The Education Endowment Foundation has published an evaluation of a programme that trains early years teachers to improve children’s language outcomes. The Using Research Tools to Improve Language in the Early Years (URLEY) intervention is an evidence-based professional development programme for early years teachers. It is designed to improve teacher’s knowledge of how children learn and develop oral language skills, and how to support that learning through evidence-based practice.
Teachers take part in five day-long
professional development workshops in which they are introduced to
evidence-based learning principles and research tools to evaluate and refine
pedagogy and practice. In particular, teachers are taught to use Environment
Rating Scales (ERS) – research-validated observational rating scales known to
predict aspects of children’s development, with higher scores linked to
improved maths and English achievement. Teachers watched videos of effective
practice and were supported to use the language principles and ERS to “tune in”
to language-supporting practice.
Nearly 2,000 children from 120 schools from the West Midlands,
Liverpool and Manchester participated in the study from October 2016 to July
2018. The programme was evaluated using a randomised controlled trial, testing
the impact of the URLEY programme on children’s language development over two
years, compared to business as usual in control schools.
The results of the trial found that children in schools receiving
URLEY did not make additional progress in language development compared to
children in control schools, as measured by a composite language score (effect
size = -0.08). However, the programme did show a positive impact on the quality
of teaching (as measured by ERS), with effect sizes in the range of +0.5 to +0.7.
evaluation report (February 2020), Education
Kristin Rogde and colleagues from the Campbell Collaboration have completed a systematic review that examines the effects of linguistic comprehension teaching on generalised measures of language and reading comprehension skills. Examples of linguistic comprehension skills include vocabulary, grammar and narrative skills.
The authors searched literature dating back to 1986, and
identified 43 studies to include in the review, including samples of both
pre-school and school-aged participants. Randomised controlled trials and
quasi-experiments with a control group and a pre-post design were included.
Key findings of the review were as follows:
The linguistic comprehension programmes
included in the review display a small positive immediate effect on generalised
outcomes of linguistic comprehension.
The effect of the programmes on generalised
measures of reading comprehension is negligible.
Few studies report follow-up assessment of
According to the authors, linguistic comprehension teaching has
the potential to increase children’s general linguistic comprehension skills.
However, there is variability in effects related to the type of outcome measure
that is used to examine the effect of such instruction on linguistic
effect of linguistic comprehension instruction on generalized language and
reading comprehension skills: A systematic review (November 2019), Campbell Systematic Reviews
This meta-analysis, published in Educational Research Review, explores whether shared reading interventions are equally effective across a range of study designs, across a range of different outcome variables, and for children from different socioeconomic status (SES) groups.
Studies were included in the meta-analysis if they met the
Must contain a universal and/or targeted shared
book reading intervention.
Must include at least one control group.
Participants must be typically developing
children ages seven years or younger.
Must not target multilingual populations and/or
the acquisition of an additional language.
Must isolate the variable of interest (shared
Must report on objective quantitative measure of
Must provide sufficient data to calculate the
The results suggest that shared reading had an overall effect size of +0.19 on children’s language development. They also show that this effect was moderated by the type of control group used and was near zero in studies with active control groups (ES = +0.03). The meta-analysis also shows no differences across outcome variables or for SES.
impact of shared book reading on children’s language skills: A meta-analysis (September
2019), Educational Research Review, Volume
The findings from a randomised controlled trial of Let’s
Talk – an interactive intervention to support young children’s language
development – suggest that the intervention has a positive effect on narrative
and vocabulary development.
The trial, conducted by Gillian Lake and Maria Evangelou, and published in European Early Childhood Education Research Journal, involved 94 three- to four-year-old children in early education settings in Oxfordshire. The children were randomly assigned to control or intervention groups and tested pre- and post-intervention on standardised vocabulary and narrative assessments. Children in the intervention group attended twice-weekly sessions over ten weeks, in groups of three to five children. The first session of the week was a group shared storybook reading session with a puppet, while the second weekly session consisted of a planned pretend play session based on the storybook read in the first session that week. Children in the control group completed age-appropriate early numeracy activities and games – also in groups of three to five children.
The results suggest that the intervention had a positive
effect on the vocabulary of the children in the intervention group, with medium
to large effect sizes, and also on their narrative ability.
Source:Let’s Talk! An interactive intervention to support children’s language development (February 2019). European Early Childhood Education Research Journal, 27:2
A research report published in the International Journal of Language and Communication Disorders investigates the effectiveness of teaching assistant (TA)-delivered narrative and vocabulary interventions to secondary school children with language difficulties.
Researchers at City University of London and University of
Oxford conducted a randomised controlled trial in two outer London boroughs.
Across 21 schools, 358 Year 7 underperforming pupils (mean age = 12.8 years)
were recruited, and randomised to four groups within each school: vocabulary
intervention, narrative intervention, combined narrative and vocabulary
intervention, and delayed waiting control group. The narrative programme
focused on the understanding and telling of stories, using a story structure to
support story generation. Pupils were introduced to different types of stories
(fictional, non‐fictional, scripts) and narrative genres. The vocabulary
programme focused on developing key concepts and vocabulary items relevant to
the curriculum (eg, nutrition) and age-appropriate (eg, careers). A variety of
tasks including word associations, categorisation, mind‐mapping and
word‐building were used to reinforce word learning.
The language and communication programmes (narrative,
vocabulary, and combined narrative and vocabulary) were delivered by TAs in the
classroom, three times per week, for 45–60 min each, over six weeks, totalling
18 sessions. Assessments were conducted pre- and post-intervention.
Overall, pupils in the intervention groups made greater
improvements on standardised measures of narrative (effect size = +0.296), but
not vocabulary skills, compared with control group children.
storytelling and vocabulary in secondary school students with language
disorder: a randomized controlled trial (March 2019), International Journal of Language and Communication Disorders, 54:4
In the field of education, professional development (PD) is intended to improve both classroom teaching and children’s learning. A new study, published in Journal of Educational Psychology, looks at what effect PD has when used at scale with large numbers of educators.
In this large-scale randomised controlled trial, Shayne B
Piasta and colleagues examined the effectiveness of a language and literacy PD
programme on both teacher and child outcomes in early childhood education. More
than 500 teachers across one US state took part in the trial and were randomly
assigned to one of three groups: professional development with coaching,
professional development without coaching, or a comparison group. Teachers in
the PD groups received 30 hours of state-sponsored language and literacy
professional development, with those assigned to the coaching groups also
receiving ongoing individualised coaching throughout the academic year.
Teachers in the comparison group also received state-sponsored PD, but in other
The results of the trial suggest that PD affected only a few
aspects of classroom language and literacy teaching practices relative to the
comparison group, and did not affect children’s literacy learning. PD with coaching
showed a small positive impact on the quantity of phonological awareness, while
both PD with and without coaching had a small positive impact on the quality of
teaching in phonological awareness and writing.
state-sponsored language and literacy professional development: Impacts on early
childhood classroom practices and children’s outcomes (June 2019), Journal of Educational Psychology