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Dr Peter Goss Answers Seven More Questions About NAPLAN 2015

Posted by Peter Barnes on September 29, 2015 at 5:37 PM

How many more questions about NAPLAN......

Dr Peter Goss, Director of the Grattan Institute's School Education Program, returned to the Learning Capacity Podcast to answer some more questions about NAPLAN, following his earlier interview about targeted teaching.  In that interview he answered questions about using the NAPLAN data to support targeted teaching as a way of improving literacy and numeracy.

Listeners have asked a lot more questions. Here are seven, with a summary of Peter Goss's answers. To hear his complete replies, listen to the Podcast.

1.  Does NAPLAN make adjustments for different behavioural cultures in schools?

Dr Goss's answer

"No, it's very hard to link behavioural data at a school level with the results of a national test".  But he says targeted teaching can reduce behavioural issues.

"Behavioural problems in schools can come from a number of different causes including the students' home life, their own personality ups and downs or because of the level of instruction. If the material is too easy, they can be bored and may become disruptive. If it's too hard, students can try to hide their discomfort by 'playing the clown' rather than seeking help".

Dr Goss heard from two of the schools in the case study for Grattan's report, "Targeted Teaching: How Better Use of Data Can Improve Student Learning", that a lot of the behavioural issues went away when the schools introduced targeted teaching.

2.  Some students do not take the NAPLAN test seriously - is this a sign of a wider attitude in the Australian psyche?

Dr Goss's answer

"This is probably no different to other English speaking countries, like UK or USA.  A student's attitude to the test depends on how their peers and teachers see it. It's probably diferent in some East Asian countries, where tests are taken very seriously".

"If the teachers explain that the test gathers evidence to help them improve the student's learning, they may take it more seriously - children don't mind being tested in video games: that gives them evidence of their progress and skill", he says.

3.  How does the Australian minimum achievement standard compare with other countries?

Dr Goss's answer

It is much lower, says Peter Goss. While only 5% of Australian students fall below the minumum standard, 20% would be below the standard set by PISA  (the Program for International Student Assessment).  

"I think the (Australian) minimum standard was set through a process of negotiation orginally. I would much rather it be set at a standard a student needs to succeed in the world".

4.  What is your attitude to schools prepping students  specifically for NAPLAN?

Dr Goss's answer

"That is unfortunate. It's a distraction from maximising their genuine underlying learning. The best way to pepare is to do 3 things:

  • Teach well
  • Give students a short amount of familarity with the tests
  • Provide students a context for the tests ("this is going to test what you know, its useful information - just do your best and then we'll move on")

5.  Would a sample test be better than testing every student in Australia?

Dr Goss's answer

"As it is, NAPLAN provides valuable information at a system level, at a school level, and potentially at a class level, but it doesn't provide the day-to-day information to inform teachers. So let's not spend the time talking about how we might change NAPLAN. Let's spend the time saying, how could we get other information into the right hands".

"In terms of expanding NAPLAN, the one gap is that we don't have information before, let's say halfway through year three. So students have already done three and a half years of schooling before then. It would be valuable to have some information to understand where students are at so that policy-makers can inform what they're doing".

6.  Are we focusing education on what students need in the coming decades?

Dr Goss's answer

"We want students to be ready to survive and thrive in the modern world. Literacy and numeracy are core foundations that underpin this, and that's why NAPLAN has focused on those, but we also want students to have a broad range of other cognitive skills. Creative thinking, critical thinking".  

"And also, some of the personal characteristics, such as resilience and persistence that really make a difference in life.  A broad, rich and deep education".

7.  How can we help parents understand the NAPLAN data?

Dr Goss's answer

"Data on its own doesn't do anything. I think that the biggest task for supporting parents, has got to be done by the schools and the teachers.

"This is the human face of things informed by the data. Saying, what does it mean when your child has ticked off a number of tasks? What does that help them do in the world? Did that give them confidence? How did they overcome some of those challenges"?

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