Middle Years Students Perceptions and Reactions to NAPLAN: The Student Voice

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Prendergast, Donna

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Cumming, Joy

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The impetus for this research is an apparent philosophical mismatch between the National Assessment Program for Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) and Middle Schooling, which advocates for an intentional approach to teaching and learning incorporating signifying practices that are optimal for learners in the middle years. NAPLAN has come to the forefront of measures of achievement agendas in Australian schools. It is a test driven approach to student assessment that was introduced in 2008 and which signalled a significant accountability shift in outcomes for school education. Positioned predominantly across the middle years, NAPLAN testing is at odds with middle year’s practices which support authentic and reflective assessment. Advocates for and critics of NAPLAN testing recognise that schools attempting to reach national benchmarks may resort to practices such as ‘teaching to the test’, thereby affecting middle years curriculum, assessment and pedagogical practices, and potentially moving away from practices regarded to be optimal for learners. This contradictory agenda presents a quandary for middle year’s educators. To date, little attention has been paid to middle year’s students’ experiences, perceptions and reactions to the introduction and implementation of NAPLAN. This void takes the form of a clear absence of student voice in the range of spaces where it might be possible to include voice, such as in the research arena. This case study in two Queensland schools used qualitative methods of data collection including: formal interviews; semi-structured focus group interviews; observations; and students’ words and drawings, thereby privileging student voice in an attempt to craft a deeper understanding of NAPLAN from the students’ perspective. Without hearing the stories of the lived experience of the students themselves, they are silenced and we remain ignorant to their perspectives and assume they have nothing to contribute. As van Manen notes, “nothing is so silent than that which is taken-for-granted” (van Manen, 1997, p.112).

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Thesis (PhD Doctorate)

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Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


School of Education and Professional Studies

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National Assessment Program for Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN)

Middle schooling

School education outcomes

Middle school curriculum

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