Abecedarian hits the Alice in a bid to boost NT early learning
The Sector > Quality > Professional development > Abecedarian hits the Alice in a bid to boost NT early learning

Abecedarian hits the Alice in a bid to boost NT early learning

by Freya Lucas

July 11, 2019

The Abecedarian Approach Australia (3A) training recently reached Alice Springs, with students at Centralian Senior College, many of whom are Early Years Rewarding Careers Trainees, benefited from 3A Practitioner training, in an adaptation of the American Abecedarian program.


The Abecedarian Approach was first implemented in a landmark study conducted in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, with 111 children born into extremely disadvantaged life circumstances, with the subsequent supports known as The Abecedarian Project.


The project centred on an intervention that involved intensive learning and social-emotional supports – starting in infancy and continuing until at least kindergarten entry – for children and their families.


The project sought to determine whether the provision of theory-based, active learning experiences could produce significant benefits in language and learning for children from highly impoverished, multi-risk families (who were known to be at risk for poor school achievement).


The broad program included playful interactions, enriched care, and stable relationships among children and adults. Rich language interactions were individualised, frequent and intentional throughout the day, and took place through all the common events of living and caregiving. 


The intention was to have a broad-spectrum educational approach, because much of the day for children under two years of age included eating, dressing, exploration, play, and dynamic interactions with adults. The approach emphasised the role of young children as active learners and the value of response-contingent feedback from the environment, and was devised into four key elements:


  • Language priority
  • LearningGames® 
  • Conversational reading 
  • Enriched caregiving


Since the original study, the Abecedarian Approach has been used successfully in centre-based care, home-visiting programs, family day care homes, and long day care settings. One such adaptation is the NT approach, known as Families as First Teachers, which has learning games which have been specifically designed for children growing up in the Northern Territory. 


The Year 11 students participating in the Early Years Rewarding Careers program receive scholarships, traineeships and VET course work for a period of eighteen months, as part of a program collectively developed by the Australian and Northern Territory governments, in recognition of the employment challenges faced in the sector, in addition to continual challenges to meet the criteria of the National Quality Framework


Local news source, the NT News, reported that some of those attending the session are completing a Certificate III in early childhood education and care (ECEC), and some are completing traineeships, working in schools and early childhood centres and also studying.


Chloe Daniels, who is currently undertaking her Certificate III through Child Australia told the NT News that the training was grounding saying “this brings you back to focusing on the child and putting the child’s needs first so it’s been really good for me because I feel like I get really distracted sometimes and I forget that the children actually need to come first.”


Abecedarian leader, Jacqui Wharam, noted that the effectiveness of the training lay in both the theory and the practice, saying “it’s well known that the biggest impact comes from individual, intentional, frequent interactions with children, and what 3A does is give strategies to make sure you’re able to do that in a classroom setting”. 


“The attendees will be incredible early year’s educators and if they stay in Alice Springs then the children and families will benefit significantly because they really understand the importance of interacting with children,” Ms Wharam said. 

For more information about the Abecedarian approach in Australia, please see here. The original coverage, as sourced from the NT News may be accessed here. 

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