ECV2020 Keynote Speaker 4

MQTaLK! A research story in the making

Sheila Degotardi, Macquarie University, Australia (

Biography: Sheila Degotardi is a Professor of early childhood education, and the Deputy Head: Research at the Macquarie University School of Education. Her research and teaching work seeks to understand infant-toddler pedagogies and learning in early childhood settings through a relationship lens. Since 2014, this has led her to concentrate on the power of talk and language-rich interactions as ‘tools for learning’, culminating in the most recent project Language for learning (MQTaLK): Developing learning-oriented talk in long day care.


Background: In 2017, a team of Macquarie University researchers (Sheila Degotardi, Mridula Sharma, Naomi Sweller, Emilia Djonov and Sandra Cheeseman) were awarded the one of the largest ever ARC Discovery grants to investigate the longitudinal implications of infants’ language environment for their subsequent language development. 

Aim: In this presentation, Sheila will tell the unfolding story of this grant.

Method: She will explain the research and questions that instigated the project and identifying how gaps in this research were addressed in the MQTaLK project design. She will also explain how the project strives to work closely in collaboration with early childhood centres in order to maximise the success of the project.

Results: The project has experienced successes and challenges, producing a research story that, in the current world, is continuously evolving. The themes of reflexivity, flexibility and resilience run constantly through the narrative, producing a research story with a twisting plot and an unpredictable ending.

Conclusions: It is hoped that the MQTaLK story will present opportunities to for others to reflect on the ‘real world’ day-to-day decision making and organisation that accompanies a project of this scale.  

Implications for children: You learn about lots of things at your early childhood centre, and researchers are interested to find out more about how your ideas and how your educators help you to learn. 

Implications for families: You play a critical role in your child’s early learning. By allowing researchers to understand how you and your educators talk to interact with your child, you are helping to ensure that all children get the best start in life.  

Implications for practitioners: Your work is complex and challenging. Our researchers are grateful to you for incorporating us into your busy lives at the centre, and want to work with you to create the best learning opportunities for our youngest children. 

Funding: Australian Research Council DP180102114

Key words: children’s voices, professionals’ voices, early language, communication, research methods, policy

This presentation relates to the following United Nations Sustainable Development Goals: