Empowering staff to enhance language in the early years

17th November 2020 : 17:00 - 18:15

Category: Webinar

Speaker: Professor Julie Dockrell (UCL Institute of Education) and Dr Sandra Mathers (University of Oxford)

Location: Microsoft Teams Live

Audience: Public



Language in preschool predicts literacy and wider outcomes at school entry which in turn predict later school achievement. However, many children – particularly those from disadvantaged homes – start school without the language skills they need, with consequences for their long-term life trajectories. Talking Time is a universal preschool oral language programme based on structured small-group activities, designed to foster children’s comprehension, vocabulary, narrative and higher-order language skills. Through a recent grant funded by the Nuffield Foundation, the programme has been extended to include a comprehensive and extended professional development programme for early years practitioners, focusing on developing their language-related knowledge, skills and behaviours. This talk will present an overview of the background and rationale behind the Talking Time programme, and summarise research work to date.

About the speakers

Julie Dockrell (FRCSLT, FAcSS) is Professor of Psychology and Special Needs at the UCL, Institute of Education and qualified as both a clinical and educational psychologist. Her research interests are in patterns of language development and the ways in which oral language skills impact on children’s learning, interaction and attainments. A central theme in this research has been the application of evidence based research to support children’s learning. She has led projects on language development funded by the DfE, ESRC, EPSRC, Nuffield Foundation and Leverhulme trust. She has published in a wide range of journals and written books and book chapters on language development and language difficulties. She was a previous editor of the British Journal of Educational Psychology, associate editor for JSLHR, Learning and Instruction, IJLCD, First language and Child Language Teaching and Therapy. She was a co-director of the Better Communication Research Programme, UK. She is currently PI on a research programme examining universal language support for nursery aged children in areas of social disadvantage and the Key to oral language. She is Co-I on the GCRF Action against stunting hub and the Nuffield funded teaching grammar programme.

Dr. Sandra Mathers is a Senior Researcher in the Child Development and Learning Group within the Department of Education at Oxford. Her research focuses on early childhood education and care, specifically on how we can best promote high-quality interactions between adults and children. She has developed several early interventions designed to enhance children’s oral language skills through improvements in the quality of preschool practice and the home language environment. She is particularly interested in the development of adult (teachers and parents) knowledge, skills and behaviour – for example through continuing professional development.