Education Endowment Foundation:Learning Language and Loving It ™ – The Hanen Program® for Early Childhood Educators

Learning Language and Loving It ™ – The Hanen Program® for Early Childhood Educators

Communicate SLT CIC
Implementation cost 
Evidence strengthNot given for this trial
Impact (months)
Independent Evaluator
NatCen logo
Providing training for Early Years practitioners to promote language and early literacy
Pupils: 17493 Schools: 147 Grant: £634,314
Key Stage: 1 Duration: 7 month(s) Type of Trial: Efficacy Trial
Completed March 2020

Learning Language and Loving It™ – The Hanen Program® for Early Childhood Educators (Hanen LLLI) is a training programme for staff working in early years settings to promote opportunities for children’s social, language and literacy learning. Through group workshops, participants learn a series of practical strategies that can be easily woven into everyday activities when interacting with children. Between workshops staff are encouraged to practice the strategies and take part in individual video reflection sessions to review, in collaboration with a Program Leader, their interactions and use of the strategies with children.

These strategies include encouraging children to initiate and engage in conversational interaction, encouraging extended individual and group conversations between adults and children, and modelling more sophisticated language to expand the child’s oral language skills and facilitate the development of abstract language.

In this project, Hanen LLLI was provided to nursery staff working in state-maintained nursery settings who were supporting children aged 3 – 4 years old. The delivery of Hanen LLLI was coordinated and provided by Communicate SLT CIC, a speech and language therapy services and training organisation based in the North-West of England and this activity, along with the evaluation, was funded by the EEF and Department for Education as part of the Early Years Professional Development Funding Round.

This programme was recommended for further evaluation by an EEF-funded review of Early Language interventions in 2017. The review highlighted three evaluations of Hanen LLLI which overall suggested promising findings of the impact of the programme on early years staff’s interactions with children and children’s language development. 

Originally, a randomised controlled efficacy trial studying the impact of Hanen LLLI on children’s language outcomes was planned. This would have been the largest trial of Hanen LLLI and the first implemented in England. However, mid-way through the trial, delivery was paused in March 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic. In the academic year 2020/21 activity resumed with the remaining programme content delivered over an additional 30 weeks. Unfortunately, continued Covid-19 disruption meant the training moved from in-person to online delivery and the impact evaluation was cancelled in March 2021.

Findings from the project therefore focus on the implementation and process evaluation (IPE). Overall, nursery staff reported that they had a very positive experience of Hanen LLLI. Nurseries reported greater confidence implementing strategies and awareness of the children’s different conversational styles, which made their teaching more responsive to children’s individual needs. Nursery staff thought the training had made them more reflective of their practice and improved peer-to-peer feedback at their setting. Nurseries felt that children had benefited from exposure to Hanen LLLI-trained staff. The majority of survey respondents agreed that exposure to the Hanen strategies had increased the amount of high-quality interactions between children and nursery staff, between children themselves and the number of child-initiated interactions. However, as the survey was not completed by nurseries in the control condition there are limits to the extent to which we can attribute the perceived outcomes to the Hanen LLLI intervention, as it is unclear if any changes are the result of Hanen LLLI or would have occurred irrespective of this.

As part of the Accelerator Fund we are re-starting an efficacy trial of the Hanen LLLI programme which will be provided to state-maintained and private, voluntary or independent (PVI)
nurseries between Sept 2022 – 23. We have also funded a pilot, ahead of the re-trial, to learn about the amended delivery model following feedback from the findings published on this page. See here for more information about both new LLLI projects.