卓越實證概述 Best Evidence in Brief
A review of the evidence on early language development

A review of the evidence on early language development, commissioned by the Education Endowment Foundation in the UK in partnership with Public Health England, has examined the most effective ways to support young children with delays in their early language development between birth and five years old.

James Law and colleagues looked at the existing evidence to find out which interventions have the greatest potential for boosting young children’s language skills and reducing inequalities in outcomes. They identified 44 intervention studies which focused on language and related skills in preschool. All the studies were randomized controlled trials or quasi-experimental, matched study designs. The findings were as follows:

  • Positive effect sizes were found in relation to receptive language in 29 studies. They found one of the best ways to improve early language development for this group is through training for teachers in early years settings so that they can deliver cost-effective and evidence-based interventions to those children who have fallen behind.
  • In addition to high-quality early years provision, the researchers identified interactions with parents as key, highlighting the need to promote positive interaction between parents and their children before they start preschool.

The report also stresses the need for better monitoring of children’s progress at different stages of their development, to catch those children falling behind and to identify those who need targeted, specialized support.


Source (Open access): Law, J., Charlton, J., Dockrell, J., Gascoigne, M., McKean, C. & Theakston, A. (2017). Early Language Development: Needs, provision, and intervention for preschool children from socioeconomically disadvantaged backgrounds :A Report for the Education Endowment Foundation. London: Education Endowment Foundation. Read the rest

Setting up in-class libraries in rural China

A study published in Reading Research Quarterly examined the effects of installing an in-class library providing students with age-appropriate books on student reading outcomes and achievements in rural China.

Most previous studies of the effects of age-appropriate books have been conducted in developed regions. However, in rural China, not only are age-appropriate reading materials scarce, but schools, teachers and parents also believe independent reading will negatively affect students’ performance in high-stakes college entrance examinations.

To examine the actual effects in rural China, Yi and colleagues conducted a randomized controlled trial consisting of 11,083 fourth- and fifth- grade students from 120 schools in Jiangxi province in China. In the treatment schools, an in-class library stocked with 70 extracurricular books was installed in each classroom in the treatment schools. The books were carefully selected based on recommendations of reading specialists and educators. Students received a baseline survey before the intervention and a follow-up survey after eight months’ intervention. Besides asking students about their attitudes toward reading and reading habits, students’ performance in Chinese language and math was evaluated, and an assessment made of their reading skills using test items from the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS). They found that:

  • The in-class library significantly improved students' reading habits after eight months. Students borrowed books more, read more, enjoyed reading more, and communicated more with their friends about reading.
  • There were no significant effects on students’ performance in math and Chinese, despite the beliefs in China’s highly competitive system that independent reading would lower test scores.
  • However, there was no significant effect on students’ reading achievement.

The authors suggested that the non-positive effects might be due to the book choices, short duration of the programme, and the fact that tasks were not assigned to teachers regarding the use of the in-class libraries. They suggested that the results highlighted the importance of providing age-appropriate reading resources to primary students in rural China.


Source: Yi, H., Mo, D., Wang, H., Gao, Q., Shi, Y., Wu, P., ... & Rozelle, S. (2018). Do resources matter? Effects of an in‐class library project on student independent reading habits in primary schools in rural China. Reading Research Quarterly. Advanced online publication. doi: 10.1002/rrq.238
Read the rest

Using teaching assistants to improve language skills and reading

Two evaluations from the Education Endowment Foundation in England have found that two interventions using paraprofessional teaching assistants (TAs) have positive effects.

REACH is a targeted reading support program designed to improve the reading accuracy and comprehension of students with reading difficulties in middle school. It is delivered by specially trained TAs. The evaluation tested two interventions – one based on the original Reading Intervention developed by the University of York, and the other with supplementary material on language comprehension. The evaluation was carried out in 21 schools around Leeds, with 202 students (70 and 69 receiving each intervention; 63 control). Results showed that:

  • There was a positive effect on reading skills for both the Reading Intervention (E.S.= +0.33) and the Reading Intervention with additional material on language comprehension (E.S.= +0.51).
  • The evaluations did not provide evidence that the interventions improved reading comprehension in particular, as opposed to other skills such as word recognition.

