Interactive reading, asking questions about a story and engaging in discussion can be highly effective for developing young children’s language. The newly updated Early Childhood Education (ECE) Toolkit from Evidence for Learning (E4L) shows that communication and language approaches that support early language development – such as interactive reading and teaching and modelling vocabulary – can have a very high impact on learning and development, and are inexpensive to implement.
The ECE Toolkit summarises findings from the best available international and Australasian evidence on key areas for children’s learning and development. It is designed to provide an introduction to the research evidence to help support educators’ thinking, planning and decision making on how to best use their resources. Better decisions based on evidence can help all children, especially those experiencing disadvantage, make the best possible learning progress.
The ECE Toolkit contains evidence on ten topics including parental engagement, early numeracy approaches and play-based learning. For each topic, the ECE Toolkit presents an average impact in terms of months’ progress, alongside information on cost and the strength of the evidence base. It does not make definitive claims as to what will work to improve outcomes in a given setting. Rather, the ECE Toolkit provides high quality information about what is likely to be beneficial based on existing evidence.
After undergoing a significant update, each topic in the ECE Toolkit now includes a wider array of insights on what sits behind the average, information on closing the disadvantage gap, implementation considerations and detailed technical appendices.
The ‘Communication and language approaches’ topic, for example, describes how supporting early language development through activities such as interactive reading and teaching, and modelling vocabulary can have a very high impact on children’s learning and development. Interactive reading strategies can include encouraging young children to think about what happens next, or to relate stories to their own experience. Vocabulary strategies can include explicitly labelling the different parts of an object – such as a flower – and encouraging children to use the different words.
‘Early numeracy approaches’ are another high-impact topic in the ECE Toolkit. Early numeracy approaches tend to produce larger effects when they are designed to address the breadth of the mathematics curriculum, commit a regular amount of time to developing mathematics (between two and three hours per week), are designed specifically for the early years setting involved, and include some specific individual interaction. These approaches are inexpensive to implement and have a very high impact on children’s learning and development, with targeted early numeracy approaches showing particular promise for children experiencing disadvantage.
Accompanying the ECE Toolkit are E4L’s practical resources for early childhood educators on how to implement high-impact approaches in their settings. E4L has targeted guidance and tips for Australian educators on early maths, oral language development, engaging with parents and responding to challenging behaviour – all free and available on the E4L website under ‘Guidance for educators’.
Director of E4L, Danielle Toon said:
“The early years are critical for children’s learning and development – for their daily lives as well as setting the foundations for their future so they experience success at school and in life more broadly.”
“We’re thrilled to be launching the new ECE Toolkit and hope that having access to this latest international and Australasian evidence helps educators feel informed and empowered in their decision making about what might work best in their context, especially for children who are experiencing disadvantage.”
Prof Karen Thorpe, Australian Research Council, Laureate Professor and Group Leader in Child Development, Education and Care at the Queensland Brain Institute, University of Queensland and Chair of E4L’s Early Childhood Education Expert Reference Council said:
“We know that quality early learning is important for all Australian children, especially those experiencing disadvantage. Evidence for Learning’s work in early childhood education supports educators to use education evidence to their advantage, so that they can adopt and adapt the most impactful approaches in their settings. By collating and analysing the most current international and Australasian evidence, E4L provides the best knowledge in early learning research for the benefit of educators, children and our nation’s future.”
Si Ning Koh, Manager of Pedagogy, Practice and Continuous Improvements at Orchard Early Learning Centre said:
“As a special education teacher and early childhood leader, using evidence in my setting is important. Evidence for Learning provides useful, well-researched and easy to digest resources – including the ECE Toolkit – which I can use to support my team’s ongoing professional development. I am excited to see the difference we can provide for early childhood educators and the children they work with.”
Juanita Milne, Kindergarten teacher at Goodstart Early Learning Annandale Yolanda Drive said:
“The ECE Toolkit highlights evidence of what is likely to have the most impact on children’s learning and development, supporting them to make meaning and engage with the delights and challenges of everyday life. We know how important the early years are for children, and the ECE Toolkit affirms what we’re doing and helps with our ongoing critical reflection.”
To learn more, start exploring the ECE Toolkit here.
Evidence for Learning thanks The Ian Potter Foundation for their generous support of our 2022 – 2023 work in early childhood education, including this upgrade to the ECE Toolkit.