Ward, Kirsty Elizabeth
Communication and language development in young children: a case-study evaluation of training for early years practitioners.
University of Southampton, School of Education,
A small scale, case-study evaluation was carried out on a pilot training programme for early years practitioners. The programme used was the ‘Communicating Matters’ materials, published by the Department for Education and Skills (DfES 2006), which was designed to support the development of practitioners’ understanding and skills in relation to children’s speech, language and communication. Effective skills in the area of language and communication are considered critical to academic achievement and later life chances.
The evaluation aimed to highlight issues of programme implementation and practitioner learning. The objectives of the study were related to identifying whether practitioners had gained knowledge about key areas of language and communication development and whether they were able to reflect on and identify how they would implement knowledge and skills gained from the programme. In addition, the evaluation sought to understand the process of implementation and identify issues to be considered in future delivery. A mixed methods approach to the evaluation was used to obtain data through questionnaire feedback from participants and interview data from programme trainers.
Results indicated that practitioners had benefitted from the programme, at least in the short-term. Participants reported improved knowledge about the development of speech, language and communication and many identified key changes that they planned to make to their behaviour, in addition to strategies that they intended to use to support children. Further longer-term investigation is required in order to make more comprehensive claims about the success of the programme with respect to the retention and application of learning and outcomes for children. The implementation of the programme was examined and difficulties with the length and expectation of the training programme were identified along with other issues related to professional development for early years practitioners.
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