The Nuffield Early Language Intervention is designed to improve the spoken language ability of children during the transition between preschool and primary school. It is targeted to children with poor language skills, who received 20 or 30 weeks of sessions focused on listening, narrative, and vocabulary skills. The intervention is delivered by TAs and preschool staff. The evaluation was carried out in 34 preschools in Yorkshire and the South-East, with 350 children participating (114 received the 30-week treatment, 121 the 20-week treatment, and 115 in the control group). The results of this study were as follows:

  • Both interventions had a positive effect on language skills (E.S.= +0.27 for the 30-week and E.S.= +0.16 for the 20-week).
  • However, there was no reliable evidence that it had a positive effect on children’s word-literacy skills.

These findings indicated that some programmes could be effectively carried out by teacher assistants, which might lower the cost.


Source (Open access):

Sibieta, L. (2016). REACH : Evaluation report and executive summary. London: Education Endowment Foundation.

Sibieta, L., Kotecha, M., & Skipp, A. (2016). Nuffield Early Language Intervention : Evaluation report and executive summary. London: Education Endowment Foundation.Read the rest

How do young children develop agency, literacy, and numeracy?

new resource from Deans for Impact summarizes current cognitive-science research related to how young children - from birth to age eight - develop skills across three domains: agency, literacy, and numeracy.

It aims to give guidance to anyone working in education who is interested in understanding the science of how young children develop control of their own behavior and intentions, how they learn to read and write, and how they develop the ability to think mathematically.

For each domain, the report identifies key questions about learning and provides a short list of the principles from learning science that inform the answers to these questions. The resource then connects these principles to a set of practical implications for specific teaching strategies. For example, the report identified children regulate their behaviors by achieving the following:  

  • Remember their goals
  • Suppress impulses and not respond to distractions
  • Be able to change how they think and react to things.  

Accordingly, the report made a recommendation to scaffold the ability of young children to self-regulate behaviors by striving for consistency and predictability. Use consistent schedules and involve children in plans for the day. The original research is clearly referenced for anyone wishing to find out more.


Source (Open Access): Deans for Impact (2019). The Science of early learning. Austin, TX: Deans for Impact. Retrieved from: https://deansforimpact.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/The_Science_of_Early_Learning.pdfRead the rest

What does good professional development for teaching language look like?

Research published in AERA Open examines the features needed for effective teacher professional development (PD) aimed at preparing teachers to support their students in mastering language expectations across the curriculum.

Eva Kalinowski and colleagues conducted a systematic review of studies of PD programs, published between 2002 and 2015, which aimed to support teachers to improve their students’ academic language ability in different subject areas. Of the 38 studies they reviewed, all but one were carried out in the US. Eighteen studies used quantitative data only, three used a mainly qualitative approach, and 17 used mixed methods.

Although the researchers were unable to conclude which elements actually influenced the effectiveness of the programs analyzed, they found that all of the studies were effective to some extent, and shared many characteristics considered to be important in successful teacher PD across different subject areas. The forms of PD likely to show some effect for teachers and students in this area were:

  • long-term intensive programs that included multiple learning opportunities aimed at elaborating and practicing newly learned knowledge and strategies
  • provided practical assistance
  • enabled and encouraged teachers to work together
  • considered teachers’ needs as well as students’ learning processes and languages spoken at home

The authors suggested PD is a way that policymakers could influence and worth investing in.


Source (Open Access): Kalinowski, E., Gronostaj, A., & Vock, M. (2019). Effective professional development for teachers to foster students’ academic language proficiency across the curriculum: A systematic review. AERA Open, 5(1), doi:10.1177/2332858419828691Read the rest