Degree Name

EdD (Doctor of Education)


Educational Leadership

Date of Award


Committee Chair or Co-Chairs

Nancy Dishner

Committee Members

Russell F. West, Louise L. MacKay, Eric S. Glover, Elizabeth Ralston


According to recent studies, the number of schools that have severely limited or eliminated recess and free-play opportunities is on the rise across the nation. School officials cite the increasing levels of state and federal pressure to perform on standardized tests as the primary reason for this shift away from the playground. The threat of lawsuits and safety concerns are also listed as factors in this change of policy.

The purpose of this mixed methods study was to examine the perceptions of directors of schools, supervisors, principals, assistant principals, teachers, and students regarding recess and free play in three East Tennessee school systems. Representative schools were chosen from each system and examined. In addition, results from standardized test scores as provided by the state of Tennessee were examined for the selected schools.

The findings of this study revealed that directors, supervisors, principals, teachers, and students were in favor of recess and stated that offering recess and free-play opportunities provided some benefit to students. Even so, two schools in the study had chosen to limit recess and free-play opportunities to varying degrees whereas the third school maintained a policy of recess breaks. In examining the test data, the two schools that had limited recess were found to have lower test scores than the school that had maintained the integrity of recess. Other factors could attribute to the lower scores. The findings did reveal that limiting recess appeared to offer no significant gain in scores just as providing recess did not appear to cause any decrease in test scores. Stakeholders interviewed expressed the perception that the benefits of having recess outweighed any potential threat of time lost in the classroom. Recommendations for further research include repeating this study in other school settings on a larger scale to see if the same results are realized.

Document Type

Dissertation - unrestricted


Copyright by the authors.