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Is Common Language effective? There are two phases to the evaluation. In the first phase, data is collected by Dartington on outputs - the extent to which ideas are turned into practical tools and the extent to which the outputs are tried in real world situations - and  outcomes - the effect of the work on child well-being and, as a mechanism to achieve that goal, the impact on policy, services and practice. The results are summarised in the table below, which is updated regularly.

If aspirations are met, the second phase will involve Common Language being taken away from Dartington to be independently validated and evaluated, with the primary focus constituting impact on child well-being. A start has been made in this direction by planning the glossary of terms and database of emerging practice as a 'wiki', a website that allows visitors to add, remove, edit and change content.

At present, good progress is being made in Phase one. Most of the modules are now prepared. Common language is a stated policy objective in England and there are indications of similar progress in other countries. There is significant use of Common Language methods and good examples of impact on policy, services and practice. Although new ways of thinking and behaving are arduous for practitioners, levels of user satisfaction with Common Language materials are high. However, there is limited evidence of impact on child outcomes and none of the experimental evaluations of the services designed using Common Language are completed.


Products of the Common Language
  Outputs Use Outcomes
Lectures 60 lectures on core concepts and applications of Common Language produced Primarily used in Ireland and England as part of wider development work

Common language is a stated policy objective in England and, arguably, in Ireland


There is significant use of the materials and reasonable indication of impact on policy (for example investments in prevention in Ireland), interventions (for example new services designed using Common Language) and practice


There is plenty of evidence of high satisfaction with the materials on the part of the policy-makers and practitioners who use them


There is limited evidence of impact on child outcomes and none of the experimental evaluations of services designed using Common Language are completed

Practice Tools Seven Practice Tools published, two in press and two more planned Several thousand sold, used in over 40 sites in Europe, North America and Australia
Glossary of terms Glossary of terms prepared as database - to become interactive wiki by end of 2007

98 entries

979 hits

Training programme 10 of 15 modules for the training pack prepared Used to train 200 staff in Barnardos, a leading children's charity in Ireland
Research curriculum 30 day training programme prepared Used to train three students who have completed doctoral studies and another nine whose studies continue
Web materials Databases of effective practice and emerging practice available and regularly updated (completion end of 2007)

28 effective service entries

11 emerging service entries

The following documents evaluate the implementation and effectiveness of aspects of the Common Language work from the perspective of Dartington and others:

Axford, N., Berry, V., Little, M. and Morpeth, L. (2006) 'Developing a common language in children's services through research-based inter-disciplinary training', Social Work Education 25 (2), 161-176.

Axford, N., Berry, V., Bullock, R., Little, M., Madge, J., Morpeth, L. and Mount, K. (2007) ‘Research-based practice tools to improve child welfare services in England: using the Going Home practice tool to support the effective reunification of families’, in Chaskin, R. J. and Rosenfeld, J. M. (Eds) From Social Research to Social Action, Oxford, Oxford University Press.

Bullock, R., Gooch, D., Little, M. and Mount, K. (1998) Research in Practice: experiments in development and information design, Aldershot, Ashgate.

Dartington Social Research Unit (2004) 'Experiments in Using Practice Tools to Disseminate Research', in Klockner, C. and Paetzel, U. (eds) Kindheitsforschung und kommunale Praxis: Praxisnahe Erkenntnisse aus der aktuellen Kindheitsforschung, Wiesbaden, VS-Verlag.

Little, M. Bullock, R., Madge, J. and Arruabarrena, I. (2002) 'How to Develop Needs-Led, Evidence-Based Services', MCC Building Knowledge for Integrated Care, 10, (3), 28-32.

Melamid, E. and Brodbar, G. (2003) 'Matching Needs and Services: an assessment tool for community-based service systems', Child Welfare, 82, (4), 397-412.

Taylor, K. (2005) 'Understanding communities today: using Matching Needs and Services to assess community needs and design community-based services', Child Welfare 84 (2), 251-264.