Saturday, 17 May 2014

What Would an Alien Visitor Think?

Aliens visiting my classroom last week would have been treated to a particularly poor viewing of how we 'do' education in this country.  It was NAPLAN week.

By way of explanation...
The National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) is an annual assessment for students in Years 3, 5, 7 and 9. It has been an everyday part of the school calendar since 2008.
NAPLAN tests the sorts of skills that are essential for every child to progress through school and life, such as reading, writing, spelling and numeracy. The assessments are undertaken nationwide, every year, in the second full week in May.  (National Assessment Program 2011)
(On paper it's a three day event with up to 5 tests (depending on the year level) administered under strict control.   In reality it's a week long interruption; causing stress and anxiety for almost everyone involved, returning largely redundant data too late in the school year to be meaningful to anyone. The tests ignore current pedagogy in favour of a colour the bubble format that, in itself, excludes the type of answers we usually seek from our students.)

So what would the aliens have seen?

Children neatly sitting at rows of desks, all silently facing the front and following specific, set instructions before answering mostly multiple choice questions on paper, with a pencil. Children anxious because we don't 'do' assessment this way because we know it doesn't tell us what we want or need to know. Children panicking as they come across *yet* another question that they have little chance of fully understanding because the test covers the full breadth of the year's curriculum and it's only week 14 out of a 40 week year. Teachers patrolling the aisles and making lists of absent students ready to pounce on their parents for keeping them home for the week.

And if aliens come this week, what will they see?

Children learning in whatever space best suits their needs at any point in time, whether at a group table, on a couch/bean bag/the floor, outside, in another teacher's space, in the canteen!  Children using whatever tool best suits their individual learning goal, whether pencil, paint, play dough, laptop, iPad, smart phone or hula hoops! Children democratically negotiating their learning processes and outcomes as a group and individually. Children learning about the world around them. Children connecting to the world around them. Children making a difference to the world around them. Children making noise.  I'm largely invisible as I play the part of lead learner alongside of the children.

I've read the rationale for NAPLAN and am willing to, for the sake of my job, administer it BUT I could not justify it to visiting aliens.

I just hope that any visiting aliens would have stayed long enough to see my students' end of week reflections. Many commented on the challenges of NAPLAN. One, in particular,  stood out...
"Mrs RP taught us that it doesn't test the important things about me. I'm more than what those tests can show. I make strong choices all the time. I'm polite and am trying to get better in my learning all the time. That's more important than the NAPLAN I reckon."  
I reckon so too.  What about you? What do you think of NAPLAN? 


  1. Why do we waste so much time on NAPLAN? Does the fact that we have too many incompetent teachers in the system that we try to assess their work thru student performance?

  2. That's certainly the judgement that my class has made.