NAPLAN – no worries. Transforming NAPLAN thinking

Year: 2016

Author: Barblett, Lennie, Robinson, Ken, Rogers, Shane, Gorman, Ron

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Concerns have been raised about the impact Australia’s national standardised testing, the National Assessment Program-Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN), may have upon the wellbeing of students, parents and teachers. We present a study of Year 3 and Year 5 students, their parents, their teachers and leaders of 11 Independent Schools in Western Australia which sought to describe the level and extent of emotional distress associated with NAPLAN reading and mathematics. A survey developed for the study included measures of self-reported emotional distress, worry, confidence, high stakes beliefs, and attitudes associated with the testing. Our findings suggested that there was lower than expected negative impact on wellbeing from the testing in our sample across all surveyed groups. Interviews with the school leaders revealed that the sample schools all placed a strong emphasis on social and emotional wellbeing of children supported by their school communities, providing a possible explanation for our somewhat surprising results. Although the extent of emotional distress is less than we expected, children who reported that they were moderately to highly distressed performed less well on NAPLAN. The results show that the distress associated with NAPLAN is not extensive, but is still concerning. It is important to note that confidence was found to act as a buffer against emotional distress during testing. Although there was a generally low level of distress, parents and teachers considered that NAPLAN transparency and accountability, usefulness for individual students, and clarity of communication of results could be improved. We provide recommendations for how emotional distress can be minimized during NAPLAN, and how the profile of the testing could be improved with parents and teachers.