Murdoch researcher to investigate impact of NAPLAN on schools

February 28, 2012

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.

Dr Greg Thompson from the School of Education hopes the findings of his research will influence future education policy and is urging teachers to take part.

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:

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.

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Comments (2 responses)

Robert Thomas April 4, 2012

NAPLAN – After some 30 years teaching, NAPLAN is just expensive overt political meddling to keep the bureaucrats happy. Nothing has changed since WALNA or with the change to NAPLAN. Save the money, employ more teachers, reduce class sizes especially in Primary and address the real problems. With all the political intervention and pandering to the ‘needs’ of business, it is about time the profession of teaching was elevated and genuinely respected. As for the school league tables – NAPLAN is shallow and insincere.
Bring on Gonski.

david April 15, 2012

well how's this for a grenade, robert, the simple fact is that education is as much a work commodity today as it was at the time of the industrial revolution. the value of education is to produce people able to work in situations where they couldn't have worked before. education is not per se a valuable commodity.. Art, for example, is not intrinsically a valuable work outcome, sure the factories built in the 30s were iconic architectural statements, but did they contribute more to the worker on the shop floor?. it is surely the needs of business that have always driven educational reforms.

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