Effective Early Education Experiences - E4Kids Study

The Effective Early Education Experiences for Kids - or E4Kids - is Australia’s largest research project into early childhood education and care.

This landmark national study will guide the Victorian Government on future early childhood policy decisions.

The E4Kids study was funded by the Australian Research Council in partnership with the Victorian Department of Education and Training.

How does it work?

The study was conducted by the University of Melbourne and Queensland University of Technology, with funding support from the Australian Research Council, and the Victorian and Queensland governments.

The study gathered information about more than 2500 children aged three and four living in Victoria and Queensland. The children attended early childhood services like long day care and kindergarten, and were tracked through to Year 3.

These children were compared to another group who did not attend formal early childhood services before school, to measure the effectiveness of Australia’s early childhood education and care programs.

Researchers investigated:

  • the importance of quality early childhood experiences
  • the effect of growing up in disadvantaged circumstances
  • what types of programs had the greatest benefit.

What did it find?

The E4Kids study provides strong evidence that the quality of educator-child interactions makes a real difference to child outcomes.

E4Kids researchers used the Classroom Assessment Scoring System to rate early childhood education and care services against three quality domains:

  • emotional support
  • room organisation - that facilitates learning and participation in a range of stimulating activities
  • instructional support - also referred to as intentional teaching.

Summary of findings

The study found that early childhood services in Australia are generally better at providing emotional support to children and organising the learning space than they are at intentional teaching.

Emotional support

Levels found: High and moderately high

Room organisation that facilitates learning and participation in stimulating activities

Levels found: Moderate

Instructional support (intentional teaching)

Levels found: Low

The findings suggests a need to strengthen intentional teaching practices to better support children’s learning in early childhood services and the early years of school. This was a particular issue for children living in disadvantaged neighbourhoods, where families generally struggled to access high quality early children education and care services.

Services where educators and service directors were more highly qualified tended to provide better quality intentional teaching.

The study also found that kindergartens generally rated higher in terms of the quality of care and learning compared to long day and family day care settings.

It should be noted that the study started in 2010 before the implementation of the National Quality Agreement, National Quality Framework and the approved learning frameworks including the Victorian Early Years Learning and Development Framework.

These reforms may have lifted quality in early childhood education and care and the findings must be viewed within this context. As these frameworks all guide practice towards a greater focus on intentional teaching, educators are working towards implementing intentional teaching more effectively in their programs.

What is intentional teaching?

Intentional teaching is an element of the Victorian Early Years Learning and Development Framework Practice Principle, Integrated Teaching and Learning Approaches. Early childhood professionals use intentional teaching strategies that are always purposeful, and may be pre-planned or spontaneous, to support achievement of well-considered and identified goals.

In the E4Kids study intentional teaching is called instructional support. In its broadest sense intentional teaching includes:

  • promoting an understanding of everyday concepts through analysing, creating, and integrating previous knowledge connected to the child’s real world
  • having back and forth exchanges with children that feature scaffolding, giving encouragement and affirmation
  • probing children’s thinking and providing information
  • modelling language through frequent conversations, open-ended questions, the use of advanced vocabulary and language, repetitions and extensions, and self and parallel talk.

The Early Years Planning Cycle supports educators to discover what children know, can do and understand. Educators assess children’s learning in order to plan and implement strategies and environments that support intentional teaching opportunities and scaffold and extend children’s learning and development.

To strengthen intentional teaching, educators need to critically reflect on each element of the planning cycle to ensure their assessment of children’s progress informs their teaching and learning approaches.

The E4Kids study observed the teaching practice in the rooms rather than looking at the cycle of assessment and planning that supports an educator’s practice.

Where to next?

This landmark national study will guide the Victorian Government on future early childhood policy decisions, including informing the Education State Early Childhood Development Reform Plan.

It represents an important step in Victoria’s journey from an undervalued early childhood sector to one that gives all children the best chance to thrive and prosper in education and life.

Funding for future programs and reforms to support the findings of this report will be considered as part of the usual budget process.

More information

For more information on E4Kids and intentional teaching, refer to:

For a range of professional learning opportunities including scholarships and approved learning frameworks, refer to:

For more information on Victorian kindergartens and early childhood education and care services, refer to: