Mrs Alison Britton1, Dr Sarah Masso2,3, Ms Emma Campbell1, Ms Heather Faulkner1, Dr Natalie Munro2, Professor Tricia McCabe2, Mrs Katrina Gott2, Mrs Vanessa Lau1, Mrs Alicia Horesh1
1Western Sydney Local Health District, Sydney, Australia, 2The University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia, 3Charles Sturt University, Bathurst, Australia
Background: Early childhood education provides children the opportunity to experience language and literacy-rich environments in their early years. Speech pathologists can support early childhood educators to promote children’s language learning in early childhood settings. Aims: To investigate the confidence and language use of early childhood educators and evaluate early childhood education environments following participation in a professional development program delivered by speech pathologists. Method: Thirty-five early childhood educators from nine centres participated in an eight-week professional development program based on Hanen Learning Language and Loving It TM (modified with permission). Educators completed two components of the Interaction, Communication, and Literacy Skills Audit (El-Choueifati et al., 2011) before and after participating in the program. Independent, environmental evaluations of five centres were also conducted using Early Language and Literacy Classroom Observation Pre-K (Smith, Brady, & Anastasasopoulos, 2008). Results: Most participants demonstrated increased confidence identifying children with communication difficulties (n = 18, 51.4%), knowing what to do when a child has communication difficulties (n = 24, 68.6%). Participants also increased confidence using interaction skills to promote language development: observing children’s interests (n = 18, 50.0%), responding verbally to children (n = 21, 58.3%), and engaging children in extended turn-taking (n = 20, 55.5%). On average, educators self-reported that they used all language behaviours more frequently following involvement in the program. Further educator confidence, language use data, and environmental evaluations will be presented and discussed. Conclusion: Early childhood educators’ confidence and language use positively changed following engagement with a speech pathology-led professional development program.
Acknowledgements: This project was supported by a Cumberland Council Community Seeding Grant (2018) and a Paediatric Innovation Funding Scheme Grant (2019) from NSW Health. The research team would like to acknowledge the centres and educators who participated in the study, as well as the community reference group.
Alison Britton is a senior speech pathologist with Child and Family, Integrated and Community Health in Western Sydney Local Health District. She has extensive clinical experience and skill in service management. Alison is the clinical lead of the Growing Little Language Learners project.