ACU’s Pedagogical Play Framework and associated apps integrate play-based pedagogy and intentional teaching to resolve a conceptual conflict in play-based learning models. It has spread across the early childhood sector nationally, as the central design concept in the Early Learning Languages Australia (ELLA) apps.

The ELLA program is a major part of the Australian Government’s commitment to language study for children. It has been delivered to preschools since 2017 and received further funding in the 2018/19 budget. The program is being trialled with foundation to year 2 students between 2019 and 2021.

Professor Susan Edwards, Director of Early Childhood Futures at ACU’s Institute for Learning Sciences and Teacher Education, worked on the project which grew from an ARC Discovery Project on play-based learning in early childhood. She investigated whether children could learn sustainability knowledge through open-ended play alone.

The framework has been adapted to other knowledge areas such as STEM education and is recommended by a UNESCO report to support sustainability skills learning internationally. The ELLA apps are federally funded by the Department of Education and Training ($9.8 million).

“We were approached by Education Services Australia, the organisation developing the ELLA apps to help make them more play-based,” Professor Edwards said.

“The framework enables early childhood educators to integrate open-ended play with modelled and purposefully-framed play as a form of intentional teaching. This occurs by integrating the three play types in multiple combinations within any given interaction they have with a child. The interactions can be in the moment with children, planned for over the day, or embedded into a weekly program or longer period of study.”
Professor Susan Edwards
Director, Early Childhood Futures, Institute for Learning Sciences and Teacher Education

Using the framework, the ELLA project developed second language learning apps for children in early childhood settings in seven languages—Mandarin, Indonesian, French, Italian, Greek, Arabic and Japanese and later added Spanish, Modern Greek and Hindi.

Independent evaluation by Deloitte Access awarded the apps the highest possible score for ‘best-practice’ in play-based learning, and Swinburne University’s BabyLab also evaluated them and found evidence they increased children’s language learning.

Visit the Early Learning Languages Australia website

Lead researchers 

Professor Susan Edwards

Director, Early Childhood Futures, Institute for Learning Sciences and Teacher Education

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Professor Joce Nuttall

Program Director, Early Childhood Futures, Institute for Learning Sciences and Teacher Education

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Impact summary

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Engagement and impact assessment 2018

ACU submitted this research as an Impact study in the 2018 ARC Engagement and Impact (EI) assessment. The research received the rank of 'High', meaning the impact made a highly significant contribution to economy, society, environment, or culture, beyond the contribution to academic research.

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