The Silent Voice in the NAPLAN Debate: Exploring Childrens Lived Experiences of the TestsReport as inadecuate

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Australian Association for Research in Education (NJ1), Paper presented at the Joint Australian Association for Research in Education and Asia-Pacific Educational Research Association Conference (AARE-APERA 2012) World Education Research Association (WERA) Focal Meeting (Sydney, New South Wales, Dec 2-6, 2012)

This paper examines primary school-aged children's lived experiences of the National Assessment Program--Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) tests. NAPLAN emulates the neoliberal accountability agendas of English and US education systems, with results published on the My School website. Research on the impact of NAPLAN to date has focused predominantly on schools, school leaders and teachers; however there is a lacuna in the literature pertaining to children. In this study, 100 children across 5 classrooms within 2 schools serving different socioeconomic status (SES) communities drew a picture about their experience and wrote about their drawing after completing the tests. Focus group discussions and classroom observations were also conducted. Inductive, thematic analysis of the data revealed emotion as the most dominant category. Negative responses were most prevalent among children in year 7 who often failed to see any purpose in the tests, but most severe in responses from students with learning difficulties. The focus group discussion with the year 3 children in the higher SES school provided evidence that this group is most likely to perceive NAPLAN as high-stakes. Persuasive evidence suggesting linkages between negative emotional responses and poor test performance indicates outcomes which are counterproductive to the central aim of NAPLAN, which is to improve learning outcomes. (Contains 1 table and 15 figures.)

Descriptors: Foreign Countries, Elementary School Students, National Surveys, Student Experience, Focus Groups, Classroom Observation Techniques, Emotional Response, Tests, Academic Achievement, Reading Skills, Mathematics Skills, Student Evaluation, Catholic Schools, Student Attitudes, Difficulty Level, Responses, Test Anxiety, Freehand Drawing, Negative Attitudes

Australian Association for Research in Education. AARE Secretariat, One Geils Court, Deakin ACT 2600, Australia. Tel: +61-2-6285-8388; e-mail: aare[at]; Web site:

Author: Howell, Angelique


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