From Research to Practice

The goal of ExCELL is to bridge the research-to-practice gap. Research has identified effective instructional strategies that will help children develop language and literacy skills. ExCELL training supports teachers in learning these strategies and effectively implementing them in classrooms. ExCELL coaching provides the guidance and support that allows teachers to refine their practice and do what inspired them to become teachers—help children learn!

Through a series of randomized controlled trials (RCTs), ExCELL has been shown to increase teacher quality (as measured by the CLASS) and children’s vocabulary (as measured by standardized measures and project-specific measures).

All children need to develop foundational language and literacy skills to be successful in learning to read. ExCELL is a research-based program that trains teachers in evidence-based strategies to develop these skills in all children, including dual language learners.

Our Core Beliefs

ExCELL is built on the core beliefs that:​

  • Early language skills lay the foundation for literacy.
  • Literacy is essential for success in school—and life.
  • Instructional quality in early childhood matters for children’s success in school and beyond.
  • Teachers are professionals who can make an impact that lasts a lifetime.
  • Every child can develop strong language skills when provided quality instruction.
  • Home language is an academic, cultural, and personal asset.

Our Purpose

Research has revealed several instructional strategies that make measurable differences in young children’s language abilities. Yet, most teachers aren’t prepared to use evidence-based strategies for supporting early language in the classroom. This is why our team of researchers created ExCELL, a PD program that gives teachers the preparation and support they need.
The most valuable part of ExCELL is gaining the opportunity to identify with your students’ home language. Both students and teacher become learners as they both learn from each other.

Lead Teacher, NYC


Putting 20 Years of Research into Practice

More than 20 years ago, Dr. Barbara Wasik and Dr. Annemarie Hindman, who are experts in literacy development, instructional practices, and teacher training, along with Ms. Mary Alice Bond, a teacher, curriculum developer and master coach, collaborated to create a professional development program designed to bridge the research-to-practice gap. They worked closely with teachers while creating the program, using their input and feedback to continuously improve it. They called the program Exceptional Coaching for Early Language and Literacy (ExCELL).​

More than 10 years ago, Dr. Carol Scheffner Hammer joined the team, bringing her expertise on the language and literacy development of dual language learners. As a result, the ExCELL PD was expanded to support lead and assistant teachers in meeting the needs of bilingually developing children in their classrooms.

Randomized controlled trials (RCTs) of ExCELL (Wasik & Hindman, 2011; Wasik, Bond, & Hindman, 2006) and of components of ExCELL (Wasik & Hindman, 2020) were conducted in preschools serving high-poverty, diverse populations. The results of these RCTs are summarized below.

After ExCELL, I feel confident to speak more than one language in my classroom, and I know my students are benefiting from it.

Lead Teacher, NYC


The ExCELL Impact

ExCELL (and variations of ExCELL) has been evaluated through randomized controlled trials (RCTs) and the results consistently show:

Classroom Quality Improves

Increases Teacher-Student Interactions

ExCELL improves classroom quality by increasing teacher-student interactions. 

Teachers significantly increased: 

  • their classroom quality (e.g., effect size of 1.00 on the CLASS Instructional Support domain)
  • their use of key instructional strategies for early literacy, including:
    • defining words (effect size: 1.50)
    • asking open-ended questions (effect size: 1.60).

Children's Language Skills Increase

Accelerates Language Learning Across Demographic Groups

ExCELL improves language skills for all children.

  • Children learned 90% of the vocabulary words taught in the classroom.
  • Children made large gains (effect size =.77) on the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test, meaning that children learned words that were not explicitly taught.

Gains were observed for all children, including emerging multilingual learners (EMLs) and those with disabilities.

To date, ExCELL is the only PD for teachers of young children that focuses on EMLs and that has resulted in significant changes in teachers’ quality of language and literacy instruction and children’s outcomes.

Now my students who are DLLs are able to interact more and better. Students became more engaged in the learning, especially during the large group meeting and read-aloud, which they used to avoid before our experience with ExCELL.

Lead Teacher, NYC


Integrate the ExCELL Approach

ExCELL pairs well with many professional development programs. Looking to give your early literacy team a research-backed boost? Contact us!