Evidence for Learning: Supporting rich conversations in Early Childhood Education

Supporting rich conversations in Early Childhood Education

Systematic literature review on oral language development.

Oral language development is one of the most significant feature of a child’s early development. Strong oral language skills provide children with a platform to communicate effectively and predict success in formal learning and life. In 2019, Evidence for Learning commissioned a systematic literature review on oral language development.

This review summarises the current research evidence on effective strategies for promoting rich conversations with young children aged 2 – 5 years within the Australasian context.

A database search for relevant studies identified published, peer-reviewed articles that discussed strategies to foster rich conversations, sustained shared thinking and dialogic interactions between educators and children (aged 2 – 5 years) in Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) settings. The search strategy is designed to identify study designs that include intervention, observational, cross-sectional and qualitative studies on strategies that could be informal or formal, delivered through an education program. Only studies from Australia and New Zealand, published in English, based on direct observation (i.e. no self-reports or surveys) were included.

Key strategies identified as important in creating opportunities for children to talk include:

  • Pausing: Educators pausing to create time for children to think, process and construct a response and signals to children that it is someone else’s turn to contribute to the conversation.
  • Prompting: Using questions to co-construct shared meaning as conversations unfold.
  • Positioning: Creating spaces for children’s talk by employing interactional strategies that position children with knowledge and ideas to contribute to conversations.

The following report is free to access and download.

This review was conducted by the Institute for Social Science Research (ISSR), University of Queensland.