In 2021 we interviewed teachers and school leaders from schools across Australia share their views about NAPLAN. Via an online questionnaire, the interview was designed to capture the sentiments the standardised test ignites and paint a picture of NAPLAN across the country.
The sample (n=68, confidence interval of 90% for a population of 9,542 schools, and 10% error margin) had good representation from teachers and school leaders (53% teachers, 36% management roles, 11% not specified), with the majority of respondents (84%) having been in the profession for 5 or more years.
72% of respondents are teaching secondary mathematics, 25% are in primary classrooms and 3% do not have any teaching load.
NSW, QLD and VIC had the strongest representation (NSW 25%, QLD 25% and VIC 28%) and sector spread was quite evenly distributed (Catholic 26%, Government 37%, Independent 37%).
A summary of the demographic information captured below.
Majority of educators (47%) strongly disagree or disagree with NAPLAN being useful, 18% of the surveyed sample felt neutral about this broad statement and 35% agrees that it is of some value.
When asked more specifically about its value in shaping education policy, a larger proportion of respondents disagrees with the statement (55%). Neutral responses remained consistent at 18% and 27% agrees that NAPLAN can support this endeavor.
Interestingly, there is an even split of 40% supporters and detractors for NAPLAN’s value in helping teachers support student learning.
The second section of the survey focused on leadership’s perceived purpose for NAPLAN.
Teachers and leaders were asked if leadership at their school believed NAPLAN to be a measure used as a proxy to allocate funds to schools that require further support with numeracy and literacy, an important tool to communicate student progress with parents and a ranking system used by parents to select schools.
Around 40% of participants reported feeling neutral across the first 3 statements (each statement was assigned a score from 1 to 5, 1 corresponding to “ strongly disagree'' and 5 to “strongly agree”). Correcting for the role held by the respondent made no significant difference, discounting the possibility of neutral feelings relating to teachers not knowing leadership’s stance or leaders not making their views or beliefs known to staff.
The belief that parents use NAPLAN scores to rank, compare and select schools was held by a majority of participants with 62% of respondents agreeing with it, 34% feeling neutral and only 4% disagreeing with this premise.
When asked about NAPLAN being a student diagnostic tool, 5% of leaders strongly disagreed with its use for this purpose. In contrast, 16% of heads of department and teachers with other middle management responsibilities disagreed with the appropriateness of NAPLAN data being used to diagnose student understanding.
NAPLAN results do not appear to be perceived as a major contributing factors in attracting or detracting new teaching talent to schools.
Participants were asked about NAPLAN practice frequency and the allocation of these practice tasks during school hours or as homework assignments.
58% of respondents did not allocate any practice time to NAPLAN preparation.
During Term 1, 23% reported to practice monthly, 12% weekly and 7% daily.
Of those who allocated practice time, the dosage increased to 1 to 2 times a week for 52%, 3 to 5 times a week for 38% and 5 or more times a week for 10% of the sample.
77% of practice was reported to only happen during class time, 16% said practice was both perform during class time and as homework and 6% exclusively used homework time for practice tasks.
To help your students prepare for NAPLAN, we have created a range of fantastic practice resources for years 5, 7, and 9. Access our non-calculator and calculator practice questions, answer keys and worked solutions booklet, for free!
The booklets include:
- Practice Tests
- Answer Keys
- A long-form answers booklet (including hints for every answer)
You can download our FREE collection of non-routine problems based on previous NAPLAN tests below. We hope these resource help you to support your cohort and make this time a little easier.
As well as asking teachers about time spent preparing for the test, we were interested in how teacher practice is affected by NAPLAN.
While only a third of the sample reported having to narrow the scope of teaching practices in their classroom as well as allocating extra time to mathematics over other subjects, 51% spent more time on content that would affect NAPLAN scores.
The relevance and usability of NAPLAN data at a classroom and school level is questionable. Still, data from this poll seems to indicate that NAPLAN data is widely used to measure cohort progress (79%) and to address areas of weakness at a class and/or year level (65%). Even more concerning is that 58% of respondents are using it to measure student progress. 49% and 56% of participants reported using NAPLAN data for differentiation and to address areas of weakness at an individual level, even though the granularity, frequency and statistical error make NAPLAN data ill fit for this purpose.
62% believe NAPLAN data does not provide much insights and 70% use it to triangulate with other data points.
The findings would also indicate that even those who reported finding limited value in NAPLAN data, continue to use it as a diagnostic and planning tool as well as a formative assessment to inform differentiation. The reasons for this are likely varied including that personal beliefs and school approach are not aligned or that school leaders feel “obliged” to use NAPLAN to comply with widely held beliefs or want to somehow make the most out of something “we have to do”.
It has been reported that NAPLAN is a big contributor to stress levels for students, teachers, school leaders and parents.
We asked participants if a large portion of their community was negatively affected by NAPLAN, and what factors are the main contributors to feelings of stress for teachers and leaders.
When thinking about students, 72% agreed with a large portion of their cohorts being stressed about the test. Similarly, 69% of respondents felt a significant amount of parents worry about NAPLAN.
Most respondents (80%) felt that teachers' stress was primarily related to having to sacrifice time to “teach to the test”.
Only 22% disagreed that NAPLAN was used to measure their performance as teachers, an indicator that it continues to be perceived as a policing tool.
55% also reported that parents' perceptions and anxiety related to NAPLAN contributed to their increased levels of stress.
For leaders the largest contributing factor to their stress levels is NAPLAN being used as a measure of school performance -67% agreed/strongly agreed- , with funding depending on NAPLAN results and NAPLAN's effect on attracting student enrolments closely following - 54% and 55% respectively agreeing/strongly agreeing.
With 72% of survey participants agreeing that a large portion of their cohort was stressed about the test, there can be significant repercussions in for students in the lead up to the test . So what can we do to best support our class during this time?
Tip 1: Put NAPLAN into context
Explain that NAPLAN is just one way to measure their knowledge. They cannot fail and it’s not going to give a full picture of everything they know.
Tip 2: Acknowledge their feelings
When we acknowledge that tests can be stressful we validate their feelings. Providing techniques and strategies to self-calm is also helpful.
Tip 3: Help them know what to expect
Walking students through what to expect during the test is shown to reduce anxiety. Explaining the test format, the room the test is held in and the duration are some ways to help ground students.