What is the utility of National Assessment Program Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) for teachers and members of the school leadership team in informing teaching and improving learning? An investigation into issues of impact, access and data use.

Year: 2019

Author: Jackson, Christine

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Internationally, assessment and the use of diagnostic data are recognised as critical capabilities for teachers. The focus of this study examines whether school leaders[1] [#_ftn1] and teachers access and use NAPLAN data to inform teaching and improve learning. Utilisation of diagnostic data is not a recent development, with assessment playing a significant role in informing learning and learners (Broadfoot, 2007, Rowntree, 1996) and “[serving] as a communicative device between the world of education and that of the wider society” (Broadfoot & Black, 2004, p. 9). Assessment is identified as a key competency in Australia, recognised through the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers, specifying the need for teachers to demonstrate their capacity to interpret student and assessment data and use this information to “…modify their teaching practice” (AITSL, 2016, p. 9).

This qualitative study examined 68 interview transcripts from school leaders and teachers, utilising a theoretical framework drawing on the conceptualisation of assessment as a social practice (Broadfoot & Black, 2004, Elwood & Murphy, 2015), with Wenger’s (1998) social theory of learning and nature of knowledge as a shared enterprise in a community of practice. The study explores whether teachers are legitimate participants, from the viewpoint of common power relationships (school leaders and teachers) as part of a social structure within a community of practice (Lave & Wenger, 1991).

The results of this study present valuable insights into how staff access and use data as part of next-step teaching and found that access to NAPLAN data resides predominantly with school leaders, with most teachers not given direct access. It was found that the utility of the data resided predominantly with school leaders who saw their role as experts with their analysis accepted as ‘truth’ by teachers.

The findings in this study highlight issues of access and have implications for teachers’ data literacy and next step teaching. There is a need for greater stewardship in the building of school cultures of data literacy, professional collaboration between school leaders and teachers and deliberate building of professional capability. If NAPLAN data is to be used diagnostically for informing teaching and improving student learning, teachers need to value NAPLAN data as building expertise to inform their practice; but to do that they firstly need to have access to the data.

[1] [#_ftnref1] For the purposes of this study school leaders are defined as: teachers in leadership positions such as principals, deputy principals, heads of departments, curriculum co-ordinators.