Speaking of starting school : Investigating key perspectives on children's oral language development in the first year of school

Prof Doc Thesis

Tate, Deirdre. (2022). Speaking of starting school : Investigating key perspectives on children's oral language development in the first year of school [Prof Doc Thesis]. Australian Catholic University Institute for Learning Sciences and Teacher Education https://doi.org/10.26199/acu.8xz91
AuthorsTate, Deirdre
TypeProf Doc Thesis
Qualification nameDoctor of Education

Considerable research has identified sound oral language skills as a critical component of children’s literacy learning, mental health, social competence and emotional wellbeing. This study addresses the problem of inadequate levels of oral language development in children beginning formal schooling. There has long been a recognition that early oral language development is linked to children’s future development and success. There have been calls from education and health professionals, politicians and international organisations for increased access to preschool for all children, improvements in the quality of childcare received before the commencement of formal schooling, alignments in transition processes as children begin formal schooling, early identification of children’s language difficulties, and various interventions aimed at improving parent knowledge and teacher pedagogy. So why is inadequate oral language development as children enter formal schooling still presenting as a problem?

Combining Vygotsky’s view of the critical role of the proximal adult to the child’s development with Bronfenbrenner’s positioning of the child within proximal processes and nested systems, and adding Bandura’s self-efficacy theories, this research focuses on the people who have the greatest and most immediate daily effect on children’s oral language development: parents and teachers.

Parent and teacher perspectives are crucial components of change, as their actions have the most effect on developing oral language as children transition into and through the first year of formal schooling. Parent and teacher perspectives are pivotal in implementing and/or ameliorating any institutional or societal factors or initiatives that affect oral language development. Parents’ and teachers’ knowledge, understanding and perceived efficacy to support children’s oral language development provide a critical link between policy and practice. Identifying confluences and differences in their perspectives forms the basis for evidence-based theorisation of the importance of a shared understanding of key stakeholders’ perspectives on children’s optimal oral language development.

This study’s findings indicate a strong agreement of views among parents and teachers on the importance of oral language in early childhood, with both groups seeing that parents have the greatest effect on children’s developing oral language skills in the early years. However, both sets of participants expressed a perceived lack of knowledge to adequately support children’s oral language. Recurrent themes of a perceived lack of time, perceived negative effects of digital devices, perceived paucity of specialist support and concerns about children’s social competence all appeared to influence parents’ and teachers’ sense of agency in addressing the problem of low-level oral language development in the first year of school.

KeywordsBandura; Bronfenbrenner; children; development; early years; home learning environment; literacy; oral language; parent perspective; social skills; teacher perspective; Vygotsky
PublisherAustralian Catholic University
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.26199/acu.8xz91
Page range1-370
Final version
All rights reserved
File Access Level
Supplementary Files (Layperson Summary)
File Access Level
Output statusPublished
Publication dates
Online04 Jul 2022
Publication process dates
Completed27 Feb 2022
Deposited04 Jul 2022
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