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Raising the standard

Two partnerships centred on making positive changes in the quality of teaching are set to have a far-reaching impact on early childhood education, and on literacy in schools

Both the Fostering Effective Early Learning (FEEL), and the Transforming Literacy Outcomes (TRANSLIT) studies, involve partnerships with educators, schools, early childhood education and care (ECEC) centres and government education departments to advance educational practice.

FEEL is a cluster randomised controlled trial investigating the efficacy of an in-service, evidence-based professional development program for improving early childhood educators practice and developmental outcomes of children. It arose from a competitive tender process initiated by the NSW Department of Education and Training, awarded to UOW Early Start researchers in 2015.

The research team has recruited 90 ECEC services to be involved, half of which were randomly selected to receive the professional development program in the evaluation year, and half of which were assigned as the control group, to then receive the training following the evaluation year.

Early results show children in the centres receiving the program are experiencing heightened curricular and interactional quality in areas that predict later developmental progress and outcomes.

“In addition, our qualitative process analyses suggest that participants often saw the professional development program as ‘very high quality’, ‘transformative’ and ‘reaffirming’,” according to one of the research leaders, Dr Cathrine Neilsen-Hewett.

The ongoing potential of the FEEL study is significant. Further longitudinal components to assess children’s school readiness have already been initiated and there is future potential to link the data through to NAPLAN years.

Already in place at the primary and secondary level is another education study, TRANSLIT, which aims to improve understandings of literacy development across schooling years, in particular to shed light on students’ different pathways to literacy from preschool to senior secondary school.

It will also inform professional learning programs to strengthen the capacity of teachers to deliver transformational literacy instruction.

TRANSLIT partners with the NSW Department of Education and Training, Big Fat Smile Community preschools and the Catholic Education Office (Wollongong) to work with over 30 educators across the Illawarra and South West Sydney. This consortium facilitates access to observe teaching practice and interview students to assess literacy instruction.

“In this way, the team is mapping the changing nature of literacy in terms of the texts, classroom interactions and the conscious knowledge about literacy that learners must master to be successful,” according to TRANSLIT project leader Associate Professor Pauline Jones.

It provides a panoramic and individual view of school literacy, that is absent from current literacy research and aims to better inform literacy policy makers.

The FEEL study and TRANSLIT are two standout examples of how evidence-based research practice is influencing the direction of teaching and as a result, improving the quality of education provided to children from preschool to secondary school.


Partners

Fostering Effective Early Learning
NSW Department of Education
Early Childhood Education Centres across NSW
University of Sussex

Transforming Literacy Outcomes
Charles Sturt University
Big Fat Smile
Catholic Education Office (Wollongong)
NSW Department of Education and Training
Australian Council for Educational Research
University of Exeter
University of South Australia
Queensland University of Technology
Language, Speech & Literacy Services

UOW participants

Fostering Effective Early Learning
Prof. Iram Siraj, Dr Cathrine Neilsen-Hewett, Dr Steven Howard, Prof. Ted Melhuish, Prof. Marc de Rosnay, Dr Elisabeth Duursma, Dr Xiaoqi Feng, Dr Betty Luu

Transforming Literacy Outcomes
A/Prof. Pauline Jones, A/Prof. Honglin Chen, A/ Prof. Lisa Kervin, Dr Jessica Mantei, Dr Barbra McKenzie, Dr Erika Matruglio, Ms Emma Vale, Ms Bronwyn Mehorter, Prof. Iram Siraj, Prof. Beverly Derewianka, Prof. Peter Freebody, Dr Jan Turbill

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