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Participate in a research study in 2023 about professional learning for early childhood teachers and educators

Centre-based early childhood education and care (ECEC) services in Western Sydney are invited to express an interest to participate in a collaborative research trial between the Australian Education Research Organisation (AERO) and the Australian Literacy and Numeracy Foundation (ALNF). This trial is an exciting opportunity for ECEC services to develop educators' and teachers' skills and knowledge of early literacy and language, enhance their practices, and contribute to meaningful research.

Services can choose to participate in the research trial from:

  • 20 February 2023 to 3 November 2023 or
  • 27 March 2023 to 8 December 2023.

Purpose of the research

Research has identified many of the building blocks that make professional learning effective, but there are gaps on how to make these work in practice, and in a way that is affordable and accessible to ECEC services. AERO is working to fill these gaps so that practical guidance on the design and delivery of professional learning programs can be developed.

To do this, AERO is partnering with experts at the ALNF. We aim to explore how knowledge and skills learnt from ALNF’s effective professional learning program can be shared successfully, so that more teachers, educators, and the early literacy and language outcomes of children, can benefit.

The study will:

  • provide professional learning to a portion of early childhood teachers and educators within a service (including the educational leader) in evidence-based early language and literacy practices and formative assessment for reflective practice. These teachers/educators will be supported to pass their new learnings and skills onto their colleagues
  • investigate the impact of this approach to delivering professional learning within a service on teacher/educator knowledge and practice as well as children’s early language and literacy skills throughout the study
  • investigate the role of the educational leader and how they support collaboration and sharing of knowledge and skills within a service.

Findings will support practical guidance on the design and delivery of professional learning programs to enable more early childhood educators and teachers to participate and improve their practice. In turn, this will support outcomes for children.

A new approach to delivering effective professional learning

The educational leader and either 1 or 3 other teachers and educators that work with children in the year before school will engage in the ALNF’s Early Language and Literacy (EL&L) program and receive training and guidance in using the Early Language and Literacy Development Index (ELLDI) formative assessment.

  • EL&L is drawn from leading research and best practice from speech pathology and education. It provides participants with practical, multisensory strategies to support children’s early language and literacy development. EL&L addresses phonological awareness, oral language development, vocabulary knowledge, emergent writing and early comprehension skills.
  • The ELLDI is a digital formative assessment tool that supports reflective practice. Teachers and educators can use the ELLDI to receive real-time feedback about children’s early language and literacy development along with targeted recommendations for integrated interventions. Observations are recorded digitally (on tablet or computer)* however, the child’s experience is non-digital (for example, being read to, exploring vocabulary, talking about pictures, exploring sounds in words and other related tasks).
  • ALNF’s professional learning participants receive mentoring to integrate their learning into practice and tailor strategies for their context.

*Services will need access to a computer or tablet with microphone, and a quiet area to conduct the face-to-face ELLDI interviews with individual children. The screen will need to be turned away from the child at a certain point in the interviews so they can’t see it.

Educational leaders will:

  • receive additional one-on-one mentoring to lead implementation of evidence-based early language and literacy practices and support inquiry and reflection within their service.
  • be provided with resources to support them to share their new skills and knowledge with their colleagues through peer mentoring.

Additional information about ALNF’s professional learning delivered as part of this research study is available at alnf.org/eoi-ecec.

Benefits of participating

  • Services will receive the EL&L course and ELLDI access, training and guidance at no cost to services for either 2 or 4 educators, in addition to shared centre literacy resources. This gives more services the opportunity to participate regardless of financial circumstances.
  • The EL&L course provides participants with practical, multisensory strategies to support children’s early language and literacy development. Strategies learnt support children’s growth in all 5 Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF) learning outcomes (LO), with particular focus on LO5 (children are effective communicators).
  • Participation in professional learning will enhance teachers’ and educators’ assessment for learning practices. Teachers and educators will learn how to collect information about a child’s early language and literacy abilities and needs and then receive support in interpreting this information so that they can plan effectively for children’s current and future learning.
  • Teachers and educators will be able to use the ELLDI tool to communicate to parents about their children’s learning and progress in their early language and literacy abilities.
  • Onsite mentoring will support teachers and educators receiving ALNF’s professional learning to integrate their learning into practice and tailor strategies for their context.
  • Mentoring and resources provided to the educational leader will help them strengthen existing peer mentoring and collaborative learning practices within their service.
  • Increased knowledge and use of evidence-based early language and literacy practices by other teachers and educators within a service more widely.
  • EL&L participants can choose to work towards the nationally accredited 11027NAT Certificate IV in Early Language and Literacy (if necessary, assessments can be completed after the research period until April 2026).
  • Participation may support services to meet the goals or outcomes of their Quality Improvement Plan (QIP), particularly for key improvements in the National Quality Standard Quality Area 1 (all standards and elements) and National Quality Standard Quality Area 7 (Standard 7.2, elements 7.2.2 and 7.2.3).
  • Integrating use of the ELLDI into teacher/educator planning and practice is consistent with principle 5 of the EYLF (ongoing learning and reflective practice) and standard 1.3 (assessment and planning) of ACECQA’s National Quality Standard.

