Testing a Research-Based Digital Learning Tool

Chinese EFL Children’s Linguistic Development


  • Hee Jin Bang Age of Learning, Inc.
  • Kirsten Olander Age of Learning, Inc.
  • Erin Lenihan Age of Learning, Inc.




foreign language learning, English language learning, digital language learning activities, young Chinese learners


This study examines the English language learning outcomes of young Chinese L1 children when using a digital self-guided learning tool, ABCmouse English, created by Age of Learning, Inc. and designed based on principles of second language research. In a pretest, posttest study design, experiment group participants used the digital learning tool to engage in English language learning activities for 15–20 minutes daily for six months while a control group used a comparable digital tool to do online math activities for an equivalent amount of time. Results showed that experiment group learners demonstrated significantly greater English language gains than control group peers. Data from parent surveys support these results, shedding light on children’s overall engagement in the activities, and providing information about their motivation and confidence levels in English. Findings show that the research-based digital language learning activities in ABCmouse English were effective at promoting learning in this population, supporting the idea that teachers and parents can use tools like this to help younger learners develop English language skills in English as a Foreign Language contexts like China.

Author Biographies

Hee Jin Bang, Age of Learning, Inc.

Hee Jin Bang, PhD, serves as the Director of Efficacy Research and Evaluation and acted as lead author throughout, coordinating all aspects of the paper, including the review and revision process. Dr. Bang’s areas of expertise include evaluation of educational programs, second language acquisition, and education of English Language Learners. She holds a PhD in Education (New York University), MEd in Human Development and Psychology (Harvard University), and BA Honors in Linguistics and French (University of Oxford).

Kirsten Olander, Age of Learning, Inc.

Kirsten Olander, Research Assistant for Efficacy Research and Evaluation, coordinated all communication with partners in China and provided invaluable support in data management and literature review. Kirsten received her BA in Psychology (UCLA) and is planning to pursue her doctorate in Psychology focusing on environmental factors that shape resilience in children.

Erin Lenihan, Age of Learning, Inc.

Erin Lenihan, Senior Director of ELL Curriculum and Design led the development of the ABCmouse ELL curriculum, bringing over a decade of experience in international teaching, curriculum development, and teacher training. Erin holds an MSE in Curriculum and Instruction: Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) (University of Kansas) and Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) certification (UC Irvine).


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How to Cite

Bang, H. J., Olander, K., & Lenihan, E. (2020). Testing a Research-Based Digital Learning Tool: Chinese EFL Children’s Linguistic Development. CALICO Journal, 37(3), 277–308. https://doi.org/10.1558/cj.40544