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Perceptions of Year 9 English teachers in Darwin about the backwash effects of NAPLAN Reading Testing

Borlagdan, Jean (2014). Perceptions of Year 9 English teachers in Darwin about the backwash effects of NAPLAN Reading Testing. Master Thesis, Charles Darwin University.

Document type: Thesis
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Author Borlagdan, Jean
Title Perceptions of Year 9 English teachers in Darwin about the backwash effects of NAPLAN Reading Testing
Institution Charles Darwin University
Publication Date 2014
Thesis Type Master
Subjects 1301 - Education Systems
1399 - Other Education
Abstract In recent years the National Assessment Program-Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) has played an increasingly important role in Australian education and there is evidence that it has become a high-stakes measure of achievement. Research suggests that this kind of largescale, high-stakes accountability testing has a profound impact on teaching and learning. This effect is generally referred to as “backwash”. This study focused on the perceptions of Year 9 English teachers in selected schools in Darwin in relation to the backwash effects of NAPLAN Reading testing. Those participating in this study teach a number of students whose NAPLAN achievement in 2008-13 was either just above the National Minimum Standard in Reading or below it. This demonstrates the apparent challenge facing them as they need to cater for older students who have reading difficulties and must undertake the NAPLAN test. A descriptive survey method was used to gather data on how teachers perceived the NAPLAN Reading testing and its effects on (i) their instructional decisions in class and (ii) the learning outcomes of their students. Data showed that although teachers were polarised on whether they felt positively or negatively towards NAPLAN, they generally viewed NAPLAN as a high-stakes test which put extra pressure on them and their students. On the whole teachers had negative perceptions of testing and its effects; most teachers reported that they engaged in test-preparation practices such as “teaching to the test”, thereby distorting and narrowing the curriculum. However, some teachers expressed a contrary view, claiming that the testing has positive effects (beneficial backwash) or no effect (neutral backwash) on their instructional decisions and student learning. As it is unlikely that high-stakes testing and accountability pressures on Australian teachers will be reduced, understanding the phenomenon of backwash and how teachers perceive testing is a useful way of contributing to the debate about the value of national tests such as these.


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