Effects of an evidence-based intervention on the Australian English language development of a vulnerable group of young Aboriginal children

Isabel Brookes
Collette Tayler
The University of Melbourne

Learning in both informal and formal settings is vital to each child’s sense of wellbeing and achievement, particularly for children identified as experiencing high levels of disadvantage and having markedly increased risk of poor educational attainment, health and development. National data indicates that Aboriginal children are especially vulnerable to low levels of engagement with education systems, including preschool. Recent reforms in early childhood education and care provision draw attention to focused educational strategies to promote early learning, since high-quality early learning experiences help to ameliorate early disadvantage.

This paper describes an experimental study designed to assess the effect of an evidence-based early learning intervention that targets both toddler language development and their capacity to attend to tasks with an adult (in this study, an early childhood educator and/or allied health professional). Aboriginal children aged 23 to 36 months participated in this intervention that was implemented by the educators at an Aboriginal long day care service over four months. The children were assessed pre-, post- and three-months following the intervention. The significant increase in their expressive and receptive language, and their initiation of joint attention behaviours, illustrates the potential of this intervention to change the language growth trajectories of very young children who live in similar circumstances. The study findings provide direction for program improvement across the centre, and set the scene for achieving practice change that may close gaps in development and achievement for children experiencing high levels of disadvantage early—long before school. Further research on the effectiveness of a larger-scale program improvement strategy is underway.


Australasian Journal of Early Childhood—Volume 41 Number 4 December 2016.

Don’t forget, the Australasian Journal of Early Childhood is tax deductible for early childhood professionals.