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EIF report

Common elements: An innovative approach to improving children’s outcomes in early childhood education

This report summarises the process and findings of the ‘common elements’ review of evidence-based early childhood education programmes that led to the development of the Early Years Library resource for early years practitioners.




‘Common elements’ are the discrete practices, routines, strategies and behaviours that recur in multiple evidence-based programmes, and which can be integrated into practitioners’ daily interactions with children.

These strategies and techniques are not intended to replace evidence-based programmes, but instead they might be used to reach a wider group of children with effective practices.

Through this two-year project, in partnership with PEDAL (the Centre for Research on Play in Education, Development and Learning at the University of Cambridge) and supported by the Nuffield Foundation, we sought to take a transparent and systematic approach to identifying common elements associated with the most effective early childhood education programmes; and to develop, in consultation with practitioners, practical guidance on the practices, routines, strategies and behaviours that practitioners can use to support children’s skill development. This practical guidance has been completed and published as the Early Years Library.

This report sets out the common elements methodology and results, across three stages:

  1. identifying evidence-based early childhood education programmes
  2. extracting data and identifying common elements
  3. developing the Early Years Library.

About the author

Helen Burridge

Helen is a senior research officer at EIF.