The Education Endowment Foundation in the U.K. has published an evaluation of a program that trains preschool 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 program for preschool 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 math 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 trial from October 2016 to July 2018. The program was evaluated using a randomized controlled trial, testing the impact of the URLEY program 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 program did show a positive impact on the quality of instruction (as measured by ERS), with effect sizes in the range of +0.5 to +0.7.
Source (Open Access): Wright, H., Carr, D., Wiese, J., Stokes, L., Runge, J., Dorsett, R., Heal, J., & Anders, J. (2020). URLEY: Evaluation report. London, United Kingdom: Education Endowment Foundation