NAPLAN, socially just? Children’s drawn responses to NAPLAN testing

Year: 2019

Author: Barblett, Lennie, Roberts, Pauline

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

The National Assessment Program for Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) was introduced into Australian schools in 2008. Children in Years 3, 5, 7 and 9 complete tests in Reading, Writing, Language Conventions and Numeracy in May each year. While this testing process is described by the Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) as low-stakes, concerns have been raised regarding the impact on the wellbeing of all stakeholders, school curriculum and teaching practices. An additional concern is that of equity and the impact on children from minority cultures. One study into the effects of NAPLAN testing in Western Australia focused on wellbeing of principals, staff, parents and children as well as early years perspectives and and stakeholders in remote community schools. As part of this longitudinal, multi-site study, children in Years 3, and 5 were surveyed on their response to the testing process. The survey was implemented in the weeks after NAPLAN and the children were able to respond on Likert scales about their emotional response to both the reading and the maths sections of the testing regime. The last page of the survey asked the children to “write or draw anything [they] think about NAPLAN”. It is these drawings that are the focus of this presentation. Drawings enabled the children’s perspectives to be represented in a multimodal option and allowed for a wider diversity of emotions to be incorporated. The images or text provided were analysed by year level across four independent iterations and coded by three researchers as positive, negative or neutral. Across the year levels and the rounds of implementation of the survey, it was identified that there was an overall mix of positive and negative responses displayed within the images. Generally, gender or culture did not appear to impact on the perceptions of NAPLAN but there were more negative images among the Year 5 students than the Year 3’s. Even though there was an overall majority of balance of responses to the tests, there were some individual images that were disturbing and this is a concern. The examination of these images provides a strong case for consideration of the impact of NAPLAN testing and begs the questions is NAPLAN socially just?