Will digital testing make NAPLAN better?

Will the move to online NAPLAN testing really work?

Sitting NAPLAN tests with pen and paper is now a thing of the past. As of 2017, a new online testing system will be put in place promising a number of benefits. But as with any major change, it could possibly cause more problems.

"NAPLAN online will deliver even greater insight into the individual capacity of a student to inform teachers, schools and parents."

Improving the efficiency of NAPLAN insights

Like other education processes that have been successfully digitised, one of the major benefits online NAPLAN testing offers is an improvement to the timeliness and accessibility to data. As a significant downfall in the actual usability of the Australian education framework at the moment, the move to a digital system could arguably solve this by enabling instantaneous and automated processing.

"NAPLAN online will deliver even greater insight into the individual capacity of a student to inform teachers, schools and parents, as well as continue to provide the data giving us a national snapshot," said Minister of Education Christopher Pyne said in October 2014.

"I now look forward to my colleagues' in the states and territories working with us to make NAPLAN online a reality and contributing to improving student performance in Australia."

Some examples of the systems NAPLAN has experimented with is automated essay scoring. According to research by Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) in late 2015, this could be a viable function that provides incredible turnaround improvements as soon as 2017

"Automated essay scoring of the writing component of NAPLAN will result in parents and teachers receiving their children and students' results within two weeks of taking NAPLAN," said Mr Randall.

No major changes being made without warning

Several principals have not been overly enthusiastic about the move. President of the South Australia Principals Association Pam Kent argued that the move was too early, suggesting that we should be waiting until at least 2019 like the United States have decided to do. Among other concerns, she alluded to the fact that digital testing could further alienate disadvantaged students who may not have the same technical competencies as wealthier children.

In response, a spokesperson from NAPLAN told The Educator that the online system "will not be a test of computer skills, just as it is not currently a test of handwriting skills". 

Pen and paper NAPLAN testing could be a thing of the past.Pen and paper NAPLAN testing could be a thing of the past.

Alleviating many fears about the institution of automated grading, NAPLAN told The Australian Financial Review that no major changes will be made without proper consultation.

"As we move online with the new capacities, options to further enhance the student experience and increase the value of the results for teachers will be considered. All new procedures will be subject to full stakeholder input and approval processes."

Understanding what NAPLAN data means and how it practically applies to your classroom is still a major barrier.

The hurdle of data-driven education insights

Increasing the amount of information and speed as it becomes available theoretically will help parents and teachers understand how students are achieving and where they can best help.

While there is extensive information available about student performance data, actually understanding the meaning and how it practically applies to your classroom is still a major barrier especially when taking on new students or working with a classroom of 20 or 30 students. Attempting to explore exactly how you should differentiate the curriculum for each student through data-driven insights is fruitless when there is more urgent lesson planning and marking to be done.

Understanding how NAPLAN data can be used to deliver actual improvements is not a simple process and very few teachers and administrators are competent in this skill. To find out how you can improve your school or classroom's ability to enhance each and every students' education, get in touch with Best Performance today.

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