Education Endowment Foundation:Choices in Early Language

Choices in Early Language

Project info

Independent Evaluator

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Coventry University

This study is a Choices’ project focused on Early Language.


Choices projects explore some of the most common questions educators ask about their practice and the everyday choices they make when planning lessons and supporting pupils. The aim of Choices research is to investigate the impact of these different day-to-day pedagogical practices on pupil learning and to generate evidence that can be readily applied by teachers in the classroom. This is a new and developing strand of EEF projects.

The project is part of the 2022 Choices round, which focuses on specific areas of teaching practice identified as having gaps in the evidence base and with potential to benefit disadvantaged pupils. These are: early language, KS1 mathematics, and cognitive science.

During the scoping phase, this project will investigate the feasibility of evaluating the following 4 shortlisted research questions in Early language:,

  • Which approach is the most effective for pre-teaching key vocabulary to a small group of children?
  • Which approach to planning contingent play interactions with children is most effective?
  • Which approach to supporting role play in the classroom is the most effective?
  • Which whole class/​group approach is the most effective for teaching language skills through stories?

Research questions that are of high interest to Early Years practitioners, leverage a dilemma of choice, are easy to define and implement, have the potential to have a positive impact on children and are feasible to evaluate will progress to a full impact evaluation phase.

Oral language skills are fundamental for learning. Studies consistently demonstrate that there is a higher prevalence of oral language needs in socio-economically disadvantaged communities and those working with children have told us they are prioritising supporting children’s language skills following the disruption of the pandemic. Choices designs intend to enhance understanding of how the ways in which educators use language and interact with children can support and improve language outcomes. Particular approaches of interest within this topic include explicit and implicit teaching of vocabulary and language, interactive reading, collaborative talk and teaching of social communication.

This project is currently in the scoping phase. The main objective of the scoping phase is to assess the feasibility of each of the four research questions.

The project will include multiple research activities during the scoping phase. This includes a rapid evidence review, survey and focus groups with Early Years educators and pilot testing of implementation guidance in Early Years settings. The scoping phase research will inform the design of a subsequent Choices trial if it is feasible to proceed.

If you are interested in supporting this research activity by taking part in an Educator Focus Group, or piloting the guidance material, please contact Dr Sian Alsop: ab2358@​coventry.​ac.​uk.

The scoping phase will be completed in Autumn 2023. Once the scoping phase is finalised, this web page will be updated.