The ‘common elements’ approach: improving outcomes in early childhood education

Researchers: Dr Aleisha Clarke | Dr Sara Baker ...

Project overview


This project will identify the common elements in effective early childhood education to support the development of children’s cognitive and social-emotional skills.

Quality early childhood education plays an important role in narrowing the educational attainment gap between economically disadvantaged children and their peers. It equips children with essential school skills, including cognitive, social and emotional skills which impact on their later-life outcomes. This project will identify the ‘common elements’ or practices of the most effective evidence-based early years programmes which do not have to be tied to a specific curriculum and are typically low-cost and easy to implement. These common elements can then be integrated into early years practitioners’ daily interactions with children.

The project will encompass two work packages: the first will be a review and synthesis of effective common elements, and the second will translate the research into actionable guidance for practitioners. The researchers will carry out a systematic search of evidence-based early childhood education programmes spanning the last 20 years. A coding framework will be developed to capture the skills each programme addresses and the pedagogical techniques used by each programme. Using this coded information, the researchers will identify common elements and explore the transferability of these practices, determining the structural elements that support quality implementation.

In the second work package, the researchers will collaborate with early years practitioners to create a user-friendly practitioner guide detailing common elements of effective practice. The guide will set out practices to support children’s skill development, how each practice should be implemented, and their expected outcomes. As well as consulting the project’s advisory board, the researchers will host focus groups with early years practitioners to ensure the guide is meaningful and easy for practitioners to use.

This research will create a database of the common elements of evidence-based early childhood education programmes. The findings will be disseminated in a policy brief, a public report, an academic paper and presentations at both academic and practitioner conferences.

Team


  • Dr Aleisha Clarke
    Early Intervention Foundation
  • Dr Sara Baker
    University of Cambridge
  • Tom McBride
    Early Intervention Foundation
  • Professor Paul Ramchandani
    University of Cambridge

  • Eleanor Ireland
    Programme Head, Education
    Nuffield Foundation

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We aim to improve people’s lives by funding research that informs social policy, primarily in Education, Welfare and Justice. We also fund student programmes that give young people skills and confidence in science and research.

We are an open, collaborative and engaged funder that offers more than money. Through connecting the individual projects we fund, we strengthen their collective impact and give voice to an overarching narrative.

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COVID-19 response

Nuffield-funded social scientists are conducting COVID-19 research in real-time, to capture people’s experiences of the social, cultural and economic impacts of the pandemic.