A better NAPLAN?

There could be changes made to make the testing more valuable says Curtin Assoc Prof Karen Murcia.
May 10, 2022
Simple changes to make the test more valuable.

The testing began this month and the controversy around NAPLAN is still very evident.

There is nothing wrong with the motivations for the testing per se but whether it could be done in a more valuable and informative way is still a legitimate question.

“By comparing past trends in the data, to this year’s test results, we may gain some insight into the impact of covid on students’ achievement. It will provide a snapshot of students’ learning as demonstrated by their test performance on the given day and, when balanced with teachers’ ongoing observations and formative assessments, could contribute insight into individual students learning achievement and development,” says Associate Professor Karen Murcia, from Curtin’s School of Education.

Although NAPLAN aims to identify students not meeting minimum national benchmarks trends in the test data have shown no improvement for those disadvantaged students.

And with exams, regular assessments and school work on top of that there is a danger of some testing fatigue developing among students.

“Test participation has declined over the years. There is an increasing number of students who are not valuing NAPLAN or seeing any value in the information it provides about their learning needs or achievement.

“There has been concern expressed by some parents about their children showing test anxiety and the impact that this could have on their future schooling and engagement with testing,” Assoc Prof Murcia says.

Online tailored testing could help address students’ engagement and feelings of success as they are progressing through a NAPLAN test and by bringing NAPLAN forward in the school year, test data could potentially be used to inform teaching and provide more time and opportunities to strengthen student learning.

“A responsive, tailored online test is a better tool for identifying the diversity evident amongst groups of students achieving at the same level. For example, teachers will be better able to see the diversity amongst the group of “high -achievers” or those “still-developing” certain concepts and potentially differentiate their teaching to meet specific children’s learning needs.

“Online tests are simultaneously marked so children’s results could be made available more quickly to teachers, parents, and the child. Hence children needing support can seek help sooner,” Murcia says.

“Testing later in the year could encourage the narrowing of the taught curriculum as the misplaced pressure on teachers may result in some only teaching to the test. Students’ opportunities for rich immersive and deep learning would be lost if they are being trained to perform on a single test administered on a given day,” she says.

Whole conducting testing earlier in the year could also fit better with schools’ cycles of critical reflection and improvement planning.

Image by Olya Kobruseva