Evidence Base for the Early Learning Languages Australia Preschool Program

The Early Learning Languages Australia (ELLA) preschool program’s design and implementation is underpinned by the findings of a number of independent evaluation and research reports.

The trial phases of ELLA over 2015-16 were independently evaluated by Deloitte Access Economics. To support the national delivery of the program in 2017, Deloitte Access Economics also conducted a demand modelling study on the potential uptake by preschool services of the ELLA program. An additional evaluation of the educational effectiveness of the ELLA preschool applications (apps) has been undertaken by Swinburne University of Technology.

The ELLA trial in schools for F-2 will be an exciting opportunity for schools to implement a language program using digital technology, without the need for language teachers to be available. An evaluation will occur over 2019-2020 to assess the effectiveness and outcomes of the schools trial.

2015 and 2016 ELLA trials evaluation, Deloitte Access Economics

The Evaluation of ELLA 2015 trial by Deloitte Access Economics demonstrates the success of the trial in 41 preschools with overwhelming positive feedback from educators and parents. This led to expanding the trial to nearly 300 preschool services participating in ELLA in 2016.

The evaluation looked at the trial’s design, implementation and delivery, as well as its efficiency and effectiveness for engagement.

Key outcomes from the evaluation are:

  • The trial has been successful in meeting its stated objectives of providing language and cultural exposure to preschool children, however full assessment of longer-term learning outcomes would require a more thorough longitudinal study.
  • Educators and parents were largely positive about the trial and mostly expressed a desire for the program to continue into the future.
  • There is significant scope for the program to be increasingly cost-effective with participation and uptake by a greater number of services.

The Evaluation of ELLA 2016 trial used a range of information sources, enabling a qualitative and quantitative evaluation approach. Building on Deloitte’s report on the 2015 ELLA trial, this report provides a comprehensive summary of the second stage of the ELLA implementation with the introduction of the Bring your Own Device (BYOD) participation model, analysis of ELLA usage data, review of educator support and resources, with input from educators and parents. There are a range of positive findings from educator and family responses, and considerations for the ongoing delivery of ELLA through the national expansion. 

Key outcomes from the 2016 evaluation are:

  • The ELLA apps have continued to show positive outcomes for preschool children in increasing language and cultural competence, as observed by educators and family.
  • Educators reiterated that the program supports them to meet requirements under the Early Learning Years Framework.
  • Educators have gained a positive outlook on the ELLA trial towards effective implementation of language learning and digital technology in the classroom.
  • There is scope for the program to further raise awareness of ELLA among participating families and to provide greater support to educators and disadvantaged services.

Also undertaken was a demand modelling study aimed at ascertaining preschools’ internet capacity; and their capabilities and attitudes towards digital technology, language learning and the ELLA program.

Key outcomes from the study are:

  • The sector appeared broadly ready to adopt the ELLA program; and up to 49% of preschool services are expected to take up the ELLA program by 2020. The factors most likely to increase the adoption of the ELLA program include the ELLA apps being available free of charge, the alignment with the Early Years Learning Framework, and awareness of screen time guidelines. 
  • Analysis of the demand survey found that the presence of digital technology was relatively widespread among survey respondents; most services either agreed or strongly agreed that tablets are effective educational tools (82%); educators were largely comfortable using digital technology as a learning tool (57%); and most respondents (75%) were ‘interested’ or ‘very interested’ in incorporating a language learning program at their service.

Evaluation of the ELLA apps, Swinburne University of Technology

The Evaluation of the ELLA apps by Swinburne University of Technology’s Babylab, includes scientific research to assess the educational quality of the ELLA apps through cognitive, behavioural and qualitative measures. This research examined the effectiveness of the ELLA apps in assisting young children learning a language and also included interviews with participating ELLA educators and families.

Key outcomes from the evaluation are:

  • Children using the ELLA apps demonstrated deeper, more consistent and engaged learning than did their peers using a Flash Card app in the same language.
  • Children using the ELLA apps developed an interest in, and awareness of, other cultures and languages.
  • ELLA apps have widespread benefits for all children involved, including those with language delays, hearing impairment and from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.