Pellegrini (2008), in his article “The Recess Debate: A Disjuncture between Educational Policy and Scientific Research,” notes that people have various attitudes to recess: while children regard it as the most enjoyable part of their school days, adults see recess as a distraction from education. The author outlines the position of critics and presents important evidence supporting the educational significance of recess and the value of play.
Pellegrini sees the arguments against recess as utilitarian. School administrators tend to reduce recess time or even remove it for the reason of its usefulness. I think that that kind of attitude is typical for some businessmen aimed at achieving results: they suppose that success depends only on time dedicated to work and fail to recognize the value of human factors such as span of attention or need to maintain motivation.
Pelligrini (2008) gives the example of superintendent Benjamin Canada’s proposal to replace recess with physical education to raise achievement scores. I agree that such classes could not be an appropriate replacement as they rarely offer to restore from concentrated work. In addition, numerous experiments support the claim that children are considerably more attentive after recess than before it. Comparing the two alternatives, I see that recess has certain benefits that physical education as an instructional discipline cannot give.
The opponents of recess also explain their position as an attempt to cope with bullying and aggression among children on the playground. It seems a rather erratic argument to me because children could face bullying everywhere. I suppose that aggressive behavior could not be explained by the fact that children have free time because it is a psychological and sociological issue. As Pelligrini (2008) notes, the problem could arise in any place that lacks adult supervision. Hence, the argument that recess fosters aggression appears unreliable.
To promote the benefits of recess, Pelligrini gives a wide range of trustworthy reasons. First, it is common recognition of our need to rest. Recess has always been an integral part of a school and working day due to a rational reason: a break can help maintain being productive. For example, Pellegrini (2008) talks about state restrictions for pilots and truckers on the length of time for long journeys. On this point, I would like to stress that contrary to adults, children get tired much faster. As studying at school requires being focused and productive, recess should provide children with essential free time.
The value of free time relates to the advantages of distributed practice for younger children. Pelligrini (2008), in his article, refers to plenty of evidence that if a task is distributed in time, children show better results. The spacing effect makes the work less boring and helps children facilitate their attention. According to Bjorklund’s theory of “cognitive immaturity,” younger children perform better if they have breaks between cycles of focused work due to the nervous system’s immaturity to resist task-irrelevant interference. I believe it is common to offer younger children shorter lessons, tasks that require less time to perform or break a large assignment into simple little steps. Therefore, recess is strongly supported by cognitive scientists and educators.
The additional argument provided by Pelligrini has ties with the inability of standardized tests to evaluate the readiness of children to go to primary school. Since children show unreliable test results, teachers should apply a range of assessment strategies. At the same time, kids could show high levels of social cognitive competence on the playground, which tells a lot about their potential. I think that is the reason why recess has an educational value.
In conclusion, I recognize that the benefits of recess are powerful and convincing enough to reassure critics who claim that recess should be shortened or eliminated. Pelligrini, in his article, successfully refutes the arguments of opponents and gives striking evidence of recess advantages for attention distribution, productivity maintenance, and social skill training. Recess activities such as play should be reconsidered as integral parts of children’s learning and social-cognitive development.
Pellegrini, A. D. (2008). The recess debate: A disjuncture between educational policy and scientific research. American Journal of Play, 1(2), 181-191.