AERO will reimburse services for backfill costs to relieve educational leader and champion positions during limited offsite training. Services will only need to cover costs associated with staff travel to and from local community centres where each day of the professional learning will be held.

What's involved?

Participating services will be randomly allocated to 1 of 2 groups

  • Group 1: the educational leader and 3 nominated teachers/educators (‘champions’) will receive ALNF's professional learning, or
  • Group 2: the educational leader and 1 nominated champion will receive ALNF's professional learning.

Participating services can select 1 of 2 start dates to meet scheduling preferences. All offsite training sessions will have at least 2 options for attendance to minimise disruption to the children at your service.

Services and teachers/educators will be asked to assist with recruiting children in the year before school and their parents to participate in data collection. Service directors should also be prepared to fill out a short survey at the beginning of the study to provide information about the service.

Educational leaders and nominated champions will engage in and complete professional learning and data collection activities

  • 4 days of offsite EL&L training sessions (2 consecutive days, then 2 consecutive days approximately 3 weeks later. Backfill costs reimbursed by AERO)
  • One half-day offsite training session in how to conduct the ELLDI interviews (backfill costs reimbursed by AERO)
  • Onsite EL&L mentoring sessions and interpreting ELLDI feedback session run by ALNF trainers during 3 visits to each participating service
  • Administration of the ELLDI formative assessment with children in the year before school at the service twice (at beginning and end of the research period)
  • Optional further administration of the ELLDI formative assessment as required to monitor children’s growth and inform programming planning
  • Record 40 hours of practice in integrating EL&L strategies and resources into daily activities
  • Provide 20 hours of peer mentoring (for example, co-planning and on the floor modelling) to colleagues at your service (that also work with children in the year before school) in evidence-based early language and literacy practices introduced in professional learning
  • Participation in surveys and interviews to collect information about the study at the beginning and end of the research period

Educational leaders will engage in additional activities

  • The educational leader will receive one-on-one mentoring to lead implementation of evidence-based early language and literacy practices and support inquiry and reflection within their service (2 extensions to onsite sessions and 2 one-hour phone calls)

Other teachers and educators working with children in the year before school will also participate

  • Other participating teachers and educators will receive 20 hours of peer mentoring delivered by the educational leader and champion(s) in evidence-based early language and literacy practices introduced in professional learning
  • They will also be asked to participate in surveys and/or interviews at the beginning and end of the research period

Children will participate in their usual program

  • Teachers and educators will use their new knowledge and skills in evidence-based early language and literacy practices to enhance children's usual educational program
  • Teachers and educators at your service will conduct 2 ELLDI interviews with children to chart their early language and literacy developmental growth during the study
  • Parents and guardians of children in the year before school will be asked for their consent for their children to participate in activities related to the professional learning and research, and to complete a short questionnaire about their child’s background

Eligibility to participate

About your service

  • located in Western Sydney
  • it is a centre-based service providing education and care to children in the year before school (100 approved places or fewer)
  • remains open during school holidays throughout the study period
  • has an educational leader and employs at least 5 additional teachers/educators (6 in total) that provide education and care to children in the year before school
  • no teachers or educators can have previously undertaken any EL&L or ELLDI training
  • willing to support up to 4 teachers/educators to complete ALNF’s professional learning and associated activities

About all participating teachers/educators

  • work at least 2 days per week in the education and care of children in the year before school
  • 18 years or over

About educational leaders and ‘champions’

  • work at least 3 days per week on a permanent basis
  • champions will be nominated by the service
  • willing to undertake professional learning and provide peer mentoring

Ethics and privacy

This research has received Human Research Ethics approval from Macquarie University (Ethics reference number: 520221209944488)

No services or individuals will be identified in research publications to ensure the privacy of all participants.

Express your interest

Please contact [email protected] to express interest or ask questions.

Maximum participant numbers apply. Places will be filled on a first come first served basis for services eligible to participate.

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