A Murdoch University researcher has won funding to investigate the positive and negative impacts of the National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) on school communities in Western Australia and South Australia.
A website featuring a survey on NAPLAN will soon be available for individuals in school communities to record their reactions and Dr Thompson is keen for as many teachers to respond as possible to ensure he is able to compile evidence to make useful recommendations.
“NAPLAN was introduced into the education system in 2008 so that governments, education authorities, schools and communities could determine whether or not young Australians were meeting important educational outcomes,” explained Dr Thompson.
“It was hoped that NAPLAN would improve transparency and educational quality but despite all the money thrown into the system to support it, results do not appear to have improved. Some reports suggest NAPLAN may have actually polarised and alienated different elements of school communities.
“The survey will allow the people who understand the NAPLAN policy best to tell their stories. The voices of teachers should be heard as they have a unique position from which to reflect on the impact of NAPLAN on their classes and schools.
“I want to find out what the experiences are of NAPLAN within schools. The survey will be asking whether it is increasing teacher and pupil stress; whether it is forcing teachers to spend time away from other curriculum areas; and what impact it is having on the relationship between parents, teachers and principals.
“I am looking for both the positive and negative responses. Has it improved funding for schools which need extra support? Has it allowed parents make more informed decisions about the education their children receive?”
Dr Thompson said the experience in other countries of high stakes testing similar to NAPLAN had not been as positive as anticipated.
“In the UK, their experience of putting the emphasis on literacy and numeracy testing has created negative work experiences for teachers which have in turn impacted on pupils. Unfortunately, the desire to improve the education system can actually make it worse,” he said.
“I’m hoping that my findings will have traction at policy level in Australia. I would like to think that there are lots of people in school communities who will want their voices to be heard on this subject.”
Dr Thompson said he is hoping for the first set of survey findings and analysis to be available on his website by September. “This year’s NAPLAN tests finish in May and the survey, which opens in April, will close in June. This will give feedback to participants and their school communities in a timely fashion. In 2013 and 2014 the survey results will be used as the basis of fieldwork in specific school sites.”
Dr Thompson’s website can be found here: www.effectsofnaplan.edu.au.
He is also offering a PhD scholarship to a researcher who can help with the project. For more details, email Dr Thompson.
His three year research project is being funded by a $375,000 grant from the Australian Research Council Discovery Early Career Researcher Award.