A Randomized Controlled Trial of an At-Scale Language and Literacy Intervention in Childcares in Denmark

Publication: Research - peer-reviewConference abstract for conference

  • Anders Højen
  • Dorthe Bleses
  • Laura Justice
    Laura JusticeOhio State University, ColombusUnited States
  • Philip S. Dale
    Philip S. DaleUniversity of Mexico, AlbuquerqueUnited States
Research suggests that systematic and explicit curriculum-based language and literacy preschool interventions improve children’s language and literacy outcomes. However, most of this research was done in the U.S. on a relatively small number of children from primarily low-income homes and focused on efficacy rather than “real-life” effectiveness at scale.
We evaluated a systematic and explicit language-literacy intervention (“SPELL”) at scale, including all children in the participating childcares in Denmark, a country with little focus on school-readiness-related skills. The intervention consisted of 40 high-quality book-reading lessons with an explicit scope and sequence of language and literacy instruction targeting phonological awareness, print awareness, vocabulary and narrative development. Childcare educators delivered 40 30-minute biweekly lessons.
We examined the effect of the intervention in three arms: SPELL-basic, SPELL with supplementary home intervention, and SPELL with professional development of educators. Pre- and posttest scores were obtained using a standardized language and literacy test. Hierarchical linear modeling of change scores was the primary analysis. 142 childcares and 6,483 children participated.
Pre- to posttest comparisons revealed a significant impact of all three interventions for pre-literacy skills (ES = 0.21-0.27) but not language skills (ES = 0.04-0.16) with little differentiation among the three arms. Fidelity, indexed by number of lessons delivered (exposure), was a significant predictor of most outcomes. The effect did not differ significantly across subgroups defined by socioeconomic factors or being a dual language learner, although dual language learners gained relatively more from extra exposure. The results suggest that 1) language and literacy interventions can be effective in a pedagogical context quite different from that of the U.S., where most previous research was conducted, and 2) interventions that were proven effective in more controlled efficacy trials can successfully be taken at scale.
Original languageDanish
Publication year20 Jul 2017
StatePublished - 20 Jul 2017
Event - Lyon, France


ConferenceInternational Congress for the Study of Child Language
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