Tony Perone, Ph.D.

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Educational Psychology (Human Development and Learning)
University of Illinois, Chicago
Instructional Leadership/Self-Designed Program
University of Illinois, Chicago
Applied Language Studies
Cornell University

I received my doctorate in Educational Psychology with a focus on Human Development and Learning at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) in 2013.

I teach courses in introductory psychology and human development. My research interests include the life-span presence, development, and benefits of imaginative play as a cultural, community-informed activity and the role of improvisational theater activities in formal learning environments, in teacher education and in community organizations.

In addition to my academic career, I have worked as an adult educator and teacher educator of English as a Second Language for more than 20 years and have served as a program coordinator with youth development programs and community/family literacy programs in New York and Illinois.      

Current Research

I examine the self-reported meanings, presence and developmental and educational benefits of life-span imaginative play in the lives of adults. I interview adults about their imaginative play: their meanings of the words “imagination” and “play,” their self-reported engagement in imaginative play in their early childhood, elementary school years, adolescence and adulthood, its relationship with community practices and beliefs and their stance on how their imaginative play has helped them learn and develop. In addition, their experiences with imaginative play in their formal learning environments are discussed as well as their suggestions for the inclusion of imaginative play in formal schooling.

I have conducted conceptual, empirical and practical research. Conceptually, I have co-authored a paper advancing pretend play as a life-span activity. In this paper, our conceptualization is borne out of similarities between social pretend play during childhood and improvisational theater (improv) during adulthood. I have conducted three studies to determine if pretend/imaginative play has occurred throughout the lifespans of adults of different communities. With respect to my interests in improvisation and its role in learning environments, in teacher education and in community organizations, I have published a descriptive/reflective chapter in an edited book on the use of improv in formal learning environments. This work is built upon my experiences as an improviser and adult educator in Chicago. In this chapter I describe my experiences using improv activities with adult English language learners who are relatives and caregivers of Head Start children.

Future research projects will continue to investigate communities’ meanings, examples, and outcomes of imaginative play and its role in their learning and development. As well, I will continue to investigate the presence and potential for improv in formal learning environments and community organizations. In particular, I would like to continue to address the impact of improv in adult education and community organizations and how teachers or other community advocates develop their personal and professional capacities via engagement in improv. I am currently working on an auto ethnographic study of my use of imaginative play in higher education.

I am a part of a larger international performance movement that draws upon and creates scholarship in psychology and the arts to support the presence and importance of play and performance across the lifespan. Members of this movement include urban, suburban, and rural youth, academics and practitioners such as teaching artists, therapists and community organizers. We believe in the presence and potential of play and performance, broadly construed and create practical performance opportunities for development across the lifespan to effect more humane, just and inclusive environments.

Students and colleagues alike who are interested in new approaches to psychology, education and community engagement would be welcome contributors to the work/play in which I engage.   

Scholarly Interests
  • Imaginative play and improvisational theater
  • Language learning and teaching
  • Adult education and development
  • Teacher education
  • Life-span human development
  • Qualitative research 

At UW Tacoma, I teach undergraduate courses in introductory psychology and human development. I have also taught courses elsewhere at the undergraduate and graduate level in developmental psychology, writing in psychology, educational psychology and life-span imaginative play. Below is a review of courses taught before Fall 2014:

Courses Taught (including as a Teaching Assistant)

  • Undergraduate
    • Writing in Psychology
    • Introduction to Life-span Human Development
    • Early Childhood Development for the Beginning Teacher
  • Graduate
    • Advanced Developmental Psychology and Educational Processes
    • Advanced Educational Psychology
    • Child Psychology Applied to Education
    • Life-span Imaginative Play

My teaching interests are integrally linked to my research interests, as I not only am interested in theory and research on the intersections of play, learning and development, but I also apply a playful and collaborative approach to the learning environments of which I am a part. Topically, I am interested in facilitating experiences related to imaginative play, education (e.g., teacher education or adult education), psychology (e.g., cultural, life-span developmental, educational or writing in the discipline) and collaborations with youth, community and families. I also enjoy creating and offering new courses based on students’ needs and interests. Over the course of my teaching career, I have consistently witnessed the importance of play, communication and collaboration as the cornerstone of not only what I teach, but also how I teach; this marriage and integration of content, theory and method is essential to me, one of the most important lessons of my life and one that I aim to share and build contextually with learners. 

  • American Educational Research Association (AERA)
  • Division G – Social Context of Education
  • Special Interest Groups:
    • Cultural Historical Research
    • Adult Language and Adult Education
    • Arts and Inquiry in the Visual and Performing Arts in Education
    • Arts-Based Educational Research
  • The Association for the Study of Play (TASP)
  • Performing the World
Academic Service

As a new member of the UW Tacoma community, I welcome ways to serve and collaborate with UW Tacoma and communities in Tacoma.

I am a member of the international organizing committee for a biannual event, Performing the World, a scholarly, critical-practical and performatory conference attended by researchers and practitioners from more than 20 countries who explore improvisation, play and performance and its role in learning and development across contexts and the lifespan. In addition, I am a board member of The Association for the Study of Play (TASP) and I served as a peer reviewer for its 11th volume, Play and Performance. I have also been a proposal reviewer for Special Interest Groups of the American Educational Research Association (AERA: Adult Literacy & Adult Education, Arts and Inquiry in the Visual and Performing Arts and Cultural Historical Research.

I have also conducted workshops on the use of improv theater games and activities in schools and community organizations on the local, national and international levels.     

Honors and Awards
  • President’s Research in Diversity Travel Award – The University of Illinois, 2012
  • Graduate Student Award Cultural Historical Special Interest Group – American Educational Research Association, 2011
  • Volunteer Spirit Award - All Starts Project of Chicago, 2010
  • Graduate Student Fellow Division E Counseling and Human Development - American Educational Research Association, 2009 
CV or Resume
PDF icon Tony Perone CV168.32 KB
Publication Date Bibliographic Citation

Perone, A. (2014, Summer). Healing with(in) imaginative play. Child Life Council Bulletin 32(3), 8. 


Perone, A., & Göncü, A. (2014). Life-span imaginative play in two communities. Mind, Culture, and Activity 21(3), 200-220.   


Perone, A. (2013). The presence and significance of imaginative play in the lives of Mexican-American adults. (Dissertation) 


Göncü, A., Perone, T, & Ryan, S. “Play.” In L Meyer (Ed), Oxford Bibliographies in Education. New York: Oxford University Press. Launch Date August 26, 2013. 


Perone, A. (2011). Improvising with adult language learners. In R. Keith Sawyer (Ed.),
Structure and improvisation in creative teaching, (pp. 162-183). New York: Cambridge University Press.    


Göncü, A., & Perone, A. (2009). Inquiries into the role of adults in children’s play. Play
and Culture Studies: Vol. 9. Transactions at Play (pp. 125-128). 


Göncü, A., & Perone, A. (2005, September). Pretend play as a life-span activity. Topoi.
“Play, Games and Philosophy.” [Special Issue] 24(2), 137-147.