood settings around the world, and how local educators respond. As a case study, I investigated Sesame Workshop’s efforts to introduce play-based approaches in Nigerian classrooms. In addition to producing a Nigerian version of Sesame Street (called Sesame Square), Sesame Workshop trains educators in play-based approaches and has distributed alphabet flashcards, puppet kits, and storytelling games to more than 2,700 early childhood classrooms across Nigeria. These materials were intended to support Sesame Square’s messages, and to foster interactive, child-centered learning experiences. However, teachers often used the materials in ways that reflected more rote-based, teachercentered approaches.

Data was gathered through observations and interviews in 27 educational sites across Nigeria that use Sesame materials. Findings reveal that teachers’ resistance to play-based approaches was sometimes for structural reasons (e.g., large class sizes), and sometimes related to their knowledge and training (e.g., they were accustomed to drilling the alphabet). I argue that ideals about constructivist, play-based learning are being disseminated by international organizations—alongside contrasting formalistic pedagogical approaches—and that all approaches will shift as they are localized. I question if approaches that are considered universally developmentally appropriate are relevant in all settings, and explore how early childhood educators adapt global pedagogical trends to make sense in their classrooms. I call for international organizations to explore context-appropriate play-based approaches that develop educators’ capacities to help all children thrive, while also incorporating local cultural beliefs about childhood and teaching. 

Author Biography

Naomi A. Moland, Teachers College, Columbia University

Naomi A. Moland is an adjunct assistant professor at Teachers College, Columbia University, and a postdoctoral research fellow at New York University.