If you ask any audience if NAPLAN is good and effective, and then insist on justification for the answers, you will be bombarded with a plethora of diverse views.
The negative comments will mostly be in relation to student’s anxiety and stress and reflect perceptions on how the students will feel while doing the test, and how they would view the results and outcome thereof. Does this justify removing the testing or should we consider the benefits and help students to cope with the experience?
Life is full of tests. Some we do for fun; others we do knowing that outcomes have serious implications. Computer games are those we often do for enjoyment and children of all ages enjoy being engaged in this way. These games are often in the form of challenges which is a bit like tests too. They are normally leveled according to a set off competency expectations and rules. The concept of this kind of gaming is so popular that it is even used in educational games such as Reading Eggs, Nessie and Accelerated Reader. The only consequence to these games seems to be a reward of recognition of achievement and improvement. It provides the incentive to spend more time on the activity, to deliberately face more challenges, and to improve skills in the hope to do better next time. Children get hooked into such games and it can keep them focused for hours.
Tests that have more serious consequences come later in life, but we need to realise that children will need to be prepared for this inevitable fact. Already by the end of Secondary schooling they will need to provide evidence of a specified level of Literacy and Numeracy competency. Failing to do so they will not be able to get a Year 12 certificate. It they want to go to University they will need to sit an exam to attain an appropriate ATAR score. Any qualification has some kind of standardized testing linked to it.
I know NAPLAN is not the same as gaming. There are no instant rewards and students don’t feel they have a choice. NAPLAN does not include fierce and interesting creatures that they need to overcome and conquer, and Numeracy and Literacy are not high on the list of fun, but maybe we can see some of the principles at work. If we highlight these we might help students see NAPLAN in a different light. In the Primary years writing NAPLAN could feel a little stressful, but the outcome has no negative impact. You don’t fail anything, you don’t lose anything, you just get a score, secret to all but your family and teachers, the people that will be interested to know where you are at so that they could help you get to the next level. All students that have done NAPLAN before (Year 5 and up) will be able to track their own improvement and should feel encouraged to see progress.
In the Bible, Rom. 5:2-5 it states that testing produces perseverance, perseverance character and character hope. It feels good to achieve, to overcome or to conquer.
This coming week during PITCH morning tea Kirrily Donoghoe will provide more information on NAPLAN reading. Join us in the conference room at 9:00 Tuesday 14 May.
Mrs Antionette Wilson